Developer Telltale Games
Things You Might Like
- Kirkman’s Undead Universe
- Decisions with consequences
- Genuine tension
- PC/Mac Compatible
Things You Might Not Like
- Sporadically poor voice acting
- Occasionally the controls feel a little off
The Walking Dead delivers the thrills of its namesake comic with new characters and locales wrapped in a polished adventure-style experience. Don’t let this one shuffle by.
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It’s no secret that I love all things zombie. I grew up being terrified by such classics as Night of the Living Dead and Return of the Living Dead II. Together they denied me more than my fair share of sleep, I can tell you. As I got older, the fear started to develop a hint of curiosity and then a hunger to consume more and more of the genre. I was reading, watching, and playing more zombie games than my parents thought was wise. They may have been right. Anyway, by the time I got to college, I discovered The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman’s ongoing saga of a group of survivors trying to make it through the zombie apocalypse with their humanity intact. I was instantly hooked and I can honestly say, I never thought they would make a game. More so, I never thought it would actually be good!
Telltale Games, the geniuses behind gems like Sam & Max: Freelance Police, took up the challenge and delivered something genuinely entertaining. For starters, they know their adventure games. This comes across very well in The Walking Dead. Most publishers would lean towards the classic shoot-em-up that most zombie games inevitably become. Not so, with Telltale’s effort. Rather, the game maintains the adventure style throughout with bits of action interspersed for good measure.
You start the game in the back of a police squad car on your way out of Atlanta, GA. Your character, one Lee Everett, has been convicted of murder and is under police escort. As the aging officer at the wheel starts to talk to Lee, your choices begin. The cop will ask you about various aspects of your life and you can choose from several pre-written answers or, and this was pretty cool, remain perfectly silent the whole ride. Anyway, you talk (or don’t) for a few minutes and, wouldn’t you know it, the car hits a ‘walker’ (aka zombie in The Walking Dead lingo) and takes a nasty tumble off of the highway. You awake to find your leg badly injured, the car turned on its side, and the officer laying dead several feet outside of the car. You had better go see if he’s okay. I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you’ve ever seen any horror movie ever, well, you know…
At a certain point, you’re going to need to kill some zombies. However, rather than plant you into some odd third-person shooter mode, the game retains the ‘on-rails’ feel for the action sequences. You aim with your mouse at the vulnerable spots on your undead attackers and try to survive. What’s so great is that you never have the feeling that your gun/screwdriver/ice pick makes you safe. Rather, it’s a fine line between you and them. This can be especially true given some of the difficulties with the, let’s call them ‘hit boxes’. The clickable areas don’t always align with what’s happening on screen, so a salient action point might fall flat due to technical issues. You may also find that you’ve misjudged the distance betwixt you and a walker, and as a result, you’ll get to see how the other side un-lives before too long.
Story is vital to The Walking Dead. Without it, there is no game. Fortunately, Telltale knew this and crafted a great one. I try to explain it to people as Mass Effect without all the guns, aliens, and space magic. As an adventure game, you spend most of your time conversing with your fellow survivors and trying to puzzle out situations. Some of moments get heated and you’re called upon to make a choice that will directly affect the rest of the series. The most common choice is between saving one of two survivors. No shock there, but there are a few that might make you think. The only downside comes when important dialogue sounds like it was recorded on a cheap eight-track, run through a washing machine, and then fed into a computer. These moments aren’t often, but it really detracts from the overall feel of the game.
As far as scares, there are a few ‘gotcha!’ moments for cheap thrills, but what The Walking Dead really does well is build tension. You never know where the next attack is coming from, so you have to be wary.
Graphically, The Walking Dead does a great job of emulating the style from the comic books. While the people and places are definitely stylized, it doesn’t detract from the overall experience. As a matter of fact, it feels right at home. And since the game is set in the comic universe, you’ll feel pulled in right away.
The only other downside is that, as an episode game, you are at the mercy of publishing schedules for more content. This first episode will last about four hours or so, with four more episodes on the way. Telltale Games initially sought to publish new episodes each month, but due to technical issues, the schedule has been pushed out a little bit. Episode 2 launches sometime in June, with future levels being released eventually.
When you get down to it, The Walking Dead is a great adventure game set in everyone’s favorite zombie horrorscape. With a solid first offering, I’m definitely looking forward to what Telltale Games has to offer in future episodes.