The authors of this review and the PC version review are different people and their views and scores may differ. To read our The Walking Dead- Episode 1 PC review, click here.
The Walking Dead has fast risen to popularity within a few years, first becoming a exceedingly popular comic book series, and then being adapted into an excellent TV show by AMC. With the franchise making its first foray into the video games industry, the expectations were obviously high, but so was the caution. No one expected The Walking Dead to be anything exceptional- so does it hold up to the comic book series’ quality, or does it fall flat and deliver another mindless zombie game?
If you’re a Walking Dead fan, you will definitely feel the game’s up to your expectations. If you’re not familiar with the universe, you’ll love it anyway for its intense action sequences and emotional, deep storytelling. Characters have always been the strength of the The Walking Dead universe, and the case is the same here. We don’t play as Rick Grimes or Shane or any of the characters we’ve become familiar with in the comics or the TV show. TWD introduces all the new characters and shows their story, which takes place at the same time as the stories shown in the comics, but takes a different spin at the events.
You will be seeing a lot of familiar faces. You will be visiting Hershel’s farm, you’ll see just how his son Shawn died, something which has been referred to in the comic and the TV show time and again. As you may have made out by now, The Walking Dead is definitely better played with some knowledge of the universe already. However, there’s a lot of fun to be had even if you’re new to the mythos.
The character development and the relationships shown between them will hook you from the very beginning. You play as Lee, an escaped fugitive, and at the beginning of the game, you come across a little girl called Clementine, who’s been surviving on her own ever since the outbreak. Lee and Clementine end up travelling together, and the game builds on their father-daughter relationship in an excellent way. It’s interesting to see how these two characters, who didn’t even know each other before the events of the game, get to know each other and develop and great bond.
The character development is supported in many ways by the excellent storytelling. The Walking Dead is very similar to Heavy Rain in terms of how it plays out- you choose from dialogue options during cutscenes, all gameplay is context sensitive, and the game’s main focus is on the story and the excellent script. The choices that you make have an actual impact on the game and how it plays out.
It’s basically an interactive movie, and Telltale’s shown real skill with how they’ve presented it. The atmosphere that The Walking Dead comics and TV show are known so well for is palpable here too, and the depression and helplessness of the survivors with regard to the zombie outbreak (or Walkers, as they’re called in TWD), is handled expertly.
It never gets too stark and gritty, never crosses the line where you just need to stop playing and catch a break. The game strikes a perfect balance- at times, it shows how fucked up the world has become, then quickly following that up with a wonderfully touching scene between the characters and creating a wonderful contrast.
The presentation in The Walking Dead is also very crisp. The game moves along at a smooth frame rate and rarely stutters, and the visuals are crisp and clean. The character models are great, the zombies all look mood, and the cel-shaded visual style really helps build the tone and the mood of the game.
However, all’s not right with The Walking Dead. Treading in the territory of the “interactive movie” genre, it obviously risks sacrificing gameplay elements and leaving things a bit too shallow for some- and that is exactly what it does. First off, there’s almost zero gameplay to speak of. Context sensitive actions can never get too tough, and dialogue choices aren’t exactly part of the gameplay department. Sure, you can walk, but I think it says a lot about the game when its review notes that it allows you to walk, of all things.
The camera controls are also a bit shoddy and restrictive. The game doesn’t always point you towards where you must go next and what/who you should interactive. While spoon-feeding would not have been appreciated either, it would have been better if the camera controls had been a little less restrictive to makes things easier on the gamer.
However, all these flaws are ultimately negligible, as the entire experience is one of the best we’ve had this year, digitally or via retail. We can’t wait to see how Telltale expands upon this universe in the future episodes to come. Thankfully, The Walking Dead’s first foray into the video games industry is a memorable one.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360