It would have been almost too easy for Telltale’s The Walking Dead game to be a major disappointment. The zombie genre is of course overdone, and the once-proud developer has had a string of so-so releases in the past few years (I’m looking at you Jurassic Park: The Game). Yes, it would have been easy to make The Walking Dead another shoot first and ask questions later type of game, but thankfully Telltale has captured the spirit of the franchise and given us a poignant and almost touching tale of human desperation under the veil of a zombie apocalypse. It may not be perfect — in fact, there’s some very distinct problems lying here, but Telltale’s zombie soap opera is a return to form for not only the developer, but the genre as well.The Walking Dead tells the story not of the group of survivors we’ve all come to know, but of Lee Everett, a man being carted off to jail for a murder he either did or did not commit. As luck would have it, his trip to the big house is interrupted by a pesky zombie in the middle of the road, which sends the police cruiser he’s being driven in tumbling down a hill, killing the officer and thrusting him into a different kind of world than he was in just minutes ago. In the first episode, Lee discovers the walkers, meets some new survivors and adjusts to this new way of life — at least he tries to.
Published by: Telltale Games
Genre: Action, Adventure
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade, PSN, PC, Mac
Play it if: You’re a fan of a good story
Skip it if: You’d rather just shoot the undead
There are going to be plenty of people who are going to be disappointed that they’re not jumping into the boots of Sheriff Rick Grimes and unloading rounds into hordes of the undead, but perhaps that’s for the better. The Walking Dead aims to recapture the spirit of the original property and does a damn fine job of it. You’ll find yourself actually caring about the people you meet and the decisions you make. For example, when given the choice in games, I usually take the good guy approach, but with The Walking Dead, there were several moments when I was making decisions based purely on the emotion I was feeling rather than how I wanted the game to turn out.
This is thanks in large part to the fact that your decisions are all timed, and they’ll have less impact when you take longer to make them, meaning that you’re going to go on your first instinct more often than not. Compare this to a game like Mass Effect, where you have all the time in the world to sit and think about what you’re going to say to almost telegraph the game the way you want it. The result is a game that plays much more from the heart than the brain.
That’s not to say though that The Walking Dead doesn’t have it’s fair share of the undead, they’re just used more sparingly, which gives them much more of an impact. No, this isn’t Dead Rising, where you’ll be fighting your way through thousands of zombies, each encounter will actually mean something here. There’s a very important moment where one of your recently met survivors meets their untimely end and it actually holds a lot of weight. As opposed to the developer’s more recent games, The Walking Dead does a great job portraying action using context sensitive quicktime events, and the few zombie encounters found in episode one where great fun to play.
The Blast Factor: The Walking Dead works for the same reasons that the original graphic novel and the television show works — it’s a game about people under the veil of a zombie apocalypse. It avoids the traps that the majority of zombie games now-a-days fall into and focuses on telling a story rather than shooting first. It may not be perfect, but Telltale Games has nailed the feeling of the Walking Dead and seems to be back.