Published on January 24th, 2013 | by Kiron Ramdewar1
Review: The Walking Dead
The zombie apocalypse has shuffled onto the scene recently; Left 4 Dead, Dead Island and Resident Evil are just one chunk of the zombie games to be released over the last few years. These brain-dead games are arriving on our consoles in hordes and the genre has become saturated with head bludgeoning titles.
Set in Georgia you play as Lee, an ex-university Professor who is on his way to prison. After an accident on the road you are thrust into the apocalypse to fend for yourself.
The Walking Dead has the quality of 28 Days Later rather than Zombie Nation, but that does not mean its your standard undead affair. Telltale’s game is a point and click adventure that tasks you with small puzzles such as finding a key to a pharmacy door, or finding a way to secretly pick a lock. Other than that, you only direct the story by selecting Lee’s dialogue and making life changing decisions.
If you think that last sentence was an overstatement, then I challenge you to play The Walking Dead and disagree with me. Major storyline choices alter how others react to you – a la Mass Effect. The characters that you meet can love or hate you depending on a multitude of decisions that you make. Likewise, your views on them will greatly differ on your personality. This can either be as small as keeping silent in an argument or knowingly leaving a man to die.
I tried to be the hero, keeping the group together, while friends of mine had more of a survival approach and were treated completely differently by NPCs. I made rash choices based on my affections for people. Where games like Mass Effect gave clear good or evil decisions, The Walking Dead is completely grey. This is the zombie apocalypse and its every man for themselves. Almost every time you pick a piece of dialogue or make a decision it is extremely tense. The lives of your group rest in your hands. This is made spine tinglingly worse by the fact that most of these moments are timed, forcing you to think fast.
While The Walking Dead may not sound amazing on paper, it is coupled with writing that easily surpasses the TV series. I have never had such an emotional link with the characters in a game before, especially my 9-year-old companion (notice that pronoun there), Clementine. My bond with this virtual character was so strong that a lot of the choices I made were solely based on her well-being or opinion of me. I cared for her and didn’t want any harm to come to her. She and many other people you meet in The Walking Dead have real character, something which is missing from so many other games. Even Lee, the game’s protagonist, isn’t some angry black man (e.g Barret, Cole, Sazh). He’s a fully fleshed out character with a back story, who feels like he could be a real person, rather than some generic stereotype.
The strong writing is aided by the beautiful art work, music, animation and spot-on voice work. Characters expressions and pitch match perfectly with The Walking Dead’s scenarios playing at your heart-strings, whether it is lightly plucking them or tearing away at them. This is emphasised by the fact that after finishing the game, I realised I had made so many wrong, immoral or impractical decisions; all because the game moved me in a certain way at that specific moment. You don’t play the game like other titles where you try to be super cool or badass, instead you act like a real person. Frequently I found myself caring way more about other’s feelings rather than just picking the most extreme outcomes like I frequently do in other games.
Writing this review has been horrendously difficult as there’s no one killer moment that I want to spoil. Each chapter has the power to make you whence, laugh and cry. It’s more of an interactive story than a game, but one of the best experiences I’ve had with any kind of entertainment media in my life. Moving and emotional, The Walking Dead proves that video games are more than just gutter trash entertainment, but an art form that can be extremely powerful. The first episode is free for PC, Xbox 360, PS3 and iPad and I implore you to try it.
Summary: One of the best games that we have played in years, if you can call it that. Frighteningly engaging, The Walking Dead is a true contender for GOTY.