The Walking Dead

9 / 10 Banzai!s

The Game:
walking-dead-coverZombie mania is here.  And to celebrate, Telltale Games has created The Walking Dead, a game inspired by Robert Kirkman’s comic book series of the same name – which in turn has also been turned in an AMC TV show.  In a nutshell, The Walking Dead game is a point-and-click adventure, like many other Telltale titles such as Back to the Future and the CSI series.  But that’s in a nutshell, mind you.  The Walking Dead is actually far more than just that.

Reminiscent of Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain, players perform actions and make choices along the way, which alter events along the storyline as well as your interaction with other characters.  Unlike X-Men: Destiny, these choices matter.  Save one character and not the other, and continue the story with one of the characters dead.  Disagree with someone, and that person will refuse to help you later on.

As stated earlier, the game is “inspired” by the comic book, existing in the same zombie-infested world, but with a new cast and story (though a few characters familiar to the comic make some cameos).  You play as Lee Everett, a convicted felon riding in the back of a squad car on his way to prison, when the zombie outbreak begins.  After surviving a car accident, he makes it to the nearest town – and is shocked to see undead walkers roaming the streets in search of human flesh.  He meets a young girl named Clementine who’s been hiding up in her treehouse, and the two become a team as they search for safety, food, form a group of friends, and attempt to survive in this apocalyptic world.

Much of the game involves problem-solving.  Explore a given area, find the tools you need, and figure out how to use them in order to reach your goal.  Along the way, you’ll be settling arguments by choosing (under a time limit of a few seconds) how to respond to members in your group, making friends by finding and handing out food, making enemies by not giving them food, and of course battling the occasional zombie in a quick mini-game.

The Walking Dead video game was released in a series of episodes, five in total, beginning in April of 2012.  In July 2013, Telltale released a bonus story titled 400 Days as an added DLC.  Despite being criticized for glitches and receiving only moderately positive reviews, The Walking Dead video game received numerous Game Of The Year awards from a number of newspapers and magazines, including USA TodayE!GamesRadar, and Best Downloadable Game at the 2012 Spike Video Game Awards.

What I Liked:
Obviously there’s a lot I liked about this game, to warrant 9 Banzai!s out of 10.  The game strongly focuses on the story, and the story is the best part of the game.  It’s as fascinating and suspenseful as the TV show based on the comic, with its own brand of colourful characters.  The overall game has its own metaplot, but each Episode explores a specific aspect with its own plot and goal.  Much like the comics, The Walking Dead video game begins with the focus on the zombies themselves.  But soon, the players will face an even more dangerous adversary: other human beings.

walking-dead-screen1The gameplay is well balanced between scenes in which you’re attempting to solve a puzzle, scenes that bring out the suspense and horror, and scenes which allow you to take a break.  But unlike reading the comic or watching the show, The Walking Dead video game is, of course, interactive – which further adds to the interest of the story.  Like Heavy Rain, you’re forced to make choices which not only alters the storyline of the Episode, but the overall game.  Continue siding with Larry and not Kenny, then don’t expect Kenny’s help in the future.  Chose to sacrifice Carley and save Dog, then Carley is no longer in the story.

The puzzles themselves are far easier than other Telltale games, simply because they have logical answers which feel natural if you were literally in the same situation as your player character.  Need to sneak into a building?  Then quietly kill the zombies nearby.  How do you kill it?  With a screwdriver.  Where do you find a screwdriver?  In a toolbox.  Where’s the toolbox?  Near the construction area.  This logical style of problem-solving adds to the realism of the story, as opposed to the more cartoonish Back to the Future where you need to find a character across town by having the dog Einstein sniff a pair of shoes (possible, but perhaps only in a cartoon).

In The Walking Dead video game, things will jump out and startle you.  Things will shock and even disgust you.  You’ll feel the clock ticking when you’re trying to save a character’s life.  And you’ll feel sad when they die.  Yes, it’s no spoiler than many people will die.  Those of you familiar with the comics and TV show know best that, just because a character’s been with the story for a long time, doesn’t mean they won’t perish.  You just never know who will be the next food for the zombies – and sometimes, it will be the result of your decisions.

What I Didn’t Like:
Bugs and glitches.  It has been the strongest complaint by most online reviewers, and yes, I had a problem with the glitches as well.  The game never froze one me, but there are hiccups throughout – even in the DLC – which interrupt the flow of the game.

walking-dead-screen2The problem, I think, is that the game seems to be loading the next scene and saving at the same time, as I noticed this is when the glitches usually occur.  You solve a puzzle, then there’s a cut-scene.  Then the cut-scene freezes for a few seconds, but the game is still going.  Best case scenario, the picture fast-forwards to catch up with your position in the game.  Worst case, is there was a quick decision to make but you missed your window.

Most of the time, these glitches didn’t impair the gameplay.  But they stand out simply because the rest of the game is so good!  If these bugs were in Duke Nukem Forever, I probably wouldn’t care.  But it’s like a CD skipping while you’re listening to a really good song.

Overall:
Despite the glitches, The Walking Dead is an exciting and fascinating game which proves that an engaging story is often necessary to make a great game.  (I’m looking at you, Final Fantasy XIII)  The action may not be as intense as Call of Duty, the graphics as impressive as Devil May Cry, but the story and characters are so interesting, the gameplay so interactive, that The Walking Dead video game goes beyond being a simple video game and steps into the boundaries of artform.  Fans of the comic and TV show will not be disappointed.  And anyone new to the series will be in for a treat.

Just don’t play it with the kiddies around. 

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