The Dead Live!
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Being the local zombie nut at GiN, it fell to me to review The Walking Dead game. Being a fan of the show and all things zombies led me to believe that I was going to be disappointed at a sad attempt to cash in on the success of a well known series'but luckily, I was mistaken.
The Walking Dead was my first jump into an adventure done by Telltale. I've actually been avoiding them because despite the positive reviews of the Back to The Future and Jurassic Park games, I didn't feel that I could trust such a new company, or any company for that matter, with the films of my childhood. The Walking Dead presented the perfect opportunity to give them a try and I'm glad I did.
Telltale has done so much more with this game than I ever could've expected. Instead of taking the normal route and regurgitating the same adventure we've read and watched, Telltale decided to add to the already great story. Even better was that the story didn't feel hashed together like so many other tie-in games do. No, instead I found that the story of The Walking Dead game fell perfectly in sync with the telling of both the show and comic. I didn't think it was possible, but they have more than done justice to the style and story of Robert Kirkman's excellent graphic novel, and the TV show as well.
The story focuses on Lee Everett, a man being transported to jail for the murder of his wife's secret lover. The trip doesn't last long though, when one of Them stumbles onto the road and Lee finds himself teaming up with other survivors to make the best of their predicament.
The real shining part of The Walking Dead is that the player gets to make every decision for Lee and it can and will affect the story in both minor and major ways. The Walking Dead is one of those few titles that have made me feel that the decisions I make matter and left me wondering what would have happened if I had answered differently.
Gameplay consists of these choices presented in a Choose Your Own Adventure style and action sequences when you will be fighting for you life, or perhaps just trying to improve your chances of survival. You can play with hints tuned on, which basically make it so Lee will remember conversations you've previously had, and also give you little observations about the environment. For example, if you lied to someone previously, Lee will remind you in a thought bubble that you are going to have to keep that same lie up moving forward, less someone figure out who you really are.
Regarding the story, it's been such a long time since I actually felt such an emotional tether to a game that I'd almost forgotten the satisfaction of it. Dialog is very important and a lot of my time was spent talking to everyone I could about everything I could. Not out of some insane drive to do everything in the game but instead because I found myself actually caring and being concerned for my fellow survivors. In just three hours I gained such a connection to these people that the only thing I can compare it to would be the kind of affection I had for my team in Dragon Age: Origins, a game I easily poured over 80 hours of my life into. Given that this is the first of five planned episodes in the series, it will be wonderful to see how my companions evolve and grow alongside me, and all the more troubling when I lose them.
The complexity of the conversations is also what dragged me into the game. Instead of having all the time in the world to give a response, I was instead left with a limited time shown as a bar draining down to nothing. I was surprised by just how much this changed my decisions in game. No longer did I have the time to weigh my option, instead I had to run off of instincts. When in a heated argument, this can cause you to think fast. Unfortunately, this left me wrapped up in a couple of lies that I had to keep in mind the whole time I played so I wouldn't compromise myself. Normally I wouldn't care, but the characters in this game listen to what you have to say and take mental notes, it's one of the things that really fooled me into believing they were real at times.
The voice acting is also stellar here. Sure there are only about 12 total characters in this episode of the game, other than zombies who don't say very much, but each person has a unique style found in their speech, and obviously had a lot of time put into them. Combine this with some of the best facial expressions I've seen in a game and it all comes together to create one of the most believable cast I've ever experienced.
I know I must sound like I'm gushing here (and I slightly am) but there is always one thing I look for above all others in games, and that's storytelling, which is why I'm so excited to have found a game that really focuses on that aspect above all others. Too often these days the games are fitted with cookie cutter characters, fast paced action and beautiful graphics to gloss over a shallow story.
Speaking of the graphics, I've got to say that I'm fond of the appearance of The Walking Dead. Instead of harsh realistic graphics, I was treated to hard cel-shaded environments that gave off the appearance of a comic book come to life. The game looked great and my only real complaint here was that on a few occasions I had characters or enemies jump from one place to another in cutscenes. It wasn't a major issue and is easily overlooked when compared to the rest of the experience offered by The Walking Dead.
For three hours of my life I was kept on the edge of my seat playing a game. That alone is reason enough to warrant a buy, and at five bucks an episode and five episodes in total, it becomes less of a chance and more of a guarantee that the game is worth it. I'm anxiously awaiting the next episode of The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead earns 5 GiN Gems out of 5 from this love-struck reviewer!
Billy loves nothing more than leveling and grinding through a good RPG. And he knows that Time Waster is not a negative term when it comes to games. : firstname.lastname@example.org.