Review: The Walking Dead – Episode One

The Walking Dead

Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead: With the graphic novels’ huge success and the TV Series gearing up for its 3rd season on AMC, a video game adaptation of the Walking Dead world was bound to happen. When I heard that Telltale Games (Back to the Future: The Game, Tales of Monkey Island) was developing the property, they sounded like a perfect fit. However, their past games have been decent at best, leaving me a bit worried on how The Walking Dead would come out. As a fan of both the comics and the TV series, I bought the first episode on the Playstation 3 anyways.  After playing through the first episode of the game in one sitting, I was instantly hooked and left with a strong impression, reminding me why I loved The Walking Dead in the first place. This is Telltale’s best work yet.

The Walking Dead Game

The game follows a completely different group of survivors in the Walking Dead world than we’ve seen before. You play as Lee Everett, a man convicted for murder. The game starts with Lee leaving the city in a cop car to go to prison, only to have the trip cancelled thanks to his first encounter with a zombie. He then meets this little girl called Clementine; she is an 8-year-old who has been forced to survive by herself while waiting for her parents to arrive home from a trip. Lee takes Clementine with him, and makes it his goal to keep this child safe at all times. This is where this five-part series starts.

The Power of Choice

This game is all about choices. The choices you’re given create a big impact on the game’s story. The most powerful choices are character-based conversations that can alter an NPC’s impression of you – as you meet new characters in the game, you are given the choice to act as the father of Clementine, but soon find characters seeing through your lie, leading to a sense of distrust towards Lee. This is where the game shines. Your dialogue choices influence the story and the characters’ perception on you, Lee Everett. How you have Lee act during conversations or crucial moments when big choices need to be made defines Lee as a character. Be loyal and honest all throughout, or simply be on guard and not trust the people around you, it’s all up to you. Either way, there will be consequences.

In a game filled with choices, it’s good to see that the player does not have all the time in the world to decide. Each big choice or conversation puts a time limit on the player to make a decision. If a choice is left unanswered, things can get a lot worse.  Play your cards wrong and each choice will be loaded with nerve-wracking pressure.

The Walking Dead Game

There are also decisions that lead you to choose one character over the other – Your choice will result in one character’s demise and again you have only a small window to make a choice. These moments happened out of nowhere during my first play-through and caught me off-guard. I actually regret one of these choices because I acted too quickly on it. I felt like I had to make a choice fast. This is why this game works, because it places you in situations like that, and whichever path you choose, you’re stuck with it.

This also brings some replay value to the game. After going through this first episode the first time, I went back at it and picked different choices to see how the story shapes up. But truth be told, this game is best appreciated the first time around.

The controls are quick and easy to grasp. The first part of the game is considered a tutorial that helps the player grow accustomed to the controls. The left analog stick is used to move Lee around while the right analog stick controls the cursor that is used to interact with the environment.

It’s an adventure game at heart. You go around interacting with objects, gathering items, and solving issues within the group. It reminded me of games such as… well past Telltale games, and games like LucasArts’ Monkey Island plus those classic Sierra games – Such as Phantasmagoria and the Gabriel Knight series. But what The Walking Dead really lacks that most adventure games have in spades are puzzles. I believe a few puzzles here and there would have given the game another layer of quality.

The Walking Dead game

Character interaction and molding the story are what this game is all about. You do get to kill some zombies, but it’s quite rare. You will spend most of your time interacting, rather than bashing heads. If you prefer a zombie game that gives you a gun and lets you go all-out, guns blazing instead of talking to survivors and uncovering their stories, this might not be the game for you.

The game does have those intense moments, but again, they are rare. The balance works well since between all the talking and interacting, the sudden moments of action act as wake-up calls to the player.

This game is also a real treat for fans of the TV series or the graphic novel, since it tells a different story set in the same world. Characters like Glenn and Hershel from the original series make appearances; needless to say, that got the fan in me excited to interact with them. Even if you’re not familiar with the series, Telltale’s The Walking Dead could make you a fan, if you give the game a chance.

The game’s visuals are a perfect fit since this game is essentially based on a comic book. It has a cel-shaded look similar to the visuals of Borderlands that brings this post-apocalyptic world to life. Not only that, the audio complements those intense moments in the game and also gives a special kind of eerie atmosphere, one that you’d expect from a doomed world. A few frame-rate issues happened during my play-through, which surprised me, since this game isn’t big on file size or heavy on the graphics.

The Walking Dead Game

Overall

This is definitely Telltale’s best work yet, but that’s just the beginning. As the first episode of a five-part series, The Walking Dead is off to a great start. The game is priced at $5 a piece and is quite a good deal since the first episode is worth three hours of your time. Just like any series, you are left to anxiously wait for the next episode to come out. The problem is, there is no announced release date for the next episode. I’m definitely hooked and ready to go for another episode, but the hype can only last for so long and hopefully Telltale won’t take their sweet time releasing Episode 2.

Score: 89/100

Pros:

–          Likeable and believable cast of characters

–          Visuals are a perfect fit for the game

–          Choices you make shape your story

Cons:

–          You have to wait for until the next episode

–          Surprisingly heavy frame-rate drops

–          A lot more talking than action