Whether you jumped into the fandom from the very beginning of the comics (Like myself, for example. Everybody look how important I am!) or when the TV show aired, there’s no doubt Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead has totally stumbled into just about everything at this point as it takes over the world quicker than the apocalypse it portrays. Is it all awesome? Yes. Yes, it is. That being said, a video game adaptation was surely incoming. Finally, Telltale Games stepped up to the plate promising to bring all the emotion that the comic (and I guess sometimes the TV show) pours out while mixing it with beyond horrible acts of violence. This is the first of five episodes in their game series. Did they succeed?
Are you a die hard fan of the comics or just plain hate the TV show? Well first off, you shouldn’t. It is pretty awesome. Plus do you honestly want to see EVERYTHING happen from the comics on TV so you know what will always happen? Back on track, have no fear in this case because the game is 100% based off the world of the comic books. This being the case, it provides a couple cool things. The first is that it gives fans of the TV show even more of a reason to pick up the comics (which I think are a great deal better than the show). The second, and most important, is that it really allowed Telltale to go in and be just as graphic as the comics which have no limits (versus the TV show which, while getting away with a lot, is still on basic cable.). So given that opportunity, did Telltale live up to the comic? They really did. It’s just as graphic and disgusting as the comics. You watch somebody blow their brains out. You violently bash in a woman zombie’s face with a hammer until there’s nothing left. A head is cut off. These are just a FEW of the things that happen and this is only episode one. Top this with the amount of swears in the game and it really messes with you knowing this is from the same people who made the Monkey Island series.
You play as Lee Everett, a former university professor who may (or may not) have killed a United States senator. The game starts off with the world still being fine as you sit in the back of a police cruiser with a friendly officer who won’t keep his mouth shut. It’s here you learn the basic mechanics of the game. You use the RS to look around via a clever transparent reticle that has a position for each one of the four face buttons. For example, say you look around and bring where the “A” would be over the object on the reticle. You’ll click A to perform that action. This is because there are some scenarios where multiple objects can be used on the same clickable object. This helps eliminate needs for an inventory and makes you think. Eventually you see a ton of SWAT trucks and police cars going the other direction on the highway. Here you learn how to converse. Basically, you have the option to say up to four different things via clicking the corresponding face button to what each option is. This game also brought back something I think is dying and that’s your character actually says whatever the text says. I don’t much care for this new trend of reading text and all of a sudden my guy starts spouting a Lovecraft novel. One of the coolest moments that kind of set up the whole game in a positive way for me is what happens at the end of the police sequence. Your hear the music, know something is about to happen, and don’t see it until the last second.
For the actual gameplay itself, if you’ve ever played a Telltale game before, you know what this plays like. You move your guy around and interact with objects in the environment while talking to characters. This one is essentially Monkey Island with zombies. That’d be a combination… In any case, Telltale has learned what works and doesn’t work to form a kind of new hybrid that I think will be the new norm for their titles. The interesting thing with this one is that the characters in this particular title have more emotions and feelings than almost any game I’ve played before. The characters all have entirely different paths and tons of new dialogue and even story will open up depending on every little answer you choose. To give you a few examples without trying to spoil too much, one instance featured me telling Hershel (who makes a brief appearance as you visit his farm right before the comic survivors do), “We were headed out of the city when it happened.” Hershel asked who I was with. Obviously not thinking about what Lee just said mixed with the fact I was heading out of the city via a police officer, I chose to respond with “nobody.” Hershel keeps it quiet, but later reveals he knew you were lying since you said “we,” followed up with saying you were with nobody. It’s small little things like that that make the game as awesome as it is while making you actually pay attention.
The game itself is no easy task. Like in previous Telltale games, you need to talk to everybody you can while searching every little desk for something. Another example, there was a TV store across the street from a building I ended up in. While the street was littered with walkers, I did have a remote. How do I make these things work together? On top of this, the developers don’t want to make it emotionally easy on you. Like I said, you actually care about every character in this game, good or bad. They suck you in this way and they present you with the hard options. To be very vivid on details, a couple moments included “Who do I save?” It isn’t just “Do I help them or get this really helpful item?” It’s “Who would be the most helpful to me in the future?” Remember, this is episode one and ALL the other episodes will connect going off of what you have done during the course of each one. One instance literally involves (sparing the details) two fathers watching their sons about to get attacked. It’s set up in such a way that you can only save one of the two men’s sons. Who do you let live and who dies? There isn’t an option C. Depending on what you do, one of the two characters will have your back. Both of these characters have families that interact with even more characters, causing all kinds of issues between you and them based on your actions. Another involves a bitten woman who you encounter. Do you give her a gun to kill herself or take her back to the group and risk something happening? I honestly can’t recall a game that gets as complex with characters as this one and even though I played through it, because I chose my particular options I could go back and do things a completely different way to have a different outcome. Again, each episode ties perfectly into the next. Did somebody die in the first episode and the other you let live? That person will be back in the next one while the other stays dead and so forth. Therefore going back to this first episode will be crucial to see how the whole series plays out.
Overall, not just fans of the comic will be beyond pleased with this. Not even just zombie fans. Gamers everywhere should be amazed by this game, because it brings back something we seem to often forget about games: the characters within them and their actual emotions. Sure, Master Chief is a cool dude but have I honestly ever cared about what he’s gone through? Not really. You’ll like this especially if you have followed the comics, however. There’s many examples like this so I’m not giving too much away, but you give Glen (who is in most of episode one) the walkie talkie that he eventually ends up talking to Rick Grimes with. While it isn’t (obviously) directly implied, you know as a fan of the comics. There’s so many things like this in episode one that it makes me almost too damned excited to see what happens next. Speaking of which, it is a bummer that the episodes are so spread out. The next episode will not be out until the end of June with one coming out every two months. This means the final episode will be released just a few days before 2013. On the plus side, the episode is pretty long and like I said, can be played multiple times for different outcomes. You even get to see a teaser of what will be happening in the next episode once you beat it. Needless to say, I’m pretty stoked for part two. The Walking Dead is available RIGHT NOW for Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, and PC/Mac via Steam with iOS soon to follow. Each episode goes for $5 and honestly from the amount of content in episode one, I’m shocked they’re charging so little for it. Remember, while this does have some zombie killing moments involving your character, this is a story and character driven game in a world surrounded by dead people. If you’re looking for a zombie killing festival, this is not your game for that. But it should be a game you play no matter what. Download it right this second.