The Walking Dead was, and still is, a major hit on TV as a show, and like always, it was just a matter of time it reached the videogame industry. Several other games tried to capture the series essence, but mostly failed, among miserable First-Person-Shooters or mobile mini-games, none seemed to capture the true experience fans have been looking for. One however, made it big, delivering a captivating adventure, but still sustaining all the thrilling elements the show got us all hooked for.
Developed and published by Telltale Games, The Walking Dead defines the studio’s motto, producing a fantastic story-driven game, that takes what made the TV Show a success; A consistent plot that lingers between philosophical human issues, while trying to survive a Zombie Apocalypse. Based on the comics from Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlar, the game takes place in the same timeline as the first comic books, portraying the very first reactions of the outbreak, and its immediate occurrences!
We play as Lee Everett, a History Professor, whose life turn to worst and he is now traveling in the back of a police car, leaving all his life beyond. If only he had resisted the urge to kill his wife's lover, but it was too late now. The highway seems endless, and for what’s worth, his life was over, so he thought, before watching the whole road turning into chaos. Right in the middle of it, Lee experiences the horror of having his friendly police officer trying to bite him.
Barely escaping alive, Lee tumbles across a forest, running from the living dead, not sure what’s happening, but trying to survive it’s all he can think of. Crossing the nearby neighborhood, he tries a local house, to get some rest and hopefully get some facts straight! The house looks abandoned, but a little surprise awaits him, and a good one, named Clementine. This small 9 year old girl will be Lee’s companion for the rest of the game, and together they’ll face the most atrocious violence this new world has to offer.
While experiencing The Walking Dead, player’s will encounter many NPC’s, which some are recognizable from the TV Series, such as Glenn Rhee and Hershel Greene, while others are completely new. However, one is constant, which is the little Clementine, whom Lee became a father figure for, trying to protect at all costs. Lee deals with the fact that he is not her real father, under the suspicious looks of everybody else, while teaching her how to survive in the hostile environment surrounded by walkers and raiders. This connection is by far the main one in the game, and while Clementine is trying to find her parents, Lee is just trying to find a safe place, and in the meanwhile, their whole group is slowly falling apart! Tension grows, and with it, decisions become bigger and tougher to deal with, as their consequences will remain forever across the five available chapters.
What shines through everything else is its emotional side, connecting players alongside this journey, creating a large sympathy for Clementine, that portrays not only a child, but the lost innocence of a decaying world. Unfortunately, she has to grow, and although the world is still relentless, players will surely become attached to this duo! The Walking Dead also reflects Telltale’s ability to direct games as if they were a TV Show, with all the right angles, close shots, and an intro/finale, within each episode. A well directed game results in a plot worthy of note, and thus, we have the perfect example. Narrative is fluid, simple but pleasant with surprises at every corner. Plot twists are unpredicted and refreshing, as the original TV Show. The characters are well developed and their personality tangle players in their choices across the adventure.
The Walking Dead takes elements from classic Point & Click games, where our character, Lee, can interact with objects by looking at them, collecting, and using such to solve simple puzzles along this hazardous adventure. Talking with other NPC’s is another way of progression, as is common among Telltale Games, story development is heavily tied up to dialogues and the choices players do along their course. A dialogue tree allows players to decide certain key points, making decisions and dealing with their consequences. Such results can lead to someone’s death, but may benefit someone somewhere else. A very balanced case of cause and effect, with players able to control Lee through specific areas. It’s somehow limited, but still interesting, and a running option could have been used, but considering how limited the gameplay is, it’s something less of a requirement.
Some extra features were built for this game, specifically, the fighting scenes, where Lee can, given the opportunity, use weapons on zombies or enemies. It’s satisfying to shoot a zombie in the head, but it’s somehow visible that it’s all encrypted, and the same goes for pretty much all the action packed within the game. It truly is a Point & Click game, and for that, one should appreciate, since it’s probably for the best. QuickTime events are present, but merely as fillers, and barely as anything worthy of note.
(Lee is surprisingly shocked to see his friend hit by an arrow. We wonder if for a moment he though the arrow was supposed to hit him in the knee, like a proper warrior!)
The Walking Dead is a major improvement over the previous Steam released game; Jurassic Park: The Game, which had serious issues. (Read our Review Here). This one is not entirely off the hook though, as we have some issues to point out. The very first one is definitely the somewhat basic mouse/keyboard adaptation, the choice of keys wasn’t the best. The second major problem is the cursor movements, that could have been further polished. Still, considering what it once was, it’s a bliss to finally see a proper playable PC port. All these mentioned issues were fixed on The Wolf Among Us, (Read our Review Here), which means the TellTool required players feedback rather than internal beta testers. Considering this, I’m personally not surprised the in-game engine took so many updates to finally run properly!
To emphasize on the thrilling, Telltale decided to apply a time limit when choosing dialogue options. It’s an interesting technical detail, but as an idea that should’ve been in the paper! While playing, it becomes obvious its a mess to be forced into choosing an option so quickly. It’s a good concept to bring the realism of it, but in some particular scenes, the timer runs out so fast, players won’t even be able to read all the options.
The Walking Dead remains further trustful to the original comics, maintaining the visual influences and atmosphere. The characters design resembles in art direction, but also through their traces and expressions. The overall world feeling and colors are atmospherically matching the original setting, giving away the perfect vibe for anyone who read the comics or watched the TV Series! Designers went with a less detailed approach, but still quite explicit when comes to gore and violence, making it definitely a game for adult audiences. Although its adult themes are not entirely visually, but also engraved in its narrative, one should expect extreme content in a The Walking Dead game.
A DLC called “400 Days” was released a year later, as an extra short chapter with five different stories, each with its own character. Players experience different timelines of different survivors that somehow got involved at some point. All of this up to day 400, where something does happen, reuniting all of them. An interesting DLC, with a nice swing of pace!
Anyone enjoying the music from the TV Series is going to love the soundtrack for The Walking Dead, with smooth melancholic but suitable tunes, mixing ambient and simplicity. A fair share of intense, thrilling sounds is included, and it’s entirely free at the TellTale Official Website.
The Walking Dead prevails as an emotional journey, delivering immersive plot twists, generic gameplay, but top of the notch narrative, with compelling choices and plenty of tears to go with!