Yes, this is a zombie game. No, it’s not yet another zombie shooter or survival horror title. The Walking Dead Game from Telltale Games is an old-school adventure game along the lines of their recent Back to the Future and Jurassic Park outings, but brings with it just a whiff of … is that a hint of Mass Effect I detect?
It should be noted right away that this isn’t an adventure game for the kids trying to sort out whether blackout bingo legit works or not. It’s graphic, with a fair amount of gore and adult language.
The following is a relatively spoiler-free review.
In The Walking Dead, you play and create the character of Lee Everett, a convict being driven to prison by a cop just as the world of The Walking Dead is starting to get ugly; Rick Grimes is still laying in a coma in Atlanta somewhere; this isn’t his story. Shortly after events conspire to free Lee from custody, he meets Clementine, a little girl surviving on her own.
Throughout the 8-chapter story presented in Episode 1 – A New Day, Lee interacts with Clementine and a host of other characters both new and familiar. It’s in these interactions that players familiar with Mass Effect will sit up and take note; the game is very pointed in letting you know that when you say things in the game, other characters are going to remember what you said and how you treat them. Sometimes the payoff is in the short term, but Telltale has said that consequences will carry over into future episodes, of which five are planned.
This very quickly lets you know that:
- Lee is yours to create. You’ll have nice options, cruel options, arrogant options, lying options, honest options.
- The paths you choose matter, sometimes a lot.
Without getting too spoilery, within the first episode alone you’ll have several choices to make that literally amount to choosing who lives and who dies. Lee can’t save everyone. When you take this and the character memory into account, it’s very possible that you’ll reach the end of Episode 5 and have experienced a completely different story with a different group of survivors than I did.
Overall the story was excellent, with just one or two moments that had me scratching my head; there is one survivor who comes across as too stupid to have survived pre-zombie life, let alone post-zombie life, but it’s not enough to hurt my opinion of the story.
The game play is simple, revolving around conversations with characters and investigating environments most of the time. Be prepared to react quickly though; it’s no shooter, but there ARE a lot of action sequences with zombies to re-kill in various ways. They’re not difficult to get through, but they can take you by surprise if you’re not ready.
Investigating environments works by showing you ‘hot spots’ to click on which you only see when you bring your reticle close to one. It’s fairly forgiving though, you won’t have to spend hours pouring over screens to find some hidden piece you need to advance.
Conversations are handled with full voice acting and optional subtitles. Your response dialogue options are shown as a menu at the bottom of the screen. You’ll have to keep an eye on it to see what your options are; in order to crank up the dramatic tension, some conversation responses are on a timer. It sounds a little weird at first, but it’s surprisingly effective, giving the conversations an added twist.
There’s a lot to be said for the graphics in The Walking Dead Game. They’ve avoided photorealism, instead going for a stark cartoonish look that evokes the art in the original Walking Dead comics very nicely.
The audio is handled well, with music that fits the game nicely, adding to the atmospheric mood. The voice acting is well executed, with Lee’s voice being the stand-out among the cast.
The first episode can be finished by many people in a couple of hours, or so I understand. Being very slow at playing games, it took me the better part of an afternoon.
The Walking Dead Game is available now for PC and Mac, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 for $25 USD. At the moment the game only includes Episode 1 – A New Day, with episodes 2-5 to follow; the price is for the full game of all 5 episodes, not just A New Day.
Have you given the game a try, or are you planning to try it? Let us know in the comments!