Giant Bomb Review

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The Walking Dead Review

5
  • PC
  • PS3
  • X360

The Walking Dead's first season is nothing short of a masterpiece of modern horror gaming.

Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead comic series has proved a remarkably pliant property in recent years. The comic is still going strong over 100 issues in, and the TV series loosely based upon it, despite some serious second-season hiccups, is finding new life in its third season. All this, despite an overwhelming sense of malaise related to all things zombie in pop culture these days. Granted, zombies are pretty much everywhere, and while they make for serviceable villains in just about any context, there are only so many ways you can stab, shoot, bludgeon, beat, kick, squash, crunch, or set alight the undead. They're always going to be screeching, gurgling ghouls who want to eat you, and the thrill of killing them can really only take you so far.

Lee Everett is as completely realized a playable protagonist as I can ever remember playing...

This is what makes Telltale's The Walking Dead such a marvel. Seemingly aware that the mere act of killing zombies is hardly enough to capture anyone's attention nowadays, lead writer/directors Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin have smartly focused the game on the human story of the zombie apocalypse. This is certainly in the tradition of Kirkman's writing of the comic books, but this Walking Dead tale is arguably even more gripping than Kirkman's own works. This Walking Dead puts you right in the middle of the fray as society buckles under the weight of the dead rising, and forces you to make tough decision after tough decision not only to survive, but to help others survive as well.

Split up over five episodes, the first season of The Walking Dead puts you in the shoes of Lee, a convicted murderer who may or may not actually be all that bad of a guy. You don't know, because the game is purposefully vague about your back story, perhaps so as to allow some malleability in how players see themselves. Lee is you, but Lee is still a character who speaks, emotes, and has his own distinct personality. That his dialogue choices in nearly every scenario allow for a range of responses means you can mold Lee to your play style. He's essentially a silent protagonist with a voice, if that makes any sense at all. That his voice can be so easily adjusted to your own style is a compliment to the writing, which is as mature and thoughtful as anything I've played in recent memory.

Over the course of the five episodes, Lee is joined by a variety of other survivors of the zombie apocalypse, some of which stick around for the duration of your journey, and some who simply appear for an episode or two and then are dispatched, either of their own volition, or by way of some grisly demise. One character who is a constant is Clementine, an eight-year-old girl who Lee stumbles upon in her otherwise abandoned suburban home early in the first episode. When you meet her, Clem is just a particularly vulnerable survivor, completely alone and terrified. Her parents were out of town when the outbreak hit, and until you come upon her, she'd barely had any human contact. No matter how you play Lee, it becomes apparent that this child is going to become your responsibility.

And what a wonderful, heart-wrenching responsibility she turns out to be. It is with no amount of exaggeration that I say that Clementine is one of the most fully-realized, brilliantly written child characters ever put into any kind of entertainment medium. Children are often impossible to write, given their innocence, capriciousness, and general inability to understand the world around them. Make them too dumb, and they become a shrill annoyance. Make them too clever, and they become cartoon characters. Clem is neither of these things. She is a kid who is at once capable, but deeply unsure of herself. She, like Carl from the Walking Dead comics, is forced into a situation where she must grow up entirely too quickly. That her upbringing into this ludicrously dangerous world is your responsibility is a gamble by the game's writers that brilliantly pays off. Not only do you want to protect this girl, you want to help her every way you possibly can. When that safety is threatened, it's not just Lee's on-screen anger that resonates. You feel it too.

What you have to do to keep her safe becomes increasingly grotesque and horrifying as the season wears on. Much as the comic rarely shied away from making characters do terrible things to survive, the game forces you to make constant life or death choices that can easily result in characters you like dying terrible deaths.

...but the real gem of this story is Clementine, a character I cared far more about than I ever thought possible in a game.

Choice. It's an interesting buzzword in gaming that too often boils down to a meaningless, binary path selection. If I choose A, I get this ending, and B, this other ending. The Walking Dead has these moments, but more often choice comes in the form of smaller decisions that nonetheless can have grave impact on your ability to move forward. Even your choice of tone in dialogue with other characters can have an effect on how other characters react to you in subsequent episodes. You can be the selfless hero, the selfish dick, or some amalgamation of the two. Regardless, those choices will add up over time.

Of course, the main story is always going to play out the way it's going to play out. While you can affect endings, who lives or dies, and how people interact with you, the truth is that the larger scope of the story is very much out of your hands. After all, this is a work of fiction, and as a result your choices still have to work within the machinations of the game's (apparently huge) script. In a sense, The Walking Dead is almost like an examination of fatalism. You can choose whatever path you like, but in the end, the larger world around you is going to do what it's going to do. All you can truly hope to affect is how you get to that end, and how you spend your time with others who may or may not be fated to survive.

Those choices prove a remarkable source of tension in a game that already has plenty of walking, slobbering, biting sources of tension. Ultimately, The Walking Dead treats its zombie antagonists the way the comic and TV series has--a deadly nuisance. Zombies are sentient weeds to be plucked, or simply walked around. That makes them no less dangerous, mind you, and the game certainly has plenty of breath-holding moments featuring Lee and other characters struggling against hordes of the undead. But more often, the tension comes from interactions with other people, be they fellow friendly survivors, or unfriendlies who regrettably cross your path. The choices you're forced to make in how you deal with these people is The Walking Dead's greatest fount of dread and terror. Even simple dialogue choices often left me pondering far longer than I ever expected.

To dig too deeply into the individual choices you will make is to dig up too many potential spoilers. Suffice it to say, each episode requires some tough thinking, and no matter what you choose, not everyone will survive. In this regard, Telltale's traditional episodic structuring is something of a blessing. Trying to play the entirety of season one in a single sitting is an incredibly draining experience. Emotions run high throughout each episode, which individually clock in between 90 minutes to three hours apiece. Each story is like its own individual tale, spun as part of a larger anthology. The second episode, for instance, is practically a self-contained story featuring multiple characters who never reappear, but nonetheless have a great deal of effect on what happens afterward. The writing and voice acting remains sharp throughout. Though some episodes are certainly better than others, there isn't a bad one in the bunch.

What's interesting is that very little about what makes The Walking Dead so special comes from the act of actually playing it. There's no secret sauce here that differs from Telltale's other point-and-click adventure games, save for the copious amounts of blood everywhere. You're still exploring environments, solving light puzzles, and occasionally engaging zombies that get a bit too close. But those mechanics are simple, generally uninvolving, and only occasionally frustrating. If anything, the choices and dialogue trees are the core of The Walking Dead's gameplay. Everything else is just necessary machinery to make it go.

Zombies are always a looming threat, but it's the living people you've really got to watch out for.

Sometimes that machinery does falter, though only rarely. Though the game's cel-shaded art style looks terrific on every platform, the console versions of the game are definitely prone to frame hitch-ups and occasional crashes, at least in my experience. I did most of my playing on the PC, which generally seems to be the best version, though some players have reported issues with saves wiping between episodes on that platform. I never experienced this myself, but it's been reported pervasively enough that I feel it warrants a mention. This is one of those cases where I feel the quality of content is worth the risk of potential technical hurdles, no matter which platform you choose to play on.

Yes, The Walking Dead really is that incredible. Relying so heavily on the writing, atmosphere, and emotional content of a game to carry you through a five-episode season is a risk that has paid tremendous dividends for Telltale. The Walking Dead is no mere interactive story. It is an immaculately paced, painfully affecting story featuring some of the most lovingly crafted characters ever to appear in a video game. From the very beginning, The Walking Dead sinks its teeth in and never lets you go. It's a journey in the truest sense of the word, replete with tragedy, heartache, tension, fear, and even brief moments of catharsis. Calling The Walking Dead a work of entertainment almost seems like a misnomer, considering the heavy tone and general lack of sentimentality in the writing. This is a sad game that will weigh heavy on you long after you've completed it--it even wrung some honest tears out of me on a couple of occasions. But you'll suffer through the emotional swings because they're ultimately worth it. No matter how depressing, gut-wrenching, or flat-out horrifying The Walking Dead gets, you will want--nay, need--to finish it. It's just that good.

Alex Navarro on Google+
240 Comments
Posted by Vrikk

Easily my game of the year. EASILY.

Never have I been so invested in a virtual person, and never have I cried during the end of a game.

Posted by mercury228

I am also quite taken by this game, it really has evoked emotions in me that video games rarely can. 

Edited by Oombalan

This is great story telling and that is all, the gameplay was rubbish and the save file corruption is also inexcusable, if your game cant get a basic thing like saving to roll over to the next episode (especially when it is absolutely critical to the experience) then you should probably fix it.

Posted by OneManX

@Milkman said:

@Law313 said:

@BL1TZKRI3G said:

@leejunfan83 said:

it's not a game it's a QTE

Regardless of the degree of involvement this game requires, it's still the best way to experience the Walking Dead fiction.

I agree, but why wasn't the same reaction to this as it was to Heavy Rain. That in and of itself speaks VOLUMES for the industry.

EDIT: Oh, and why isn't anyone giving love to "The Witcher 2: EE as GOTY?" Thats probably my favorite RPG of all time.

Because Heavy Rain's story was mostly horrible and The Walking Dead's story was almost universally amazing.

And to tack o.. Heavy Rain lasted WAAAAAAAYYYY longer than the Walking Dead. It came in short bursts with plenty of time between episodes, and the game told a pretty good characters, and built up character... almost every character in Heavy Rain was awful. The voice acting didn't help at all. The fact that I cared more for Clementine alone than Ethan, Shawn, lady reporter, Jaden or anyone, speaks volumes on how weak HR is, and player actions can actually effect those people in HR.

Posted by strings19

For those who haven't played the game, but are worried about if their choices matter, my advice is quite simple. Accept that you are only getting one shot, don't worry about resetting the game or trying to min-max, because that is not going to happen. There are no alternate endings to worry about, just the experience of getting there. I could defend the game all day, but it will do ok without me, I think. My real concern is did any other Idle Thumbs listeners get a real Goldblum from Mark?

Edited by Chibithor

Am I the only one who noticed moments in writing where two different characters use a phrase in an episode that isn't used before or after? Like 'hash it out' in ep3, or 'I'll be back before you know it' in 4 (or 5?). It really bugged the hell out of me. Did I just imagine it?

Posted by NegativeCero

I bought the season in a Steam sale a while ago and have yet to play an episode. I'll get to it eventually.

Posted by mostman

Seems to me the split on this game comes down to the following:

1) People who like choices that pay off in some manner in the end. If I do A, X happens; B, Y. While this does happen in this game, its really just an illusion. Truth is, Y usually happens no matter what - but the dialog getting there can be different.

vs...

2) People who like choices because of what happens in the moment. Those of you who played episode 5 can probably think of one specific event that happens in the beginning. It is so fucked up, that I couldn't even believe what was happening. No chance to game the game - create a save and try them both. You have 5 seconds. REACT. After the decision is made, it changes very little of what happens for the remainder outside of some minor dialog and art changes.

I find myself more like person 2 in the above scenarios. I'm really done expecting a payoff in choice driven games. Piece of truth here, its all an illusion. Until we have some serious AI and the ability to generate dialog and art on the fly, there are only so many scenarios the developers/designers of these games can put in there. And honestly, what sticks with you? Getting 1 of 3 possible endings or being forced to decide, in real time, the fate of a character. EVEN if the character ends up dying no matter what you choose, this game forces you to make the call.

Basically - what are you looking for? Emotions - or achievements.

Posted by HellBound

Just got to scoping out the bandit camp in chapter 2. I love this game. It is like watching an interactive movie....well I guess that is the point.

My favorite thing is that there is barely any time to make important game changing decisions. You have to think on your feet and just go with it, not stand around and mull your options.

Posted by martez87

This is game of the year for me. Still have AC3, Hitman and a few others to play though. Five stars well deserved.

Posted by RazeEverything

This game was something really special. Great review.

Posted by Pyrrhic

Great review and great game.

I was looking for something with a similar feel to Heavy Rain and this came very close in controls, but the storyline is what wins this over for me, such a well written piece of art.

Posted by vaportra1l

Yes, my save just decided to stop working in the middle of episode 3 on the PC version. Kinda pissed me off, and none of the fixes that people say that worked for them have helped.

But I'm not sure I'd call this a game, maybe a next gen choose your own adventure. And the inclusion of QTE is crap as they're implemented pretty shittily (like just about every other game) IMO. I'd say it's worth the 20 bucks but in no way shape or form is it a GOTY candidate on my list....

Posted by bvilleneuve

@vaportra1l said:

But I'm not sure I'd call this a game, maybe a next gen choose your own adventure.

I see this a lot from certain sectors. Are adventure games not games? Are the only games action games? That's a pretty limited worldview.

The Walking Dead features the best story in a game since Planescape: Torment. It is a game, and it is also a story. It is both things at once, and each plays into the other.

Posted by Arrested_Developer
Posted by bigsmoke77

From the number of technical problems I hear people having I am just not sure it deserves GOTY, with skyrim it was just the PS3 that had problems and as a result it couldn't be shot down because the PC/xbox experience was amazing. From what Im seeing PC and console users are losing their save date. The fact that this game is based on player choices and how you can lose all of that due to technical problems is unaccepted.

Funny enough I remember Ryan said he got screwed over with his Journey playthrough that messed up his experiece but I didn't see any other problems. Im currently enjoying the fuck out of hotline miami but im stuck on level 10 because it crashs when too much shit goes off at once, im playing it on W8 so it might be that but a lot of people are having problems.

Posted by Special_K

I'm on to you, Telltale. You didn't really create an infinite number of outcomes for my choices. You too, magician. I know you didn't magically guess my card, there was clearly some slight of hand involved. Nice try, Spielberg, I'm not falling for it, that alien is a puppet.

Posted by Kevin_Cogneto

@haggis said:

People get hung up on there not being multiple endings, just as they got hung up on ME3's three (or four, I guess) endings. Never mind the variations that happen within the game itself as you're making choices. They weren't as obvious here, but after having played TWD's early episodes through a few times, I was actually amazed to see how differently somethings play out. I'd much rather have that than a few mildly different endings.

It's not the ending that matters, so much: when we're making choices, we care. Someone earlier said that handing out food in Episode 2 has no impact on gameplay, that the game doesn't care, only the player. The player is actually what matters. If the game succeeded in making you care enough to put thought into your choices, it succeeded--even if those in-game choices don't go anywhere. Just as the idea that Clementine might be watching made people choose different actions. That's what this game is about, and in that it's hard to argue it didn't succeed. Choice isn't just about narrative options and multiple endings, but about making the player feel responsibility for his or her actions within the game.

In that sense, TWD succeeds where ME3 fell short--ME3 forgot about halfway through that the decisions were supposed to be about immersion, not necessarily narrative. Once it became about narrative, the decision tree got way out of whack. People can talk about choice in these games being illusory, but it's a game. It's all an illusion. That's what storytelling is.

For me the main difference between ME3 and Walking Dead is that in Mass Effect, you are the most influential man in the galaxy, and so it's only natural for a player to expect your decisions to have an influence on the outcome of the story. In the Walking Dead, you're just an ordinary man at the mercy of a violent and capricious world. Of course your decisions aren't going to have much effect, thematically that's the whole point!

Posted by DG991

@fiberpay: Whoever says this or minecraft isn't a game... is a jerk.

Posted by Karkarov

@DG991: I am playing it right now and I will say it straight up. This isn't a game, it is a visual novel or if you prefer, an interactive movie. The gamiest part I have dealt with so far is figuring out why I just don't ask Doug to stick his arm through the damn gate and grab the brick for me. Should I really have needed to open the gate first?

This is NOT the game of the year by any stretch of the imagination. Is it is a nice little property that is fun in it's own way. Yes.

Posted by catoasapun

@leejunfan83: There is some open control and dialog choices. It's as much of a game as Heavy Rain and Telltalle's previous adventure offerings, which is a lot.

Posted by Messier

Just finished Episode 5 and....what way to end. I don't remember any other game with a coda of that nature. You know its going to finish like that from the start of the episode, but it doesn't make it any less powerful & emotional in the moment. Truly a unique experience that everyone should have if you have any appreciation for writing and character development in games.

Posted by olizor

There's a gamebreaking bug with save files in the steam version. It makes me sad because I was really pumped to finish it, but I can't waste 5-6 hours redoing the same thing...

Posted by Metric_Outlaw

Restricting it to only a masterpiece of horror gaming is an insult. Its a masterpiece of videogaming in general.

Posted by beepmachine

Fucking incredible review.

Posted by Xaviersx

I gave up on it after chapter 3 kept freezing on the final stats and wouldn't progress, just deleted it. Wished it well, but didn't care to see it thru. I've got the show and the books, so that was good enough for me. Glad others enjoyed it.

Posted by LiK

Fantastic review. Spot on and you managed to avoid spoilers. Bravo.

Posted by Gerhabio

I seriously thought that was it for The Walking Dead games. When I heard this was just the first season, I squealed in excitement.

Posted by WMoyer83

I had some awkward audio skips and one funny glitch (the disappearing duck in ep 3) but other than that I had no technical issues. I can understand that there could be possibly be some game breaking issues that some people experienced and that's a shame. Hopefully those can be fixed because this is definitely GOTY for me.

Posted by fiberpay

@DG991: lol well if I remember correctly Jeff and Ryan both said Minecraft was not a game.

Posted by biospank

Would not call this a horror game because it has zombies in it but more of a modern adventure with Zombies in it. And a great one at that.

Posted by Spaceyoghurt

@Hydralysk said:

In games like ME you're pretty much a protagonist without a character arc whose choices heavily influence the narrative. This is a game where you have little influence over the overall narrative but I'd argue that it's more immersive since they instead give you full control of your character development based on your personal ethics and morals. It's a Role-Playing Game in the purest sense of the word.

This. I would consider this more of a roleplaying game than those that set themselves out to be RPGs. But that's because I think that real roleplaying is more like how your character reacts to situations, responds to other players, npc:s etc. It does not always have to reflect in an altogether different outcome. But when you´re being given the opportunity to speak, you should be able to speak your mind. The true core of roleplaying is acting, theater, playing your character. The skills, the fighting, like in the old days with pen, paper and dices, that's just a means to solve the combat and see how your abilities are progressing. An important part in a lot of ways, but I'm kind of fed up with that since interactive RPGs has been dumbed down to this through the years.

Posted by probablytuna

Completely agree with this. Glad Alex got to write the review for one of the best (if not the best) game of the year!

Posted by JimminiBob

@leejunfan83: I've only seen QTE's in video games. So this is a game.

Posted by bombedyermom

Navarro is the perfect man to review this game.

Also, GOTY duh.

Posted by John1912

I enjoyed the first season a lot, but cant help but feel its a bit over praised. Its not so much of a horror game, or much of a game at all. Its more if a interactive narrative that deals in group dynamics, and the choices your forced to make. Those being 99% dialogue choices, The vast amount of them really offering only minimal change to the story. Which really irks me. I really hate the illusion of a truly dynamic story. Hope someday someone will actually make one.

Either way, nit picking aside, was a good game. Nice to seeTelltale get some recognition, and some decent income for future projects. Looking forward to any new IPs or revisits to old classics.

Posted by AdMordem

@Xaviersx: Shame, chapter 3 was the most emotionally intense I have ever felt in a game before. Made me cry twice!

Posted by Kaigan

Barely a game.

Still neat, though.

Posted by Amaru25

Hmm, never had any interest in this... really wanna check this out now!

Posted by BBQBram

@giant_frying_pan said:

Now make Jeff play it so he can't deny it GOTY like Red Dead.

That was his loss man. Crazy considering how much he liked GTA IV.

Edited by Nekroskop

Definitely my favorite game of the year. Xcom a close second. I just hope the guys don't pull a Skyrim this time.(remember last year's GotY deliberations)

Posted by DoublePlusRad

My GOTY so far, but I've not played episode 5 yet. I need to finish up this week, I can hardly wait.

Posted by Viking_Funeral

Yeah, it's that good.

Posted by Brendan

"The Walking Dead is no mere interactive story. It is an immaculately paced, painfully affecting story featuring some of the most lovingly crafted characters ever to appear in a video game"

...Ok Alex, but that still makes it an interactive story. It's the most well realized story of this year, but that doesn't necessarily make it the best game.

Edited by Roboculus92

@Brendan said:

"The Walking Dead is no mere interactive story. It is an immaculately paced, painfully affecting story featuring some of the most lovingly crafted characters ever to appear in a video game"

...Ok Alex, but that still makes it an interactive story. It's the most well realized story of this year, but that doesn't necessarily make it the best game.

Yes the gameplay parts aren't what's significant about this game but that shouldn't matter. Gameplay is important but that doesn't mean games can't excel in other aspects as well. Many adventure games don't have you do much besides doing some puzzles here and there or talking to people so I don't see what the problem is here.

Posted by Oni

Game of the year.

Edited by lobsterman

I tried this game a few months back. I wanted to love it. I mean as much as i played it there is definitely tension, and it has good writing in the part i played. It's the visual style and the animations though. I just can't take the game seriously, and it's apparent from these writings that i should. I wanted to love this game, but those big cartoon eyes, exaggarated movements and animations, and to be honest most of the zombie and character designs make me think that they should be in a game with a more saturated color pallet and they should start to sing and dance and tell jokes at some point. I know i shouldn't think this, i know this is supposed to be as serious and grim as it can be, but it's just not. I've seen screenshot after screenshot after my initial impression, and the same feeling got me from those screens. With a different artstyle this could be my GOTY too, but as it is, i can't even play this or look at videos/screens without smiling. And that's not good.

Is this image supposed to be meaningful? Or terrifying? I seriously can't feel anything for a character that looks like one of the Sims, but it sounds like the point is exactly that i am supposed to feel something for these people.

Posted by TennSeven

@Kevin_Cogneto said:

@haggis said:

People get hung up on there not being multiple endings, just as they got hung up on ME3's three (or four, I guess) endings. Never mind the variations that happen within the game itself as you're making choices. They weren't as obvious here, but after having played TWD's early episodes through a few times, I was actually amazed to see how differently somethings play out. I'd much rather have that than a few mildly different endings.

It's not the ending that matters, so much: when we're making choices, we care. Someone earlier said that handing out food in Episode 2 has no impact on gameplay, that the game doesn't care, only the player. The player is actually what matters. If the game succeeded in making you care enough to put thought into your choices, it succeeded--even if those in-game choices don't go anywhere. Just as the idea that Clementine might be watching made people choose different actions. That's what this game is about, and in that it's hard to argue it didn't succeed. Choice isn't just about narrative options and multiple endings, but about making the player feel responsibility for his or her actions within the game.

In that sense, TWD succeeds where ME3 fell short--ME3 forgot about halfway through that the decisions were supposed to be about immersion, not necessarily narrative. Once it became about narrative, the decision tree got way out of whack. People can talk about choice in these games being illusory, but it's a game. It's all an illusion. That's what storytelling is.

For me the main difference between ME3 and Walking Dead is that in Mass Effect, you are the most influential man in the galaxy, and so it's only natural for a player to expect your decisions to have an influence on the outcome of the story. In the Walking Dead, you're just an ordinary man at the mercy of a violent and capricious world. Of course your decisions aren't going to have much effect, thematically that's the whole point!

I totally agree with this. Even in interviews the designers were pointing out that in real life, most of your decisions just don't really change much, because life does what it does, with or without you. This is most certainly a game and it carries with it one of the most engrossing stories I have ever seen in a video game. Your decisions might not cause the game to drop you into one of four different endings but when you are making them you care. You care about the way you act in front of other characters, you feel like that little girl is in your charge and you want to do a good job protecting her, and you care when someone you have become attached to, someone who maybe even saved your life on a previous occasion, gets killed right in front of you while you are powerless to stop it.

Not many books, not many movies and even fewer video games can accomplish this kind of thing and I for one was amazed at how much depth and entertainment value was packed into TWD; regardless of the fact that it didn't have me running around a shopping mall while chopping up zombies with a chainsaw. The fact that the entire season set me back I think less than $20 during the black Friday sale is just icing on the cake. Definitely the best game I have played all year.

Posted by Tru3_Blu3

@lobsterman said:

I tried this game a few months back. I wanted to love it. I mean as much as i played it there is definitely tension, and it has good writing in the part i played. It's the visual style and the animations though. I just can't take the game seriously, and it's apparent from these writings that i should. I wanted to love this game, but those big cartoon eyes, exaggarated movements and animations, and to be honest most of the zombie and character designs make me think that they should be in a game with a more saturated color pallet and they should start to sing and dance and tell jokes at some point. I know i shouldn't think this, i know this is supposed to be as serious and grim as it can be, but it's just not. I've seen screenshot after screenshot after my initial impression, and the same feeling got me from those screens. With a different artstyle this could be my GOTY too, but as it is, i can't even play this or look at videos/screens without smiling. And that's not good.

Is this image supposed to be meaningful? Or terrifying? I seriously can't feel anything for a character that looks like one of the Sims, but it sounds like the point is exactly that i am supposed to feel something for these people.

I kinda have the same opinion on most Japanese animation, but The Walking Dead is rather different in which it doesn't use cheap sepia-tone to convey a bleak theme. It is within the content of the game where the overwhelming dread weighs down the player. In reality, we don't see a limited amount of wavelengths hitting the surface of our planet in which we are limited to only gray and brown; our planet's nature is pretty beautiful and colorful, whereas human nature is not.