The Walking Dead is an episodic adventure game based off of the Robert Kirkman comic of the same name. It is developed and published by Telltale Games and is available for PC, Mac, PS3, Xbox 360 and iOS devices. While the game is based on the comics and certain characters do appear in both; the game’s protagonist is a new character, Lee Everett.
This first episode focuses on the first few days of the outbreak, following it as it starts with Lee in the back seat of a police car on the way to prison. Lee has been sentenced to prison for murder, though the facts are scarce at best on what exactly happened and if he did actually do it. The car soon crashes and Lee finds himself injured in the wreck. After escaping the wreck he soon finds himself up against a horde of undead.
After narrowly escaping death he finds himself searching a nearby house for help, where he meets a young girl Clementine. Lee promises to look after her until her parents come and find her. He then takes her with him in order to find other survivors and a safe place to stay.
The game revolves around the use a system similar to the one seen in Telltale’s previous game Jurassic Park. Since the previous game the controls have been heavily refined from the quick time events in the previous game to a more context sensitive style which allows for more decisions and a longer time to take an action in.
The game is broken down into three main styles of gameplay: conversations, exploration and action scenes. Conversations are very much revamped from any system that Telltale has used before; you will have four different options and only a limited time to choose an answer. Silence is sometimes an option but will always be your given option if you let the time run out. Certain dialogue trees will have options that characters will remember that you did or said. Actions that you do or don’t do will sometimes be remembered and will have an effect later in the story and possibly throughout all the episodes.
Exploration is standard for any Telltale game of the past, with you searching around environments at your own pace, talking to the various characters in the game and finding solutions to puzzles. In fairness the game does focus much less on the puzzle solving as it doesn’t really fit with the game; it is however very intent on getting you to explore the world and get to know the characters for the progression. Puzzles have been more or less replaced with fact finding and making choices based on those facts. This episode has that and it’s clear that is the direction the rest will follow up with that.
Action scenes are action orientated cutscenes; you don’t get full control like you would with exploration but it’s much more that a QTE cutscene. You can move the reticule around the scene like you would with exploration but you are forced into making snap decisions with limited time, each decision having serious repercussions or ending with your death. The game gives you plenty of time to react but there is always a sense of emergency as it forces you to make tough decisions at the drop of a coin. It really involves you with the decisions you make and makes sure that you know that there are consequences for what you do.
After playing through the first episode you will be given a quick rundown of all the major turning points and which decision you made. It will also show what percentage of people made that choice as well. It is a little jarring and makes it feel more objective, like the decisions were either a simple yes or no. It is nice to see the stats but it’d be much better hidden away rather than thrown in your face and objectified the way it is.
The game is based off the comic rather than the TV show and the art style stays true to that fact. It also keeps up with the graphic violence that the series is known for. Zombies are intricate in their design and the dark atmosphere flows though even the daylight scenes. Characters are all very different and some are recognisable from the comic which gives an extra layer to the world.
The sounds and voices are brilliant and although the characters from the TV show don’t have the same voices they are still good regardless. The use of silence in the game is a pretty strange thing to find as a choice but it works as a completely viable option in many conversations. There are occasionally audio glitches, which take you out of the atmosphere a little but it is infrequent and doesn’t spoil the game.
The Walking Dead Episode Two & Final Comments
The Walking Dead: Episode One set up the series as one that gives the player a large variety of choice, at the same time as delivering an involving story set in The Walking Dead universe. Where the last episode is about coming to terms with the initial breakout and meeting the various characters; this time it focuses more on hard decisions and meeting new survivors.
Taking place some months after the previous events, you find yourself hunting for food in the woods. You creep up on a feasting Walker and embed an axe in its skull. It was eating a squirrel, so that’s one less meal opportunity for the starving survivors. Mark; the new survivor, is your hunting partner and it’s here that you get to meet him and find out what he’s about.
A scream cuts your conversation short, as you rush to find the source; thinking that Kenny has run into trouble. It turns out some other survivors; two boys and older man have befallen a bear trap that the man is unfortunately trapped in. After some quick decision making you choose how to deal with the situation; either helping him or leaving him behind, you head back to the motel from the previous episode.
This episode really ramps up the tensions between the survivors in the group; food shortages make up for most of the unfriendly atmosphere but differences of opinion in other areas also make up a large part. Lilly and Kenny are constantly at each other over how the group is going about its day to day running and Larry is as ever, the complaining old man.
The only problems I found were: at times the story is a little linear and funnels you into certain situations that you may actively try to avoid. It makes you feel really awkward as you can’t get out of doing things that could easily have been left alone and still had you go back on course later in the story. Other than that there are some rough graphics at times and graphical glitches that occasionally break immersion in the game.
The episode is full of intrigue and has a much darker tone than the previous episode. It is truly a worthy sequel to the previous episode and it looks as though Telltale will do anything but break their stride with the mature and enthralling storytelling.
* We decided not to cover episodes 3 & 4 as we felt the review had everything that was needed to give you the viewer a good understanding of the game, we also felt including episodes 3&4 would just spoil the game experience for the viewer as it would contain too many spoilers.
The story has its high points and low points (not low as in bad but low from the characters perspectives) as you watch the characters go on a rollercoaster of events and emotions. Playing through the game is full of tension and excitement, each decision feels important and has weight behind it.
Presentation and Audio
The art style is impressive and true to its comic book roots, it keeps the dark atmosphere and looks beautiful to boot. The voice acting and music is top quality but there are a couple audio glitches that jump out now and again.
It has succeeded in finding a near perfect balance between action and QTEs, allowing for quick decisions without making you feel cheated. Conversations flow well due to the time limits and with silence being a valid option it adds to layers of gameplay that will hopefully come into fruition once the next few episodes are released.
The game brings old gameplay ideas into a much more action based environment in ways that Jurassic Park only touched on. It still remains to be seen hope things work out in future episodes due to this laying most of the ground work for things to come. This is arguably Telltales best work to date and hopefully it can only get better.
Playing through the game once is going to be an experience that few can say that they didn’t enjoy. Going through a second time in this episode feels like a lot of the same actions are taking place regardless of what you do. As this is only the first episode to be released it is very hard to tell how the choices will unfold in the next episode but it does look very promising. This will probably be a game best left to replay once the whole game is released as not enough changes in the first episode to make any real difference with anything yet.
“Just buy the game already”
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.