Here’s a bloke we haven’t herd from in a while!! Welcome back James Saunders, and thanks for the review!!
“I saw a cop come back from the dead.” – Lee Everett
So around the beginning of August I stumbled back home from a particularly heavy night of drunken debauchery, slept as best I could (i.e. passed out) and woke up in the morning with the mother of all hangovers. As I was sat there in the cold morning light, shakily trying to sip my coffee, I found myself in need of a distraction from my pounding headache and I’d heard that the adventure game THE WALKING DEAD by Telltale Games had a really good story with some relatively simple gameplay mechanics. That sounded absolutely perfect for my situation, so I pulled out my credit card, downloaded Season 1 and set off on my adventure through the zombie apocalypse. Within the first hour I was hooked. Within the second hour I’d forgotten entirely about my crippling hangover, as Telltale Games had enthralled me with their fantastic take on THE WALKING DEAD. I played solidly for the rest of the day completing its 10-12 hours worth of gameplay time somewhere around midnight. Needless to say I was pretty blown away by the story I’d just played through and went to bed extremely contented. The next morning, without so much as a second thought, I pulled out my credit card again, downloaded Season 2 and set off once again through the zombie apocalypse with the beloved characters of the previous day.
THE WALKING DEAD by Telltale Games takes place within the same universe as the comic books created by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore. However, aside from a few cameos here and there the cast of characters within game is entirely different from those in the comics. It’s also important to note that the game is based on the comic series and not AMC’s television series of the same name. Being someone who’s watched the TV series in its entirety but never having read any of the comics, there was enough new material here that grabbed and kept my attention.
In the game you play as Lee Everett (voiced by Dave Fennoy) a history professor from the University of Georgia. The story begins with Lee on his way to prison for murdering a state senator who was having an affair with his wife. However, pretty soon there is a fatal car accident, caused by the zombie apocalypse (I mean what else is it gonna be?) and Lee hobbles away as the only survivor. Seeking help in a nearby house you stumble across Clementine (voiced by Melissa Hutchison) an eight year old girl, whose parents have gone out of town on holiday, leaving Clementine with a babysitter who is now, unfortunately, one of the living dead. Lee and Clementine become fast friends and their relationship, as they struggle to survive in a world full of Walkers, is the central driving force behind the story.
Along the way you meet and interact with a whole host of colourful characters that shape and direct the story in enjoyable, funny, scary, and heartbreakingly sad ways. What really struck me was just how well fleshed out all of the characters you meet actually are. All of the people that you meet have their own unique personalities and back stories, they all have their own strengths and weaknesses, and they all have their own positive and negative impacts on your story. No one in the game ever comes close to being either boring or annoying and it’s a pleasure interacting with everybody. What’s even more enjoyable is watching the characters get along or more often than not, when they fail to get along you get to have the choice of who you want to side with.
One of the things I loved most about THE WALKING DEAD was the ability as the player to make choices within the world and within the group of people you’re with that affect your story and how your story plays out. Generally speaking I’m someone who tries to get along with as many people as possible and when I play games that involve making choices I tend to play them with that mindset. Often within the game I would find myself on the fence about various NPC related issues as I tried to resolve things diplomatically. However THE WALKING DEAD really doesn’t let you sit on the fence as you’re forced to pick sides and make many hard decisions, the ramifications of which will have you questioning yourself as to whether or not you did the right thing. This is especially true in Season 2 where things get morally ambiguous and there are no easy or right answers.
However, this is what makes the game so great. We reflect and analyze if we made the right choices because we feel like our choices matter. Our choices have a great impact on the characters around us and Telltale Games does such a fantastic job of making us feel invested in these characters and their wellbeing, that we want that impact to be a positive one. It’s actually heartbreaking that lot of the time the impact we make cannot be good or positive. On more than one occasion during the story things that were happening actually had me on the verge of tears but, I guess, that’s just how goes in the zombie apocalypse. I’m not one that is often moved to tears, so any story that can make me care about the characters enough to be that moved is definitely something special.
One of the criticism I’ve heard levied at this game is that our choices actually don’t matter because the player always ends up in the same place. Whilst Lee always does end up in the same place, I think that what the directors of this criticism forget is that Telltale Games is only a relatively small games company and there is only a limited amount they can do with the resources available to them and the makers of this game really have done a fantastic job with what they’ve had. In short, it’s not the destination that is important but the journey itself and how we chose to play Lee determines that journey in an engaging and amazing way.
If I were to give one criticism of this game I would say that actually calling it a “game” is stretching the definition a bit thin. Sure there are a few puzzles here and there but they are all very straight forward and very easy to solve and in fact by the end of Season 2 the puzzles all but disappear. The heart of this game lies in the choices we make and how we interact with the characters in the world. It’s far more of an interactive story than it is a game, and I don’t see that as a particularly bad thing. Books, comics, TV shows, and movies all have the drawback of having only a limited amount of involvement for their audience in conveying the ideas and emotions of their stories. A story like this on the other hand has a much greater impact on us emotionally precisely because we are directly involved with the events of the narrative.
THE WALKING DEAD by Telltale Games is, simply put, fantastic. It’s so good in fact that I am a bit worried that all the other stories I come across now in whatever medium are going to seem somewhat dull by comparison. With the recent release of the final Episode for Season 2, it’s going to be a long wait before we get more of this great story in Season 3 but I for one will be snapping it up as soon as it comes out.
So here’s the bottom line: If you are a fan of THE WALKING DEAD then you need to get this game. If you are a fan of zombie stories then you need to get this game. If you are a fan of good story telling then you need to get this game! In fact if you haven’t gone and got this game already then what are you still doing here? Do yourself a favour and go and get this game today!!
Creator: Telltale Games
Plot: 5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 4 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 3 out of 5 brains
Final Word: Amazing!
Reviewed by James Saunders