The Walking Dead Series Review (PC)
The Walking Dead, the hit comic from Robert Kirkman that then spawned the AMC TV show, was always going to add a game to its ever growing media portfolio. Telltale Games however, with the canonical blessing from the chief behind the franchise, decided to tell a new story, with new characters, over five heart wrenching episodes.
With the final episode just being released and growing shouts for GOTY awards, the recent Steam sale couldn’t have been better timed. The Walking Dead universe? No prior interest. Point and Click adventures games? Hadn’t played one since Broken Sword, and with Telltale’s last game being a critical flop, I think it was fair to say that going into this I was a little bit cautious with the amount of hype surrounding it. For the most part however it’s completely justified.
You play as Lee, a man on his way to prison for murder before the outbreak starts and the world as everyone knows it changes. Things are never to be the same again as you struggle to reach safety with your ever changing cast of followers. At the heart of The Walking Dead lies the story, or more importantly the choices the player makes and the effect that they have on relationships with other characters. Zombies (or Walkers as they are called here) are not the focal point of the game, they are simply just a device to move the story forward. This in turn makes it a really difficult game to talk about without actually spoiling anything. What can be said though is all the characters you meet are unique, allowing you to form relationships with them without ever feeling forced to because the character is critical to the plot.
The game is full of choices which create the illusion of the user carving out their own path when actually the game follows a very linear story arc. No matter the choices you make you will always visit the same locations, meet the same characters and ultimately end up in the same place as everyone else. Knowing this, it makes it even more impressive that the game makes you care about the choices and the effect they have on relationships. You might end up in the same place but how you get there and who with will vary from player to player.
Being late to the party I didn’t get to fully experience perhaps the most remarkable aspect of The Walking Dead: getting episodic content to work. Before Sky+ and TiVo there was certain programmes everyone would watch the same time (Or in my case… Wrestling), only to spend the whole of the next day talking about it, waiting for the next hit. Playing through this at the same time as a couple of friends, we got this albeit on a small scale, digesting the stats at the end of each episode to then argue why we felt the decisions we made were better before moving on. In a totally single player experience, it created a sense of community. Yes some episodes are stronger than others, but there is enough to keep you gripped during each episode and you always want to dive straight into the next one.
The game is not without issues though; some of the action scenes are just plain frustrating due to poor design or controls not doing exactly what you want leading to you getting caught on the smallest of object. This is a minor point in comparison to the save bug still effecting all versions of the game, most predominately on the PC. This can cause player choices not carrying over to episode to episode, a pretty fundamental part of the game. Luckily I never ran into these issues, but this seems to be an issue affecting enough people to deserve mention.
Issues aside, The Walking Dead is an experience that everyone should try to have. With the story playing such large part in the game, it’s been difficult not to spoil anything, but The Walking Dead is full of grey areas. Everything choice is right; it’s your own experience. The decisions you make can be horrible, always picking between two evils before the fuse runs out, forcing you into a decision only to discover you were in the minority come the end of the episode. The game is full of heartfelt moments that will leave with a lump in your throat, in shock or swearing uncontrollably at one of the characters. It’s these moments above everything else that make it a must play experience and fitting of the plaudits its receiving. With each episode clocking in at two to three hours, you will be glad for the breaks between them, giving you time to collect your thoughts before going for another ride on the emotional rollercoaster of 2012.
The Walking Dead has proved there is a place for episodic content than can bring people together, that emotional story telling can work in games and that taking a chance on a game you wouldn’t usually play is more than worth it. And zombies? Well…they aren’t dead yet.
9 feeling like a bad person moments out of 10