The Walking Dead Review
Have you ever played a game that made you feel? Titles like Super Mario Bros. are not exactly known for their gripping plots, but video games can still make it possible to pull at the ol’ heartstrings if done correctly. TellTale Games, a studio known for churning out some of gaming’s finest yarns, have managed to find life in the most unlikely of places: amidst the undead shambles of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead.
Split between five different episodes, this take on The Walking Dead universe places the focal point on the story instead of the gameplay. Rather than simply retreading on the tale from the comics and television show, this game tells the tale of convicted felon Lee Everett and the many people that come (and go) in his life – including eight-year-old Clementine. The diverse cast of characters are all multifaceted beings that make mistakes and fall into temptation, and while the 10 hour campaign focuses squarely on this ragtag group of survivors trying to find a way to live in a world gone wrong, it is still a gripping experience. It’s true there are still chance to fire away at zombies, but those looking for something akin to Call of Duty’s undead shenanigans will quickly tire from the game’s tank-like controls and long bouts of exposition.
Then again, The Walking Dead would lose much of its impact if it were turned into a blast-a-thon. TellTale Games does something that would be impossible to do in film or television by offering players one simple thing: the freedom of choice. Much like Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain, each choice made through the game’s cut scenes carries serious weight. Where do you go? What do you say? Who do you save? Even the most insignificant of decisions can have a positive or negative effect later on. It is through these decisions that a bond is formed with the characters, one that makes losing a single member that much more painful.
The Walking Dead’s tale of post-apocalyptic struggle for survival might be old hat for zombie aficionados (or even fans of the comic/television show), but it is the way in which the story is presented that makes it stand out so much. The aforementioned choices are all presented throughout the game’s lengthy cutscenes, with each choice presented to the player in a realistic way. All choices need to be made within seconds, but this is often toyed with on numerous occasions. A gut reaction might not be the best way to go, but sometimes things just happen in the heat of the moment. When compounded with the fact that death is permanent, it serves a clever way to spice things up and make play sessions downright stressful.
If there is one caveat to this freedom through, it is the fact that there is some railroading going on behind the scenes. It does make sense that there are not hundreds of outcomes for the protagonist and his party, but some choices still end with the same outcome. It leads to some awkward situations where the dialog does not line up with your actions, but these incidents are few and far between to deter much from the 10 hour story.
The Walking Dead manages to do something practically unheard of in the world of gaming: tell a good story. You won’t find a sweeping epic, scantily-clad characters, or RPGs strewn about this apocalyptic rendition of Georgia. What you will find, however, is heart.