Robert Kirkman’s graphic novel comes to life in interactive form. Does Telltale Games’s first offering do it justice, or is this survival horror better left 6 ft. under?
I’ve been a fan of The Walking Dead for years now. When AMC announced a show, my jaw dropped in salivating elation. When a game was announced, it was met with an equivalent delight - well, almost.
Once I heard Bay Area developer, Telltale Games was leading the charge, I admit, I was a bit skeptical. Not only because of the under achieved Jurassic Park: The Game, but because I knew the title would be quick-time-event oriented. What I’ve come to find is The Walking Dead lends itself well to TG’s gameplay style, but that’s not without its shortcomings.
Stand aside Rick Grimes and enter Lee Everett, a cold blooded killer, or a man whose crime is justified by a yet unknown truth. Our story begins with Lee handcuffed in the back of a police car, on his way to incarceration. Meanwhile, the world as we know it is slowly falling to the hands of the undead. Right away you’ll notice the superb job of narrative that stands true to Kirkman’s comic series, and that of the TV show. The writing is that good.
In fact, the drama-horror is so well done that at times I was so captivated, I forgot I was playing a game, until I was prompted by multiple choice responses and/or QTEs. This is good and bad. First of all, this title could work well as a stand alone animation series, but as we know, this is a video game, and I should never forget that I’m the player. That said, TWD could use some corner cutting in dialogue to alleviate this, but to be fair, this episode is our introduction, hence it’s slow, wordy pace.
Over all, solid voice work, and shot composition make up for a cinematic, character driven tale, full of death, mystery, love, and survival. I found the story to be engaging, chilling, and shocking. The shock factor comes in the face of maturity. TWD is by far TG’s darkest title, full of the graphic nature (cursing included) found in the comic and television series. Though this game is more akin to the graphic novel than AMC’s iteration.
If you’ve played any of Telltale’s software, then you know that point and click, quick-time-events, and choice are their MO. During conversation you’re tasked with choosing from a set of responses that impact the game differently. In some cases, you can down right lie, or play the honest card; and if that weren’t enough, there is also the demure approach, often resulting in short, rude, defensive comments.
Additionally, your actions also have an impact. For example, during a zombie attack, two survivors were in a pickle, and I had to choose who to save first. You can guess what happens to the person who came in second. Either way, who you rescue can greatly affect the story, which I love. Dyer actions and important conversations are all timed, which adds an extra dose of stress, forcing you to choose wisely and swiftly.
Character mobility is limited depending on the environment and circumstances. Again, this is good and bad. At times I felt restricted, and noticed a slight delay when executing actions. For me, this detracted from the immersion and pacing. I would’ve like to see more fluidity in this area. And considering that E1 is more introductory, meant that combat (if you wanna call it that) was few and far between.
If, like me, you’ve read many volumes of Kirkman’s graphic novel, then you’ll notice the homage to Charlie Adlard’s work. The difference now is it’s colored, and within a 3-dimensional space. The cel shading fits the art direction like a glove, and while some of the textures are smudged here and there, overall TWD has a nice presentation. It may not be the most graceful game, but it looks the part.
The Walking Dead is not perfect, but what game is? The strong narrative, coupled with violent, mature themes can certainly enrapture you at times, let's just hope the rest of the game keeps in mind that this is interactive entertainment. Some fluency in gameplay wouldn’t hurt, and despite a slow Episode 1, Episode 2 appears to ramp up the tension and action, which I welcome. If you’re looking for something different in a zombie game TWD delivers, and has 4 more offerings waiting in the wings.
Final Grade (E1):
I will be grading each episode and doing a final run of the game as a cohesive entity when all episodes are released. The grades you see here are reflective of the individual episodes, not the game as a whole.