More than just a depressing dad simulator.
When Telltale announced that they were releasing a game based upon Robert Kirkman's successful comic series, The Walking Dead, expectations were high. Their previous work with licensed products had been a hit and miss affair; Back To The Future earned the studio critical acclaim, while their attempt at Jurassic Park was met with a lukewarm reception. With a popular TV show already fleshing out Kirkman's story, is there room for The Walking Dead in another medium?
The answer is a resounding yes.
What The Walking Dead Episode 1 Got Right
Captures the spirit of the comics - If you're looking to take on the zombie horde one at a time, then you're going to be disappointed. The Walking Dead is more about relationships, finding items and solving puzzles than run and gun action. That isn't to say there isn't enough action; the sequences that have you dispensing pain amongst the undead are some of the episode's strongest moments, but this is more of an emotional tale. For fans of the comics, you're going to find the perfect companion piece, one that fleshes out the already rich world of Robert Kirkman's story.
Check out our deadly video review!
Action orientated point-and-click gameplay - Telltale have already proven themselves to be at the forefront of the point-and-click revival, however The Walking Dead brings the classic genre into an action orientated world. Rather than inventory systems and a cluttered HUD, the developers have implemented a verb like system from the old days, yet it is so unobtrusive that it really works. Hover your cursor over a highlighted point and you'll see the options available to you. Hit the number corresponding to the action and you'll perform it with ease. This system is simple to use, and manages to keep you immersed in the action, particularly during the combat sequences.
Fantastic production values - When looking at Telltale's back catalogue, The Walking Dead makes everything preceding it feel like amateur hour. The development team have truly hit their stride this time around; the voice acting is top notch, truly conveying the heated emotions during tense situations. The graphics are highly polished, offering some truly remarkable visuals that are one part cel-shading, one part 3D excellence. The soundtrack is quite moving, and really suits the action, and the gameplay mechanics are expertly crafted to fit into this mad world Lee finds himself in.
Weighted moral decisions - Plenty of games out there offer moral decisions, but very rarely do they hold considerable weight. The Walking Dead takes a leaf out of Mass Effect's book, meaning that each decision you make during the episode will have some weight on your relationships with other characters, and the eventual outcome of the series. There are moments where you will have to spare a life to save another, moments when you'll have to prove your loyalty or destroy a friendship and other moments that will change how your relationships with certain characters are forged or broken. All of this takes place during the first episode, which should be some indication of just how committed Telltale are to this concept. What's even better is that each decision will carry over into the next episode!
Cliffhanger moments - There are moments during this episode that will have you on edge; whether it be a tense argument during a group of people, or being trapped inside a house with nothing to defend yourself but your shoes, The Walking Dead has some truly heart-wrenching moments that create a sense of tension and dread throughout the experience.
What The Walking Dead Episode 1 Got Wrong
Puzzles are a little easy - If you have played point-and-click adventure games before, then you will be well accustomed to the puzzle and challenge the genre is known for. The Walking Dead is a little more action-centric than most adventures, and the puzzles on display are rather easy and can be solved with minimal fuss. Do yourself a favour, play the game without the UI hints to give yourself a challenge.
Short but at least it's sweet - Telltale are the masters of episodic content, but The Walking Dead feels just a little too short. It will take most gamers 2 hours to complete, and while that may seem extremely short, the quality of those two hours is simply amazing.
Occasional audio hiccups - We played the PC and OS X version of the game, and both displayed occasional audio hiccups along the way. It was nothing major, but sometimes lip-syncing became laughable, and the game would stagger from time to time in order to catch up. It doesn't break the experience by any means, but it was worth noting.
The Final Verdict
In a world where "zombie game" has almost become a dirty word, The Walking Dead arrives with a fresh take on an overcrowded genre. Capturing the tone and atmosphere of the comics, and bringing its own unique flair, Telltale have delivered their best piece of gaming to date. If you're wanting guns and glory, you won't find it here. If you want an adult, narrative-driven experience however, there is nothing like The Walking Dead available in the zombie genre.
By Stephen Heller - Tweet @Heller_MMGN
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