Before Telltale’s The Walking Dead was released, I didn’t think all that much of episodic gaming. I think I was jaded about the whole thing by Half Life 2‘s episodic strategy and its “release schedule”. Thankfully, this game has turned it all around for me. The Walking Dead delivers a fantastic experience that I actually looked forward to each time an episode was released. Certainly one of the more memorable games of 2012.
The comic book and TV series make one thing clear: people are fucking awful when it comes to survival. Add a city full of zombies and it gets even worse. Honour, chivalry, human decency and love for your fellow man all go out the window as tempers fray and friendships waver. If you choose to cooperate with strangers, you’ll have to deal with their objectives, beliefs and prejudices. The game faithfully echoes this central theme, and it makes for some truly awkward situations.
You play as Lee, an ex-convict on the way to prison when most of the human race suddenly comes down with a bad case of the flesh-munchies. You’ll encounter other characters with their own motivations. A girl looking for her parents. A father, willing to do anything to ensure the safety of his family. A news reporter who happens to be good with a gun. A member of the air force and her stubborn father. A cowardly teenager struggling to fit in. The characters are extremely well portrayed and the dialogue is plentiful, drawing you further into the story.
As you work through the episodes, you’ll be presented with some of the toughest choices I’ve experienced in a game. Do you save the child, or the guy who can repair things? When one character accuses another of stealing goods, who do you side with? If the group only has enough food for less than half of its members, who do you give the food to? Do you reveal the questionable actions of a group member to their spouse? The consequences of your choices will reverberate throughout the episodes, and characters will remember your actions…or lack of action. The plot twists had me reeling, and the actions of my group members sometimes had me cussing out loud at my screen. Surely a game that can evoke such an emotive response is a good thing?
(One more noteworthy point is the interaction between Lee and Clementine, the young girl in his care. It’s amazing how the presence of a young child can change your course of action. <a href=”http://www.gameinformer.com/b/features/archive/2012/12/26/creating-clementine.aspx”>Game Informer has a great feature</a> on how influential she is.)
Puzzles and interactive segments break up the story telling nicely, and action segments usually involve a series of quick-time events to handle zombie attacks. (If you were expecting to slaughter waves of Walkers with a hunting knife and a crossbow, this isn’t the game for you.) The cel-shaded graphics will remind players of the series’ comic book origins, and the voice acting (while coming off as a little cheesy from some characters) is quite well done.
The Walking Dead may be a great example in storytelling, but it’s not a game for everyone. Some gamers won’t appreciate the slow pacing and the on-rails gameplay. This is, however, a fantastic example of interactive storytelling. If you’re looking for some Walking Dead content between seasons, this package is pretty good value for money on a per-episode basis.