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Interweb Reviews: The Walking Dead (Episode 1)

In the month that the world’s most overrated gaming companies both come out with their new overhyped games (Diablo III and Max Payne 3, respectively) we could almost forget there’s actually some good games out there being released, so I thought I’d review the recent Walking Dead game by Telltale Studios.
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I have to admit I’m definitely not a Telltale fan. I never enjoyed any of the games they made, and I haven’t heard much good about any of them except for their recent Monkey Island games. I’d played Sam & Max, of course, since it was supposed to be hilarious and classic, but it was actually unfunny and cliché. Anyway, when I heard they were doing the Walking Dead game, I was pretty disappointed. So far all of their games had been point and click/hidden object/’talking’ games, something for which a zombie story didn’t really lend itself well. However, I am a huge fan of The Walking Dead. It’s the best zombie comic (and perhaps even zombie story) ever written, and though the tv show kind of disappointed, I was still sure it could make for an awesome game if Kirkman was involved.

Of course, I only realized he wasn’t involved when I read up on the game after I played the first episode, but the fact that I didn’t notice is a pretty damn good thing!

So, let’s talk about the game. The Walking Dead is not at all like any of the other (and, by the way, all shitty with no exceptions) zombie games; there’s no outrageous weapons, no hordes of zombies to kill with infinite bullets and no terrible storyline. In fact, the story is the biggest thing Telltale did extremely right in The Walking Dead. The main pull of the comic has always been the realistic portrayal of a zombie infestation, not focussing on BOOM HEADSHOT NOSCOPE-ing zombies, but on human interactions and the effects living in a world of undead have on regular people. The game does this extremely well, introducing some great and believable characters with excellent characters and, not unimportantly, conversations. While you’re trying to stay alive, you’ll have to make some choices that will change the course of the story or the way some characters perceive you. I thought this was a nice mechanic, and although it’s nothing earthmoving, it definitely fits within the game. As a result, most of the focus of the game, like in the comic, lies with interhuman relations instead of spectacular action scenes, which might be just as well since Telltale certainly isn’t known for its amazing controls. In this game as well, the controls are extremely chunky, but luckily they found some inventive and interesting ways to avoid this during fights. The fights are not standard video game fights where you run around and bash buttons or combos to kill some zombies, but more like QTEs where you have to aim carefully. And one missed kick actually does carry consequences here. You might get your friend killed (PERMANENTLY!) or you might save them only to have someone else being grabbed and munched up by a zombie (PERMANENTLY!). The way even the fights kind of mold the story is quite interesting, and I wonder if everything will come together well in the future episodes. It’s certainly looking mighty Mass Effect-y so far.

The setup of this game and its gameplay does have some negative side effects. Because of the heavy focus on story and the way Telltale likes to tell its stories, there is very little room for exploration. The game is very linear; all you can do is walk from the right corner of the ‘room’ (whether this room be an actual room or a farm outside) to the left, and follow the plot along. Because of Telltale’s game mechanics the game is also incredibly easy; basically it’s nothing more than following a story, so there’s very little ways to die expect in the few moments where it’s plot specific. In the end, this is still a sort of classic Telltale-style game, which means everything gets handed to you on a silver platter. There’s no real puzzling, no real action, no platforming; if you’re expecting anything else than an interactive story you will be very disappointed.

Finally, the graphics have a great comic-y style to them, but are troubled by extremely low resolution textures, which is a shame, really. Environments are quite interesting as far as post-zombie-outbreak scenes go and interesting visual aides are used quite often.

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All in all The Walking Dead Episode 1 is a great start for the series for people who liked the comics, but it will not appeal to anyone who just liked the tv show and is expecting to kick some zombie ass. It’s not enough of a game to please people looking for the latter.

VERDICT: 7.5/10

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This entry was posted on 16 May 2012 by in Games, Reviews and tagged , , , .

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