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The Walking Dead is a hard game to review. I feel like the less you know going in the better. If you haven't played this game yet I suggest you do so immediately. If you are still unsure whether this game is for you let me ask you a few simple questions. Is story important to you in a game? Do you like to be tested in making impossible decisions? Would you like to experience how bleak and tragic a zombie apocalypse actually would be? If you answered yes to any of these questions go and play this game right now. If you are on the fence then let me explain to you why this gem of a video game should not be missed.
The Walking Dead is a point and click adventure game set in the same universe as the comic and popular TV show. This is a completely new story and characters but set in a familiar setting. Some cameos from the other media do make appearances but don't expect to see Rick Grimes anytime soon. What you are presented with could very well be the best story told in the universe so far, which can definitely hold its own with the high standards of the show and comics.
Developed by Telltale Games, you could be forgiven for not having this game on your immediate radar. Generally speaking, there aren't many licensed games to get immensely excited about. Add to that the fact of the developer having a record of good niche games, but nothing near the elite of the industry, it's no surprise this game didn't have the biggest following before release. It does go to show that when it all comes together any good developer is capable of producing someone remarkable. And after this game, Telltale Games is now a major player in the video game industry.
The story sees you play as Lee Everett, a convict being escorted in handcuffs via car while being held prisoner. After an accident you escape only to discover the world is in a much worse place than you left it. While trying to work out what is going on you run into a little girl named Clementine who is looking for her parents. Instinctively you protect her and try to find her parents and also try to survive in a world overrun by walkers.
There is so much more to the story but to give away more than the initial premise would be unfair to people who have not yet experienced it. The story is really the shining star in this game and the way the characters develop over the course of the game is one of the best narratives ever told in the medium. What starts as a pretty straight forward survival game soon blossoms into a tale of heartbreak, hope, tragedy, and sadness. This really is the new benchmark when it comes to storytelling in games.
Choices play a big part in the game and they are presented to you in many different forms. Sometimes it will just be a conversation and whether you agree or disagree with someone but other times it really can mean the difference between someone living or dying. The time given to choose an option is so small that you really are rushed into making them and living with these decisions, whether you are happy or unhappy with your selection is part of the game. Just like in real life, the decisions you make effect the outcome of those around us and a bad decision can really come back to haunt you.
I do however feel like these choices could have had more of an overall impact on the story then it did in the end. The motives and actions of characters definitely change dramatically but the outcome roughly stays the same. I don't mind as I prefer one story told rather than many, but I thought my decisions would hold more weight in the end whereas everyone will have the same ending no matter how you play the game. When you compare it to a game like Heavy Rain where your ending can be dramatically different through how you play the game, I wonder whether there could have been more outcomes to some scenarios that are presented. As I said, I do prefer that the game has one ending that everyone will experience but the steps to get there are different, which is a very nice touch.
The style of the game looks like a visual comic book and fits the story perfectly. Simple but effective it really does feel like you are playing a comic book but also isn’t so distracting that you forget the importance of the situation. When most games feel the need to become photo realistic to have believable characters and story, the fact that this game pulls it off in a cartoon world just goes to show the incredible job this game does with its storytelling.
This game was first released digitally one episode at a time roughly a month apart before now making its way onto retail disc. Many gamers will be happy they won't have to wait to continue the story, but I do feel like a certain part of the magic of the game is now lost. The waiting for episodes made the story more effective as you would really have time to think about your actions and how you would react next. You could also talk to your friends and compare how you played the game and see how things panned out differently for them. You can still do this now of course, but I feel like because the story is so compelling having the whole story available from the start will be hard to not play it all the way through, and I wouldn't blame you either. However this is a small complaint and whatever way you play the game you won’t be disappointed.
When I finished this game I took a few days to fully digest what I had just experienced. I really enjoyed the game but where would I rank it to other experiences? It's definitely one of the best stories I’ve seen in a game but the gameplay is nothing special. It’s hard to decide if I will ever want to revisit this game in the future but I do know I will be one of the first people buying season two when it starts. In a year that has been slightly disappointing in my opinion, with the big blockbusters not living up to expectations, this game is a complete breath of fresh air and I suggest you could do a lot worse than to pick up the best game of 2012 if you haven’t already done so.
The Walking Dead is available on retail disc for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 in