We’re a little late to The Walking Dead
party, time to get caught up with the first two parts of the episodic title from Telltale Games
revelatory 2003 comic book series has already received an exemplary (at least in its first season) TV adaptation and that level of quality is surprisingly retained for it’s new digital iteration. Episodic title developers Telltale Games
have a strong record in the adventure game sphere, Jurassic Park
aside, and The Walking Dead
might just be their best game yet.
Set to unfold across five episodes, the first sees players introduced to the character of Lee Everett – who is on his way to jail charged with murder when the zombie apocalypse hits sending his life spiralling into chaos. This new character is the first good omen in the series, seeing the narrative move away from the familiar story of Rick and the band of survivors. It’s a parallel timeline that provides lip service to the original while also forging its own new path.
The gameplay in The Walking Dead
combines elements of classic adventure titles and traditional action games. You can free roam and click on things in the environment at certain times and you’ll also be thrust into action packed set pieces that require frantic QTE’s to escape alive. It not the slickest system we’ve ever seen and those using gamepads will find some of the zombie killing overly difficult but it works, and the streamlined approach to puzzling means things are never too complicated.
Adventure game fans may be disappointed to learn that the brain teasers here are (pretty much in keeping with Telltale’s
other titles) fairly simple and action gamers won’t be overly impressed with the more kinetic bits. What’s more likely to grab the attention of all but the most ADD afflicted players though is the mature, effective and well performed story.
Video games have had an uneasy history with story-telling and while The Walking Dead
isn’t set to change things in that regard, it is something of a quiet revolution, a refinement of the much vilified interactive movie form. Much of The Walking Dead
involves conversations with the other characters but many unfold against the clock and with a single available answer. Better still, the other NPC’s remember the choices you make – the people you side with and even the sometimes ineffectual way you try to cover up your mysterious path.
It’s not a new mechanic but The Walking Dead
goes out of its way to make the branching options feel disparate, even forcing you at times to choose to save or abandon other members of the group. With save games that transfer from one episode to the next, characters will call you on previous choices and despair at the loss of their loved one who you could have saved. It makes you care about each decision you make and gives players a real excuse to go back and play the episode again, using different save slots to take an altered version of Lee through this terrible journey.
The first episode, A New Day, is primarily focussed on keeping a young girl called Clementine safe. Her story is an emotional one and only the most cold-hearted will choose to ignore her ongoing plights as the story progresses. Hooking up with a ramshackle bunch of survivors, the second episode, Starved for Help, sees them holed up at a motel, fending off walkers and seeking desperately for food.
It’s the intimate focus on the reality of life after the apocalypse which makes The Walking Dead
, in whatever form, so compelling and Telltale
has really captured that despair here. Characters are hungry and desperate, with internal feuds threatening to undermine the fragile peace at any moment. And then there are the walkers – everywhere and everhungry, they help to up the pace of the game whenever the talking has the potential to become tedious. Crucially, Telltale
has worked hard to make this an M-rated game, with special attention paid to the gruesome demise of the numerous undead nasties. Gore fans may delight but these moments are presented not as lurid diversions but as necessary evils in order to survive, using any tools available to bludgeon formers humans into a still and final death.
The Walking Dead The Stabbing of the Walking Dead Enlarge
is also both Telltales
most graphically impressive title to date and one of its more technically stable. Cut scene transitions can still be a little jumpy and the animation isn’t likely to win any awards, but the harsh lines of the comic-book style graphics are rendered perfectly, and the voice acting is mostly engaging. We’ve heard tell of some save game issues but our episode 1 game transferred to the next act seamlessly.The Walking Dead: The Game
is an exemplary example of an adaptation which understands which elements to bring to the fore in a new medium. Lee’s story is touching, sickening and utterly enthralling, sucking you almost instantly into this other world of violence and desperation. As the stakes are raised higher at the end of the second episode, we can’t wait to find out what the next three releases have in store for this increasingly small band of survivors.The Walking Dead episodes 1 and 2 are available right now on Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Mac – with prices starting at €24.99 for the entire series.