Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead spawned a fantastic TV series, but how does the Video game adaption hold up?
Reviewed on the Xbox 360 by Alex Trotter-Fernandez
There are certain expectations that one would have when playing a video game involving the un-dead; There will be gore, there may be swearing, I can hit things over the head with a blunt object… Many of these things are true in regards to TellTales The Walking Dead, however this isn’t your typical Dead Island fare, and if that’s what you’re looking for run away and never look back. The emphasis here isn’t about slaughtering hordes of innocent Zombies, it’s about navigating conversations with skill and tact whilst making difficult decisions. Ultimately it offers a truly unique emotional experience that ties in perfectly with what you’d expect from the Walking Dead.
In this first episode you take control of Lee Everett, a man you first meet in handcuffs heading off to prison. Why exactly? Well he may be a murderer of sorts – or not. Of course after the typical “Holy Shit a Car Crash!” moment that propels you into the story, it’s made abundantly clear that the Zombie apocalypse has just started. After sort of dubiously adopting a little girl called Clementine, it’s up to you to keep her safe and survive the next couple of hours of living hell.
Check out our MEGA PLAY! play-through of the walking dead. SPOILERS!
The events of A New Day take place within the timeline of the Walking Dead Universe, occurring round about when Rick Grimes is lying in bed in a coma while Shane sticks it to his wife. TellTale Games focuses on a separate group of survivors with their own unique problems. Of course you will encounter some friendly faces that you might remember, but by focusing on a completely new story within the universe it creates a fresh experience that feels like The Walking Dead. It does this not through set pieces, although there are quite a few, but through characterization and the heavy decisions that you’ll have to make throughout the game.
To make the hard decisions just that little bit more difficult, TellTale has introduced a ticking clock causing you to have less time to think about the question at hand. As well as this once you’ve answered that question, there’s no way of going back or changing your mind. Characters in the game pick up on your responses, remembering any lies or your candidature which will affect the story and how they’ll react to you later in the game. This means you’ll have to live with your responses for the rest of the series for better or for worse.
With so many different options and routes to take, including moments where you’ll have to choose one life over the other, there’s plenty of replay-ability here and explore the different potential branches that this game has. I’ve played through the game a second time just see how making a different decision would pan out, and intend to do it a third time. With the opportunity to save multiple games you can watch your story evolve differently over the course of the next few episodes. Decision making may not be as deep and branching as other titles such as The Witcher 2 and Heavy Rain, but it sure does pack an emotional wallop that I really wasn’t expecting.
The voice acting is something that really adds believability to the proceedings, creating fully rounded characters that you really start to care for, causing certain decisions that you’ll have to make far more difficult. This game has a lot of humanity and plays out like a Greek tragedy waiting to happen. The Walkers themselves are tragic figures; with little anecdotal touches you get the sense that these shuffling hungry creatures were once human – something you’ll rarely find in any Zombie related video games. The atmosphere of the locations you visit add to the experience, with barren streets and boarded up shops an indicator to the fall of humanity. Characters are mostly hopeful, but judging by the state of things its clear it may well be the end of the world. Only occasionally does A New Day stumble with some characterization that one could say is most definitely retarded, such as an unfortunate battery incident.
A cool feature that can be found once you’ve completed the game is a sweet tally of other players responses and decisions. Although The Walking Dead is most certainly a personal tailored experience to how you play and perceive your character, it’s rather interesting to see how other people played the game. Only 27% of gamers saved one poor character who faced an untimely demise, I could by cynical and tell you why, but it might spoil that sequence. Let’s just say it’s probably a guy thing and you’ll know when you get there.
Overall movement and combat feels good but a little too simple for my tastes. Picking up or interacting with an item is a fairly easy accomplishment using a reticule, one that is used in combat as well. Fighting the living dead is a button bashing affair with some good old fashioned QTE’s. It lacks depth being so overtly simple, however the emotional context gives it plenty of weight so it never feels empty. It’s all pretty intuitive and I never had any problems where I found the control scheme frustrating, I was just a tad bored by the simplicity of it all. However the real challenge is to be found in conversations and the occasionally puzzles, certain action sequences require to take down Walkers in a specific way using objects found in the environment, and although it’s not exactly brain hemorrhaging, it does provide a welcome change of pace.
It’s a shame about some of the visual glitches that I found in the game, because TellTale got the visual look of the game just right. The Walking Dead feels like it’s been torn from the pages of the graphic novels and colored in. It’s unmistakeably a relation to its parent, and fans will really love with what they’ve done with this style. However on the Xbox 360 version of the game I encountered a lot of frame-rate issues. Unfortunately this seems to be isolated to the system because it ran as smooth as hell on the Playstation 3. Character animation can feel very clunky at times, sometimes you may find yourself gliding on the floor like a figure skater or moving like you suffer from a degenerative disease. It’s not too jarring but it can break the experience occasionally.
Costing less than half of your biggest AAA blockbuster The Walking Dead has a lot of bang for your buck, especially as it screams out for multiple playthroughs. For those who love the graphic novels and television series this really is a no brainer, it’s a lovingly made adaptation that sticks true to what the Walking Dead is about. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, there’s an awful lot of talking and after the first ten minutes or so you may well be turned off. But for those who stick with it and those yearning for an emotional interactive story with plenty of weight, this is an excellent start to what could hopefully be a fantastic series.