Review: The Walking Dead

Review: The Walking Dead

How does a zombie game do when the focus is on the characters and not the action?

When people think of “zombies” and “video games” the image that usually appears in their head is a fast paced game involving shooting every undead monster in sight. And while Activision is already hard at work at an FPS based on characters from AMC’s The Walking Dead television show, this game’s focus lies on the story.

But is the story good? And how hard will it be for me to write this all out without spoiling anything?

Read on and let’s find out!

I was excited when I heard there was a game in the works for The Walking Dead. However, a part of me sunk a bit after I discovered that it was Telltale Games at the wheel. Not because I have anything against the company, but because their type of games, the graphical point and click-like adventure games, never appealed to me. I found them slow and boring.

However, it’s The Walking Dead we’re talking about here! I’ve been a fan of the show since before its premiere on AMC. I felt somewhat obligated to give it a chance and I’m very, very glad that I did.

In The Walking Dead, you take control of Lee Everett (voiced by Hulu guy Dave Fennoy) who is on his way to prison when, via the apocalypse, he’s set free. He stumbles upon Clementine, a little girl left with a babysitter while her parents were away on a trip. Lee decides that he has to take care of Clementine and the two are bound from that point on.

Gameplay

This is an adventure game, plain and simple. You’ll walk around various environments, clicking around to pick up items that you can then give to other characters or use to interact with other objects in the environment. Because of this I would sometimes find myself walking around the environments looking for something to click on because I couldn’t figure out what to do next. You get so drawn into the story that you want nothing more than to find the last battery for the radio so you can see what happens next in the storyline. Sometimes you’ll be given a short but simple QTE where you’re required to mash a certain button in order to to defend yourself from a Walker or to try to escape from one that’s following you. The gameplay is simple which makes it very accessible, even for those that aren’t expert gamers.

The challenge is what’s going on when you’re prompted for these commands. There is often a sense of urgency that pulls you in during these situations which can make you pause or over think the situation, causing you to end up with your intestines inside the mouth of a very hungry walker.

Choices

Choice plays a large role in The Walking Dead and not just in each individual episode. Choices you make in episode 1 could affect events in any of the first season’s episodes. These changes can be anything from changes in the environment to how characters interact with Lee. At E3 we were given a demo of the beginning of Episode 2. The group is stranded at a Motel and doesn’t have much food left. You have to make the tough choice: Who gets to eat today? Characters will react differently depending on who you give food too.

While deciding who gets to eat is indeed a serious matter, the choices get much more extreme than that throughout the course of the game. To make matters worse, there is a timer displayed along with the responses that the player can choose from. You have enough time to read and react. Not to think.

Emotions

Never before have I had a game pull at me emotionally in the way The Walking Dead has. Robert Kirkman’s formula of making people “hug and cry and shit” is in tact in this game. You’ll have moments where you fell yourself warming to characters, loving how some of the characters interact with one another and then later be screaming at the TV because of something that happened because of a decision you made.

Right when you hit that spot where you think “You know, I really love this character” something will happen that will knock your emotions flat on their ass.

I’ve sat wide eyed in disbelief while playing this game. One scene in particular had me sitting there, speechless, with my jaw dropped.

Verdict

Although the pace of the gameplay can be slow, the story never lets up. Between each section of walking around and collecting items to progress lies some of the best story telling we’ve seen in a game all year. This game will make you emotionally invested. This game will mess with your emotions. You will love it and hate it for that.

The Walking Dead is available digitally now for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 and will be arriving at retail for PS3 and Xbox 360 on December 4th.


The Verdict

9Amazing

The Good:
• Emotionally investing story
• Your choices change the story

The Bad:
• Gameplay can feel slow between important story events


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