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Posted by on May 14, 2012

Review: The Walking Dead Episode One

Review: The Walking Dead Episode One

Title: The Walking Dead Episode One
Platform: XBLA, PSN, PC (reviewed on PC)
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Tagline: A Point and Click with Tension and Actual Consequences
Family Friendly: Click here for more information.
Verdict: Buy it Already

It has been a tough time for Telltale Studios as of late. Some have stated that their formula for adventure games has started to show wear around the edges, and their last release, Jurassic Park was a complete dud when it game to engaging gameplay. So I walked into The Walking Dead with trepidation, as I was not sure what to expect with the game. Would it follow the same static formula, or would Telltale find something different and unique for this hugely popular franchise? I am happy to report that not only is The Walking Dead Episode One a solid title, it might be the best work to come out of Telltale Games ever. It mixes together an emotional rollercoaster of a story, while mixing in action and normal adventure game tropes to make for a solid experience.

Yes, The Walking Dead has been a huge hit for AMC, but if you go into The Walking Dead expecting that narrative, you would be mistaken, as this story is linked in more to the comics that the show is inspired by and not the actual show. It has been blessed as canon by the comic creator and moves the story to the point when the actual infection starts. This is a new period for The Walking Dead as we normally have picked up the story after the infection has already had a firm grasp on the world, and we deal more with the survivors. Here, we see what looks to be a world still sort of moving on; with most people thinking this is a simple problem that the government will soon fix. Sadly, the survivors here think the problem is nearing its end, when it has only just begun.

We meet our own protagonist, Lee Everett, in the back of a police cruiser. We are introduced to hints as to what might have happened to him and why he is here, but nothing is set in stone. Lee is an interesting character, as we are put in the shoes of someone that has done something horrible, but we do not know what the intentions were behind this crime. He has to interact with so many people and how does he go about interacting with them could affect his outcome as well as those around him. He ends up in a car wreck as we are first introduced to the zombies in a most gruesome fashion.

As Lee tries to find his way out of his predicament and the mess that is happening around him, he meets Clementine, a young girl that has been surviving for a few days on her own, after the outbreak strikes her house. It is at this pivotal moment when we find out how different The Walking Dead is from every other game that Telltale has released, in both its flinching violence and outstanding dialog work. Controlling Lee as he has to fight off a zombie and put it down is visceral, violent and disturbing in every way imaginable. Killing your first zombie is thrilling, and at the same time a moment of despair as you feel yourself taking the life of someone, even if they are lifeless.

Moving forward from here is a series of decisions that make impactful decisions on the way the story plays out from beginning to end. Do I move out during the day or night? The choice you make will introduce you to different paths and different characters. People remember conversation choices that you make. At one point, someone calls me out in the middle of a lie, because they know who I am from news reports. Others befriend me from the decisions I make that might be beneficial to them. Dialog choices are strong, and this is one of the few games where silence can be as good a decision as making a choice. It is also nice that they add in a timer bar for dialog options, so you cannot just sit there and think about a choice, which puts pressure on your decision, and can lead to making poor choices, as anyone might under pressure.

Unlike Jurassic Park, The Walking Dead mixes in moments of free movement and examination as well as discussion points and action sequences, with the action feeling solid. Playing on the computer, the mouse will allow you to highlight context points in current view, while moving around will let you see the scene from different angles to find other things you might need in a particular location. Puzzles are also creative in design, and will require you to view your surroundings closely to find a good solution.

Making a poor decision will put you in situations that are difficult and disastrous at times. At one point, I could not find a good solution and tried to take the direct route, which ended up with me being dead. Some situations are no win, and you will be forced to choose between two people. Each way will gain you supporters, but those directly affected by the negative choice might end up having it out for you.

Even the little touches in The Walking Dead Episode One are handled with great care and detail. When you finish the game, you are presented with a trailer for the next episode, which is procedurally generated, so the choices you make are played out in that teaser. Or the rundown showing you where your decisions fell into line with other players after the game finishes are great to see if you make the same decision as the majority.

The Walking Dead Episode One is a game changer for those looking to put together a quality action adventure title in today’s market. It grabs on to features from several titles and blends them together into one solid experience. You are pressed to make difficult decisions that impact how you move on through this episode and into the next. It is a world that I immediately jumped back into to play a second time, which is always the stamp of success for any title. Let’s hope that Telltale can continue the ride that they have started here, as they have set the bar incredibly high with the first episode of The Walking Dead.

Humans:

  • Quality story drives you forward
  • Great decisions that have weight and importance
  • Action is fierce and visceral

Zombies:

  • Have to wait for Episode Two to come out for more
  • Sometimes feels a bit procedural

Family Focus
The Walking Dead Episode One is a great adventure game for anyone that is over the age of 16. I would love to recommend it for all, but the amount of bludgeoning, cursing and body part removal that occurs through gameplay leaves it for the grown ups. It also deals with some troubling story narrative items like the death of family members and children. Again, keep it for the late teens and up.

Joseph Haygood

When not writing news and reviews for GGS Gamer, or hosting the truly terrible You Like the Worst Stuff podcast, I am actively seeking an on-call arch-nemesis.

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