A high bar has been set.
My previous experience with The Walking Dead has been purely through the T.V series, and I can’t say I’m a huge fan. The characters in the show are on the most part unlikable, and act in the most pig-headed ways possible. In two hours with the game, though, I already have a genuine affection for a number characters, and absolute hate for others. Telltale have managed to do in two and a half hours what AMC weren’t able to in two seasons; make me care.
This is possibly down to the fact that the main character, Lee, is not the paragon of virtue that Rick is presented as in the show. Lee’s life had gone down the shitter before the zombie apocalypse, so much so that you begin the game in the back of a police cruiser. There’s a degree off ambiguity as to why you’re there, which I expect will pay off in later episodes. It doesn’t take long before you escape the long hand of the law, and soon find a young girl, Clementine, all alone. She’s not an utter pain in the arse like Carl is the show, which isn’t that hard really. Clementine’s clearly tough; she wears a baseball cap after all, but there’s the tenderness you’d expect from a young girl; she’s just a really nice little girl in a crappy position like everyone else. As the game progresses stuff just gets worse for Lee, Clemetine, and the rest of the group they discover along the way. Lee should maybe he could watch where he treads a bit more carefully, though.
Much like the recent Back to The Future games you take direct control of the main character’s movement, but character actions are expanded here. There are times were you actively attack the walkers, which are shown through button prompts on screen. However, unlike traditional quick time events there’s more player involvement as you typically need to aim at the zombies head. Also, there is a conversation system much like Alpha Protocol, as you have a timed amount of time to respond. This creates an added tension to conversations. At numerous times in the game I felt I’d made the wrong decision because of the game forcing me to rush. This creates an odd sense of realism in a game that is otherwise inclined. The decisions you make are said to have an influence in how they game plays out. For example, you could try and lie to someone, but something you have previously said may give you away. So far there hasn’t been a significant impact from these dialogue choices, though who knows what impact this will have on future episodes, if any.
The game has a comic book style with heavy outlining and shading on the characters, and environments. The majority of the time this looks great, but from time to time there’s a low resolution texture, or two, that ruins this illusion.
The Walking Dead does have some slight problems, although they don’t take away from the experience too much. It uses some irritating adventure game logic, like not being able to pick up certain items which you could easily use. Also, on the PC version at least there are some minor technical hiccups. When there are transitions from cutscene to in-game there is a brief freeze. This does seem to happen less frequently as the game goes on, but that may have just been because I was used to it.
Even with these minor problems the first episode of The Walking Dead is terrific, and fans of either the show or comic should certainly check it out. Great characters and the best gameplay from Telltalke to date make me extremely excited for the remaining episodes. My only worry is that the bar may have been set too high, which is a good problem for Telltale to have.