The most touching game this generation
The Walking Dead Got Right
- + Amazing character development
- + Faithful to the comics
- + Decisions actually matter
- + The perfect length
The Walking Dead Got Wrong
- - Controller doesn't work as well
- - Lulls a bit in the middle
- - Glitches more obvious on consoles
It feels like 1997, talking about what was voted by many as last year's best game six months later because it has only just come out in Australia -- because in the eyes of many, The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series has only been released in Australia today.
If you missed Telltale Games' The Walking Dead episodic release last year, you arguably skipped one of the best adaptations of the modern era. Released episodically exclusively for PC last year, word around the grapevine is that Telltale daren't submit it to XBLA or PSN in fear of getting rejected for an MA15+ rating. It wanted to wait for the R18+ classification to be installed at the beginning of 2013, and happily sold it through Steam without a local rating.
Now, a year after it began, Telltale has bundled all five episodes and released them on disc for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (although they've been available digitally on consoles for a little while now).
The horror, action and suspense are all there with a rare foray into the almost forgotten point-and-click genre, but it's the character development and emotional attachment that makes The Walking Dead essential.
If you haven't been following, Telltale's The Walking Dead is based on the comics, not the popular TV show it spawned which led to the terrible The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct. Don't get them mixed up, as there's no relation.
The Walking Dead's appeal lies within its charming comic book inspired visuals and the depth of the character relationships. While it's set within a bleak survivalist zombie apocalypse, The Walking Dead is more about building relationships, solving puzzles and scavenging to survive than fighting the undead.
But when it does happen, it's all the more powerful. You'll feel for each character's life, as The Walking Dead develops an emotional attachment with its protagonist more akin to an award-winning movie than a horror game.
With its transition to consoles, the PC native point-and-click adventure genre comes off a little shaky. The accuracy of a mouse has been replaced by the slow guided aiming reticule of dual analogue sticks, and that presents a problem in tight corners with a blood thirsty zombie giving you seconds to make a decision. The game was clearly designed for the speed of a mouse — something that can't be replicated on consoles — but once you adapt it's the same engrossing gameplay that earned high praise last year.
Instead of running around shooting things and opening doors, The Walking Dead implements an old school exploratory system with limited movement. While you can move using the left stick on a PS3 or Xbox 360 controller, most of the game is played using the cursor controlled by the right.
Aiming your cursor over an object brings up a list of options. They might include investigating further, opening a drawer, defending yourself or calling out to another survivor. It's all about locating the important items in the scene and making the right decisions under pressure.
While the threat of death is always lingering against one-hit kill monsters, the greatest quandary comes from moral dilemmas. One of the first survivors you'll encounter is a scared eight-year-old girl named Clementine. Your character, Lee, just discovered her parents are dead. How you respond will not only affect the relationship, it will alter the course of events.
Decisions made during the first episode mould the relationships and group dynamics leading into the second and third, right through until the culminating fifth, which concludes one of the most touching stories I've ever seen in a video game.
This console re-release allows you to play the episodes in any order, but you would be a fool to jumble them and deny yourself cliffhanger moments and shocking twists. After becoming invested in Lee and Clementine's story through the first four episodes, the fifth is the of the few games, perhaps even the only one, capable of bringing anyone to tears.
Playing on Xbox 360, the lip-sync issues observed on PC linger and are joined by some rather nasty screen tearing during the abundance of cut-scenes. It's far from a deal breaker, but along with the downgraded controls, reaffirms the PC as the superior platform for The Walking Dead, and any point-and-click adventure. But anyone who's waited until now was probably holding out for the console release.
The Final Verdict
The Walking Dead captures the essence of the comic books and transforms it into an interactive story, rather than a simple game. The Xbox 360 and PS3 disc release removes the infuriating waiting of the episodic launch, but comes with a few control and performance issues inherent to controllers and the aging hardware. The horror, action and suspense are all there with a rare foray into the almost forgotten point-and-click genre, but it's the character development and emotional attachment that makes The Walking Dead essential for any fan.