Zombie games, zombie films, zombie shows, zombie mods. Zombie, zombie, zombie. You would almost think another zombie title would be overplayed and just shamble along with the rest, but not so with this one.
Back in April, Telltale games released Episode 1 of The Walking Dead, a game based on the hit comic, that has also become a popular television show. The game focuses on events outside of the plot of the show, with some crossover in characters from the comic books and stands alone as a good story in its own right.
You are Lee Everett, a college history teacher, arrested for the murder of a state senator who has been sleeping with your wife. On the way to prison, Lee notices a large amount of police emergency activity heading into Atlanta. In a moment, all hell breaks loose as the cruiser strikes a walker and crashes, flipping to a stop in a gully. Sounds of terror and carnage, followed by unconsciousness, and Lee wakes to find himself still in the cruiser, with blood everywhere.
Things go to hell pretty quick, when the officer that was taking Lee to prison resurrects as a zombie. Some quick thinking and a quick shot to the head, and Lee is on the run from the mob of undead drawn to the carnage.
Along the way, Lee meets up with Clementine, a young girl whose parents were in Savannah when the catastrophe struck. Clementine has been hiding in a tree house since things started, and the babysitter that was watching her is now a walking corpse. Lee takes the young girl under his wing, and the two set out to try and find her parents, whom Lee suspects are already dead. A few other characters pop up, including Herschel Greene, Kenny, his wife Katja and their son Duck, as well as a team of survivors holed up in a drug store in Macon, Georgia. You’ve also got your cast of walkers, crawlers and rotters shambling about trying to nibble on your ass, but all they really do is moan a lot.
Graphics wise, Telltale hit the nail on the head by making the game seem more like a comic book, rather than go for ultra-realism and fancy effects. You get the feeling you are watching a graphic novel – characters are almost sketched, but interactive and mobile.
From the moaning zombies to the blaring police sirens and gun shots, the sound design is pretty decent. The voice acting and character interaction is believable, and lends to the overall feeling of desperation. Hushed whispers, aggressive confrontations, and that nice sound when you sink a fire axe into a zombies face really stand out for me.
Combat is not the focus here. Oh, you will get to smack a few zombies around, but the fun is figuring out ways to get what you need without becoming a snack. Your environment has clues and items all around, so use them. Sure, that pillow may not seem useful, until you decide to use it as a silencer to shoot a walker without attracting others. Conserve your ammo, scrounge for food, and interact with the other characters. There is a story there, and how you approach things will determine how it plays out. Choices are made, lives are lost, and it’s up to you to figure out how you want it to end.
One thing I do like is the ability to roll back the story, and replay certain events. Through the use of saved games, you can try any various number of critical choices multiple times, and get to experience how it all pans out.
The Walking Dead goes beyond your typical zombie game, by taking elements out. Combat is only relied upon in a few critical moments. You have to use your head. If you are of the mind to just thrash through everything, well, this game is not for you. If you like to figure things out, though, and experience a story that unfolds through events that you helped shape, then this is a title for you.
The game ships in episodes, with the first titled “A New Day” released in April, and the next “Starved for Help” releasing this month. Each episode builds upon the previous ones, and forms a complete story, almost like a mini series. Waiting is a bitch, but hell, that is what you do with a good story.
Despite playing with a few configurations in the settings, and tweaking my graphics card, I found the game to lag at certain points. Of particular note are intense, quicktime events where you have no control of the game. Things will start to stutter, but the sound will continue on as normal. Things resolved a little bit through adjusting settings, but I never quite got it down.
Even those tired of zombie slaying and the undead will find something good here. Telltale Games takes a story, and weaves it into a wonderful game. At $25.00 you get 5 episodes, well worth the price. You can play the game multiple times, and end up with different results. In short: buy it. The Walking Dead is available on Steam, Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, other versions play on iOS and Mac OS X.
Rick first got his start in gaming with the Atari 2600 console, and it was all downhill from there. Now he spends his free time writing about games and technology for Sergeant Merrell, and is also on the Off Duty Gamers staff. His prior service as a United States Marine, and in law enforcement, give him a peculiar sense of humor, so be advised.