(http://www.telltalegames.com/walkingdead) Rated M for Mature by ESRB. The Walking Dead took the zombie apocalypse genre to an entirely new level, both as a graphic novel and as a subsequent TV adaptation. The gritty reality of a dying humanity and the dark necessities brought by the thirst for survival captured audiences and proved that there was more to a zombie uprising than brains and shotguns. The first episode of the new game series isn’t any different in its premise, but unfortunately it lacks the overall horror that was so captivating with the show and the graphic novel.
(http://www.telltalegames.com/walkingdead) Rated M for Mature by ESRB.The Walking Dead took the zombie apocalypse genre to an entirely new level, both as a graphic novel and as a subsequent TV adaptation. The gritty reality of a dying humanity and the dark necessities brought by the thirst for survival captured audiences and proved that there was more to a zombie uprising than brains and shotguns. The first episode of the new game series isn’t any different in its premise, but unfortunately it lacks the overall horror that was so captivating with the show and the graphic novel.
**WARNING** The following video may contain content inappropriate for children**
Lee is a prisoner being transferred out of Atlanta. He doesn’t immediately disclose the reason for his incarceration; little glimpses given from the dialogue he has with the driving officer insinuate that his now ex-wife was involved. Suddenly the car strikes a figure in the road, and Lee is thrown into unconsciousness. After an unspecified period of time, he wakes up, encounters the officer (now a flesh craving zombie), and begins to realize that something rotten has happened.
Much like the television show, the game gives players little in the form of an explanation for the outbreak. Lee is left confused and disoriented, and that doesn’t change, even when he encounters other survivors. Hershel and Glenn make cameos in the game, but their characters are completely different from those in the show and comic. Of course, this also depends on how the player interacts with them.
Cel shading and stylized 3D graphics attempt to give Episode 1 a graphic novel feel while retaining the gruesome nature of the show. Unfortunately, doing so make it substantially less frightening. The zombies didn’t look like people-turned-monsters; they looked like the older, uglier siblings of the denizens from Plants vs. Zombies. Everything was far too cartoonish to actually be scary.
The camera angle makes the game tricky to play, but it also helps promote that paneled feel of a graphic novel. It’s a fixed perspective camera that only slightly follows your character in certain scenes. The player has little to no control over the camera, making it very hard at times to determine what exactly the game is trying to get them to look at.
Organ chewing and bone breaking sounds are reminiscent of those found in B grade sci-fi movies. Granted, there’s not a lot more that can be pioneered in the field of zombie noises, but I expected more from a game boasting such a strong lineage.
The music is fine. That’s it; it’s just fine. Nothing was particularly strong about it, but nothing was misplaced either. Folksy twangs from a guitar soothe players on the farm while resounding booms and eerie screeches make it clear that something has gone wrong. The voice acting was relatively standard, though the actor for Lee did a fantastic job capturing the subtle elements of a lie or the impassioned pleas for justice in his dialogue.
Games that adapt plots depending on player’s decisions are nothing new; Fable, Fallout, and Persona games have all perfected the intricacies of shifting storylines. Episode 1 relies specifically on this same scheme to essentially shape the entire game, and while that’s not revolutionary, the way the game changes in accordance with a zombie apocalypse theme is quite impressive. Lee chooses to stay inside Clem’s house or leave it with her, and depending on the choice, the range of characters, events, and outcomes immediately shifts. Friendships and trust can also be built depending on answers, but because of these relationships, other relationships might disappear or become more difficult to maintain.
That being said, the building of Lee’s character depending on choices is the primary feature of this game. Players will find that they do a lot of watching with occasional choosing rather than playing. Yes, players will occasionally get to crush a zombies head in, but all that involves is hitting the right button at the given time. There are moments where planning and timing are paramount to survival, but the game takes care of most of the hard parts while players watch the result of their choices play out.
Episode 1 is the first in the 5 episode series of games, so it’s setting the standards for the series rather than changing them. Ideally, subsequent episodes will give players more control and more active roles in the game rather than making them spectators.
The first installment is reportedly a few hours long, and can be made longer depending on how thoroughly the player interacts with the NPC’s. However, this game has fantastic replay value; making new choices every time will consistently change the game, creating new plots for practically every decision a player makes.
The biggest stumbling point of this game is its tendency to ignore the fact that players are actually expecting to play the game. It’s definitely worth it to play Episode 1 if you’re a fan, or if the zombie genre is a personal favorite of yours. The customization and adaptation of the storylines to the player’s choices make up for the cartoonish graphics, and if the next episode gives the player more control, it’ll be quite the brain eater itself.