Developer: Telltale Games
Release Dates: April 24th, 2012 (First Episode), December 11th, 2012 (First Season retail)
Available on: Mobile, Ouya, PC, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, Xbox 360
Reviewer’s note: I played this game on the Xbox 360. There may be differences between versions. Also, this review only considers the first five episodes, or the “first season.” 400 Days will get its own review.
If you have a love of story based games then you already know about The Walking Dead. But if you somehow managed to miss it then I should make it clear: The Walking Dead is a fantastic story that is well worth experiencing.
The story focuses on two main characters: Lee and Clementine. The game opens with Lee on his way to prison for committing a crime, but once his car is derailed he finds himself thrown into the middle of a zombie apocalypse. It’s here he meets Clementine, an eight year old girl who’s trying to find her parents. The two of them are forced to stick with each other from here on out, surviving the end of days as they best can. What really makes this story great is the characters. Each and every character in this game has tons of depth. They all feel like people, and you begin to grow attached to them. You’ll have to make some real tough decisions in the game, and each one feels like a no win situation. What makes them especially bad is how you know they’ll effect the characters in the game. They’re smart though, the decisions often aren’t as simple as “pick who lives and dies.” At one point in the game you’re given four food items to feed a group of seven. Who gets food and who goes hungry? Do you give them to your friends? Or do you play the politics and try to make each side happy?
This is coupled with some very intense moments as well. At one point you’re locked in a room with a couple people when one of them faints. Do you use CPR to try and resurrect him, knowing full well that he may turn into a zombie? Or do you help another guy drop a salt lick on his head, knowing full well that you may be killing an innocent? Things like this help keep you on edge, never knowing what to expect from the game next. All of your decisions will carry over from each episode, and you’re often on a time limit on how you’ll act. You’ll be deciding things quickly and can save the regret and the what-ifs for later.
Of course The Walking Dead is still a game and you’ll be doing things outside of talking and advancing the story. This is sort of where The Walking Dead begins to fall apart a little. Anytime you get into a fight with a zombie the game is pretty much reduced to “mash A until you win”. The only real adventure game-like puzzle in the first episode involves just taking batteries out of a walkie talkie and flipping them around. Some of the later segments try to incorporate first person or third person action scenes, but these are all awkward at best and downright annoying at worst.
I also take a bit of issue with episode 4. While it ends on a strong note, the majority of the episode feels like it’s filler. Beyond that they also introduce a new character named Molly who feels like she accidentally stepped in from an Assassin’s Creed game. She parkors all over buildings and kills zombies using almost ninja-like close combat skills. She also kind of just leaves at the end of episode 4, feeling like she was just there to make that episode even more action heavy than it already was.
Still, it’s tough to hate The Walking Dead. It does a few things wrong, but there’s so much done right with the game. Anyone with a love of story based games needs to play this one, as Lee and Clementine’s tale is one of the most interesting that games have to offer.