Way back in April in the lead up to The Walking Dead: Episode 1 being released there was a lot if cynicism on whether this would be any good. The premise was there: a hit comic book and TV series made into a story-driven adventure game where the player’s choices would affect the outcome of the story. But people weren’t sure whether developer Telltale Games would pull it off due to previous releases such as Jurassic Park: The Game having such a mediocre reception from critics. That was back in April…
The game begins with a man named Lee in the back of a police car heading straight to prison, a young man who’s made some wrong decisions in his life which he clearly regrets. Little to his knowledge things are about to go from bad to catastrophic. After a few minutes of small talk with the police officer, something walks out into the middle of the road causing the car to veer off the highway and down a steep incline. You play as Lee so when he comes around it is your job to get him out of the car, but when he does it becomes immediately clear that something is wrong, the police officer has been dragged from the car and killed, and then comes back to life as a flesh eating zombie.
Gameplay is exceptionally simple in The Walking Dead. You move with the left stick, and point with the right, using either the d-pad or face buttons to interact with the world. Throughout the game you are restricted in your movement and have a very clear area in which you are allowed to explore. You will often find yourself in a room where you will have to look for objects of interest and use them to open a door or find an exit for instance. These moments are generally fun as they are not all to complicated, but can be hampered by the camera angles at times. I would often find myself trying to explore one corner of the room and my view would be almost completely obscured due to the cameras refusal to change angle.
This story is that of Lee and an eight year old girl called Clementine, a girl you find stranded in her tree house waiting for her parents to come home and relieve her from this nightmare. Everything is based on the survival of these two characters and the relationship they build with each other. As episode 1 progresses you become integrated with a group of survivors, a lot of which you will spend most of the game with. Most of these characters have great depth and give a good sense of connection to the dreadful scenario they find themselves in. Often, when I found myself getting angry at characters I realized that it was because Telltale had designed it that way, rather than in a lot of games where it annoyed me because the characters felt unbelievable and flat. The best way I can describe this is when one of the most annoying characters in my opinion faces a grave threat, at the time I was glad this was happening, but then looking back on it I felt bad due to this character’s connections with the group and how it would affect them. Not many games do this, and what gives everything that much more impact is one of the key elements of the game… The choices you make. I cannot stress enough the importance of this, the choices you make minute to minute in this game can alter a character’s opinion towards you, can affect what your group does or doesn’t do, and most importantly whether a character lives or dies. During these choices you are normally given a time limit in which to make your decision, this is usually deliberately short and adds to the tension when trying to decide a character’s fate. Without spoiling too much, as the game progresses Lee’s group is put in evermore testing situations, and even the subtle decisions you think won’t matter can have a huge impact on the game, as I found out in the later episodes. Having said that as you get into the back half of the game, the decisions you make don’t feel quite as pivotal and don’t divert the outcome all that much.
The visuals in The Walking Dead are very attractive. This is by no means a technical achievement when it comes to graphics, but it’s not trying to be. The game is rendered in a cell shaded, comic book like art style which fits the game perfectly considering it is based off the comic. The art is extremely well-done and the characters have a nice unique look to them. The only complaint I have in the technical department, is the game can stutter quite a bit in high octane scenes or where the game is auto-saving, this is no game breaker, but can sometimes get in the way of what is otherwise an excellent game.
Then it’s on to the sound design. Now I won’t spend so much time talking about the sound effects such as guns shots, or zombies being clobbered with a hammer. Those are all fine, but it’s the voice acting that often sets the audio apart. Take the main character for instance, Lee Everett played by Dave Fennoy. Throughout the entire series I felt extremely connected with Lee as he was a very believable kind of guy, he reacted appropriately to the situations in hand and Fennoy’s portrayal of Lee’s emotions works very well, especially with the great performances of the supporting cast.
So it seems that Telltale Games have exceeded everyone’s expectations. They have created a very believable cast of characters and inserted them into this horrifyingly brilliant world, and then told an amazing story on top of this. Besides a few minor technical issues and choices that aren’t quite as important as they maybe should be, The Walking Dead hits it’s mark every time and Telltale games has shown where its strength lies… Storytelling!
- Great storytelling
- Great range of believable and well realized characters
- Choices that can make the story your own
- Some slight technical hiccups such as freezing
- Some in game choices not having as big an effect as they should
Article from Gamersyndrome.com