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staticneuron

The Walking Dead Review: Life Altering Choices

by staticneuron

posted January 15, 2013 @ 6:29PM
blog posts

filed under Games

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AMC's The Walking Dead has undoubtedly taken the world by a storm, so what happens when adventure games master Telltale takes the license and develops an episodic series around it? You get one of the best games of the year. The Xbox 360 point and click series offers brand new insight in the series that has engaged millions of television viewers and comic readers.

Right off the bat, it is important to point out that those interested in watching the television show or reading the comic book series may want to ensure they do so prior to playing the game; The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series is ripe with spoilers, wasting no time introducing the big news that came at the end of the show's second season. Those who have only watched the television show should also realize that the game isn't actually based on that variation of the universe; Telltale chose to focus on the comic series, which explains why Hershel looks and acts far different.

Outside of this different focus, The Walking Dead follows the same setting in post-apocalyptic Georgia with the same time frame being shortly after the zombies arrived but before Rick wakes up from the hospital. While some characters in the series come from the comic universe, such as Glenn, the aforementioned Hershel and Lilly Caul, many have been created for the sole purpose of fleshing out the universe and helping to better tell the story. Diehard fans of the series need not worry; the comic's creator, Robert Kirkman, oversaw the creative design process himself to ensure the theme meshed well.

As Telltale's major forte, The Walking Dead is a point and click adventure zombie game, but it offers a different focus than puzzle-based adventure games like Monkey Island and other action-based zombies games like Left 4 Dead. Fans of the series are the first to mention that the Walking Dead is a much slower-paced universe, focusing on character development and compelling stories. The same is true for the game series as it does a number on the player's emotions the more invested he becomes with the characters.

The Walking Dead also changes depending on how the player progresses through the game and how well he completes certain moments, such as quicktime events. Characters can die, and other members of the party can change their disposition toward the player. Every episode presents a handful of moments that the player is forced to make a decision one way or another. Neither option is black or white and neither right nor wrong; decisions can include having to steal supplies to survive or having to kill a young child who would otherwise become a rampant beast, and the player gets to see how the rest of the world decided to act at the end of each chapter.

 

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These tough decisions creep up on the player, and things he chose as far back as episode one will eventually haunt him by episode five. No matter what the player does, the game adapts the decision and presses onward with every consequence that he has created. No matter what the player does, people will die at some point.

The difficult, life-changing decisions aren't even the only ones that will haunt players, either; even simple dialogue choices have provoked deep thought for hours following the event. In the same vein as games like David Cage's Fahrenheit, most of the responses are timed and require input within that time frame or else the player remains silent, which can negatively affect the way that the other character feels towards him.

This offers a very unique experience for every person who takes control of the protagonist, even though everyone has the same task of protecting a young girl by the name of Clementine.

Clementine is the character that gives this style of gameplay a purpose. While other games have the protagonist completing a number of set objectives while focusing on how he gets them done, the Walking Dead looks more at what the player does instead. All of the difficult decisions that the player must make seem so much more important when there's something on the line, and that something in this game series is Clementine. She doesn't quite yet understand that the line between good and evil has blurred (at least not in the beginning), and the group's hope keeps from waning thanks to her young innocence. That same innocence that questions your actions, even when it was for the good of the group, will cause you to question your actions repeatedly.

To prove the line between good and evil has blurred immensely, the protagonist that the players are taking the role of is Lee Everett, a convicted murderer whose past is purposely vague, allowing players to decide for themselves who he really is—who they really are—on the inside. As Lee progresses through the five episodes, he is joined by various different characters who feel differently towards him, but Clementine remains his constant responsibility throughout the series. She's been forced to grow up thanks to the zombie outbreak, and Lee wants nothing more than to protect this girl at all costs. The player feels the same responsibility, and it shows how brilliantly the writers pulled off creating resonance in the Walking Dead.

 

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Graphically, the Walking Dead uses cel-shaded art to display the world to mimic the look of the comic book, which it pulls off with resounding success. While it might not be particularly gritty for its given scenario, it has the advantage of looking wonderful even on the Xbox 360 console in comparison to the PC version. The only difference is that the console version will occasionally have a hitch when it comes to the frame rate and the odd crash every so often. Outside of this, the Xbox 360 version fares pretty well against the PC version, including the same content and featuring the same graphical capabilities.

The controls are a little bit different than one might expect from an adventure game, especially one that is point and click. In most cases, the text appears when the player must make a choice, and he simply must place the reticule in the correct place to pick the choice. However, other times, the left stick is used to move the character around while the right stick moves the reticule to select objects in the environment. It isn't incredibly intuitive to pick up, and it never really gets more natural as the player progresses through, but that somehow adds to the element of the immersion; players get caught off guard and need to scramble with these strange controls to try and adapt to the situation before it turns to the worst.

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Those interested in going full-blown in their quest to support the series, the Collector's Edition of the Walking Dead is available for pre-order exclusively at GameStop for $70; according to Telltale, this is the only opportunity one will have to ever get this edition, which comes with the game itself and the first Walking Dead Compendium, comprised of the first 48 issues of the award-winning comic book series across more than a thousand pages by Robert Kirkman. For reference, the Compendium carries an MSRP of $60 all on its own, so this is an excellent deal for any hardcore fan or those new to the series. If you already have a copy of the compendium, you are better off just picking up the regular edition which comes in at a bargain price of $29.99.

Most other games that are released are ridiculed for presenting an illusion of choice rather than actually changing the shape of the game. The same complaints can be levied against the Walking Dead: At the heart of every choice, it becomes apparent that some things are destined to happen no matter what the player does. However, this just adds to the experience as it's a bleak reminder to players that much like the real world, devastation is bound to happen in difficult times such as the Walking Dead. While the beginning and end to every person's story is the same, everything in-between will vary from player to player.

The Walking Dead is absolutely a masterpiece, offering a brilliant script and experience that easily overlooks any of the minor technical glitches that can arise from time to time. Not only does Telltale Games continue to prove why they are the best at what they do, but they have truly capitalized on the Walking Dead and everything it was designed to be by Robert Kirkman. Whether a true fan of the series from day one or a newcomer who is about to dive into the television show and the comics, this Telltale Games series is definitely one that should be enjoyed right away.

 

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