Review: The Walking Dead Game
Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead: a world that’s seeing success in the graphic novel and television worlds now creeps its way to video games. The Walking Dead Game is not at all the typical survival horror you see in other titles. This game is here to tell a story, and Telltale Games not only creates their best story-driven experience yet, they also retain the dark and bleak world that makes The Walking Dead so great. People will die, hard choices have to be made, and these choices will matter. This is a game that focuses purely on telling a great story based on your choices, and it’s one of the best gaming experiences I had all year.
The Walking Dead Game is composed of five episodes that can run about three hours each, depending on how you play. It tells the story of Lee Everett, a man heading to prison for being accused of murder. He then meets Clementine, an 8-year-old girl who was sitting on her tree house waiting for her parents to come home. Lee takes full responsibility of the little girl and their journey through the zombie-infested world begins. This is the choice-driven game at its best. You interact with a series of very well-written characters and depending on how or what you say to them, you can and will affect the future of your playthrough.
The Walking Dead Game has graphics that fit perfectly to the universe. It brings the feeling that the game was cut straight out of the comics itself. The environment created for the player to explore and interact with gives you that post-apocalyptic feeling and the struggle to survive. The exploration is limited, but enough to satify your curiousity. Character models look pretty stiff when they move, especially when they are running, but thankfully the voice acting makes up for it.
When I say “well-written”, I mean that these are characters that you will either care for, or despise. The voice acting did a good job at establishing each character’s personality, affecting your choices in the game. Hating one character can sway you into siding with another character in a heated argument, or from what a character is saying to Lee, you get the feeling that you don’t trust him/her. As you move forward in the story, the characters act differently based on what has happened or what you have done, so you see their personalities mature in front of you. You feel the pressure of each choice, big or small. For the most part, you have four different choices to pick from with either the directional pad or buttons. There’s always a timer on how long you have to decide. It can get intense, which can lead to mistakes. Each time you make a decision or say something, the game informs you that a character will remember what you say, which brings that feeling of regret or relief.
It wasn’t a smooth experience playing all five episodes. Every now and then were random FPS drops that all but ruin the experience; they can be random, but they often show up at the worst possible times. They were apparent on each episode, and sometimes sparked frustration.
It’s an emotional roller coaster ride in The Walking Dead Game. As you go from episode to episode, the stakes get higher, and you start to feel the weight of your previous decisions. Each episode brings a new atmosphere. It’s still dark and gloomy, but the focus shifts every time. New characters are introduced, and within each of them lies a shocking surprise, making it so there’s never a dull moment. If you’re hoping it will ever get better for Lee’s group, it never does, which is perfect because this stays true to Robert Kirkman’s original style. The score also contributes to the feeling that there’s no hope left in this world. You are in for some top-notch storytelling, but don’t expect a happy tale.
The control scheme is very straightforward and simple to understand. Like I said earlier, each decision or answer is assigned to either one of the directional pads, or buttons on the controller. You move Lee with your left stick and your right stick controls the cursor, which lets Lee interact with the world around him. There are a couple of QTEs (quick time events) that occur when you’re in a situation, but they only happen every now and then, so you won’t constantly be pressing X to save your life at each turn you take. Playing this game is very easy to control, so that you give the narrative your full attention. With that in mind, since it’s such a story-driven experience, it can appeal to the more casual crowd of non-gamers that have never held a controller in their life. Even fans of the comic and show who don’t play games will get a kick out of this.
There are in-game puzzles, but they are simple road blocks for players. The real challenges are the interactions with the characters. How will they react when you do this, or choose this? How can I keep Kenny in good relations with Lilly? Do I want Carly to watch the motor Inn? There’s a lot to think about. There are situations that when I’m allowed to move freely, I pause and really think what’s best for the group. Those are the real puzzles that you are left trying to figure out.
Just like any good episode straight from a TV drama series, you have a cliff-hanger that makes you want the next episode. It’s a thrilling experience and it hardly dies down as you progress through each one. The story gradually gets better, and the bump in quality lasts all the way to the finale, which ends the game with a bang. The choices become harder, and you can see that they take an effect on Clementine, the little girl that Lee is hell-bent on protecting from this world; after a few hours of playing, you want to protect her the best way you can as well. The quality of the characters in this game lets you feel that these decisions you make really matter. These characters grow on you, and you just hope things turn out well in the end.
Like a few other titles focused on player choices, The Walking Dead can be played with different results. Playing a new file differently from your old one does change how the story goes. Some choices result in some characters showing up in an episode when they didn’t in your previous game. I've shared my experience with other players that played the game and we have different outcomes. It brought interesting conversations between players. If you are connected online, after each episode, the game tracks your choices and you see the overall stats on what other players decided during the really big decisions.
There’s no right or wrong in this game, really. The choices you make are based on what you think is right for the characters you are now invested in. You want them to survive, you want Clementine to find her parents, and you want Lee to protect the group in the best way he can.
Telltale Games is known as the studio that prioritizes storytelling over other gameplay aspects. The Walking Dead is their best effort yet, and will leave a lasting impression that will make it one of the most memorable gaming experiences of this generation. The writing for the characters and the flow of the story were top-notch, while the weight of your decisions are what make the game. A narrative that juggles with emotions is rarely seen in a videogame, and the player’s level of responsibility makes the experience unique. I have no doubt in my mind that this is the best story-driven game I’ve ever played. We need more games like this and hopefully this sparks some inspiration in other studios to develop more games like this in the future.
- Memorable characters
- You feel the consequences of your choices in the game
- The visual are a perfect fit to the game
- Story gets better and intense as you progress through each episode
- Random FPS drops that could be frustrating