Hello gents and ladies if you're reading this then well congrats you've made it to 2013. So what did I do to start off my new year? Well, since I didn't have any work today I finished off the last two episodes of The Walking Dead in one sitting. This was a bit of an experiment for me. You see I've never really "got" the attraction to The Walking Dead. Its always just seemed incredibly formulaic to me from an outside perspective. Group of survivors run from place to place insert human drama blah blah blah. My cynicism was fairly strong going into this thing. The other thing I had going for me was that I was spoiled on multiple multiple plot points. Then over the holiday break on Christmas day Telltale pulled the ol' drug dealer trick of give em' the first hit free. On top of just giving away the first hit free all the other episodes were 200 points a pop. So there went $10 and suddenly I had the entire season sitting on my Hard Drive of my 360.
So the question was for me with my cynicism working against me and me being spoiled would the story telling in The Walking Dead hold up for me? Honestly, the answer is well...yes mostly at least. There are some things that I thought were really dumb which I'll touch on later but for now lets focus on another topic.
You are my sunshine my only sunshine.
The Walking Dead is a dreary world. It doesn't start happy and it doesn't end happy. The one constant element that is a tiny ray of hope in the entire game is Clementine. This is one area where I really did have to eat my words. Not only is Clem's character well written and believable as a child character but its the first child character that you didn't want to instantly punt in the head to shut them up. I mean, remember those jerk kids in skyrim or how about the kids in Fallout 3? AWFUL I TELL YOU~! Whew (deep breath). Clementine's relationship with Lee from the time she peeks her curious head out of her tree house to the time the end credits roll was entirely captivating. This is a game that very early on shows you that it doesn't fuck around with choices instantly putting Kenny's child Duck into harms way. Even though going in I knew in the back of my mind that Clem was safe in the moment the pacing and the writing of the story kept me so focused on the moment that many times the moments Clem was in danger were still incredibly tense. A number of moments caught me as being awful and incredibly fucked up choices but the two that brought me damn close to tears both involved Clementine. The hardest being the very ending I told Clementine to shoot lee and watching that entire scene play out couldn't be more soul crushing. It was amplified by the fact that just earlier in episode 4 I had finally come out and told her that her parents were dead, again soul crushing. Clem had been a tough soldier through the entire journey watching countless horrific things play out yet for her to have to kill the one person left that truly cared for her was absolutely one of the most heartbreaking things I've seen in games in awhile. Ya know... I'm not sure I'd even want a 2nd season at this point I just want to imagine Clem grew up and lived her life.
So, being exposed to people buzzing and talking about this game the one thing was clear that you couldn't play it down the middle and be a people pleaser. So when push came to shove (and boy did it come early) I chose to side with Kenny. Why? Well, simply because early on my priorities were always to put the children first every damn time. As result my first encounter with Larry ended with me stepping in and defending Duck. This lead to Larry being a jerk to me and well from that point on the lines were drawn as far as I was concerned. Kenny had never let me down and dammit I was sticking with him. Kenny struck me as the second most endearing character in the series. The stuff with Duck was hard watching a father deliriously trying to cope with the fact that it finally happened to him a family member had been bitten. Again, a very well written character who acted very human. He lashed out in anger then denial then finally broke down into a sobbing mess. This whole arc with Kenny's family might not have had the same impact that it did on some since this was one of the parts I did have spoiled BUT I still really appreciated the writing. Watching Kenny finally sacrifice himself for Christa finally set in my mind that Kenny was a good man deep down. Even if he was almost all to gleeful in wanting to throw a cinder block on Larry's head and a belligerent asshole at times he was a good man thrown into a shitty situation and I'll forever be #TeamKenny.
Awful choices, regrets and oh...fuck Ben.
As stated before The Walking Dead is a game that doesn't fuck around. It will throw awful things your way and make you deal with them with absolutely NO time to think about it. I really loved that they threw the timer on there it made you really have to act instead of think and that still made all of the choices pretty meaningful. So, what awful choices did I make? Well, plenty including killing Larry after telling him to eat up his human leg BBQ. Most choices I made and was confident in even if they were insanely shitty choices like killing the boy in the attic or rolling the dice on Larry "really" being dead. The one however that really filled me with regret was leaving Lilly behind. Like many awful choices you make in life you make them when you are angry and don't really mean what you think you do. Lilly had just shot Carly who early on was one of my favorite characters. I chose to openly confide in her and she seemed like the right choice to save and here Lilly just off and killed her. Tensions were high and I had my flag firmly planted on #TeamKenny so Lilly wasn't exactly "hearing out" my arguments. So, in a rage I left her. I considered it payback for what she had done to Carly in cold blood. Then as time went on the subject of Lilly came up with Kenny and I felt bad and awful really. I realized that she was just doing what I had been doing making the tough choices to survive and I had just left her to die after already killing her dad. Fuck.
Oh, but then there is the catalyst for Carly, Duck, Katjaa and well just a lot of stuff in general...Ben. Ohhhhh Ben. Here I went out of my way to convince Kenny and Lilly both that he should be allowed to stay with the group and he ends up fucking everything over. Now, yes... I realize that the story advances beyond the motor inn no matter what but hey man don't be bringing the realities of the game structure with my hate for Ben. He was just a constant fuck up. I wanted to find some part of me that sympathized for him but at every turn he made me hate him. He was a coward and didn't save Clem multiple times. He trades with the bandits and is directly responsible for the death of duck and consequently Katjaa and as a final coup de grace he manages to let zombies into the school in Crawford resulting in the death of Brie. So when tasked with the choice of cutting him from the group I did so and then I dropped him down the bell tower because fuck him. I really have tried to find a sympathetic angle to his character and I keep coming up with blanks. I just constantly hated him.
Technical horrors and awful plot devices ahoy!
The real scary part about The Walking Dead isn't the zombies. Its the technical nightmare that it is. Yes, I know the 360 version was the worst but ya know what I was already locked in and committed to that version. Its really a shame on some places like in episode 5 the frame rate went to a horrible stutter and I found a consistent problem with getting the newest episode to start. If you scratching you head wondering why well yeah.. I am too. I don't know I would click "Play" on the episode and it would multiple times do several things...
- In later episodes for whatever reason start the first episode over overriding my save (thank god I copied to every slot)
- Start at the final chapter in the previous episode
- Oh, and it even saved or imported my choices wrong on a few occasions when it did start the correct episode (again, ya multiple save slots)
So that stuff was a real bummer on multiple levels man.
The other thing that was just REAL dumb was the reveal of the Station Wagon man. It seriously felt like the writers got themselves into a bit of a dead end and needed justification for Clem missing. It was just really poorly handled especially since well.. you really HAVE no choice other than to take the food. Either you decide to take it or Kenny takes it anyways. It was just a bit to convenient of a plot device and this man knowing about Lee going to the farm which was BEFORE the station wagon was increasingly dumb. Am I do really believe that somehow this guy had crazy surveillance that allowed him to spy like god on the characters so then he can call Lee out on awful thing that he did? Please. Its really the low light of the entire story and they were really scarily close to botching the entire landing if it wasn't for the absolute heartfelt send off of the story of Lee and Clementine.
Long goodbyes and sweet lullabies
So its over both this uh... whatever you want to call it and my time with The Walking Dead. Part of me wants to know what happens if I do this or that what happens if I stay silent the entire time? There are lots of choices in this game and even though some choices like the station wagon are entirely scripted and linear the writing does stand tall making you feel like your choices do still matter. That's why even though I kind of want to see all of this other stuff I kind of well... don't. I don't want to strip this game apart and know how the magician does the trick. Regrets and all I crafted my story and my choices and I'll stick with them. So now your asking me what do I think about everyone buzzing about it was it deserved? Does it deserve to be game of the year? Well, for me personally no... I still really enjoyed the game and honestly I may have to think about revising my list now that I played this and Hotline Miami finally. However, even if I consider this on my list which...fuck it I guess i do.
I still think Final Fantasy XIII-2 is the most fun I've had with a game all year. Yes, I realize that a large majority of you think that my love for it is crazy and possibly it is. I do think the Walking Dead was successful though. Even with me being spoiled and incredibly cynical going in i was still damn near in tears as Clementine pulled the trigger to kill Lee. And I think that is what good writing and good stories should do. I think people place too much stock or are at least to over hypersensitive to spoilers. Look, yes being surprised by events is fun but if a story is TRULY a good story the characters and journey to that destination will still be insanely compelling. I really did enjoy my time with The Walking Dead though. A well spent $10 and honestly would have been worth the full price. So I guess I'm fine seeing all of those GOTY lists filled with TWD now. I don't agree that its number one but dammit I now see why some people think so.