Pros: Striking comic book style art design, fantastic story, quality voice acting
Cons: Rarely challenging, certain combat mechanics are clunky
Based off the comic, not the TV series, The Walking Dead places you in the boots of Lee, a history teacher on his way to prison for an unknown crime. After a series of events leaves him broken and battered in the woods, it’s clear the unthinkable has happened: the dead are now walking and they are hungry for human flesh. Lee soon meets Clementine, a strong but vulnerable eight year old making it on her own. The two team up and, with the help of an ever changing group of survivors, embark on a perilous journey.
The baseline story may be standard I Am Legend fare, but the beauty is in the details. Dead has a number of striking settings containing heart stopping side stories. From a dairy farm that doesn’t just serve milk to the abandoned city of Savannah, Georgia, there’s a great deal of variety in the experience. The cell shaded style artwork never distracts and when the action hits, the result is visceral and graphic. This is not a game for the squeamish.
Note: This adorable zombie is not indicative of the creatures in The Walking Dead. They are much more terrifying.
But all this would be for naught if it weren’t for a fabulous cast of characters. In each setting, you meet new survivors, each with their own motives. This tapestry of personalities paints a strong picture of life in an apocalyptic environment, giving everything an authentic feel. Clementine in particular is simply wonderful as your young partner. Telltale takes great pains to cement the Lee / Clem relationship and by the second episode, you are completely invested in her well-being. The auxiliary cast is also well drawn. From Kenny, a commercial fisherman traveling with his family to Carla, a tough as nails reporter, everybody in the group contributes a little something to the storyline.
The game is also heavy on choice. Say the wrong thing to a team member or mix your facts up, and people will notice. Like it would be in a stressful situation, the group is volatile and the choices you make weigh heavily on the difference between allies and friends. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t change much based on these decisions. It’s a fairly straight ahead narrative, regardless of who dies, who lives and their relationship to you.
The biggest negative against the game is the actual gameplay. The action ranges from quick time events during zombie interactions to roaming around talking to characters. While I loved learning everyone’s back story, this doesn’t leave much challenge. Make no mistake, the game is incredibly intense but once you’ve figured out the very rudimentary puzzles, the game can be walked through with ease. There are also some first person shooting segments thrown in, but the implementation is clunky and causes more than a few needless restarts. Call of Duty, this isn’t.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be. Video game adaptations of popular media usually leave something to be desired. Be it time constraints, pressure from studios or a lack of understanding of the source material, they usually stink. The Walking Dead sets the same bar for interactive adventures that Batman: Arkham City set for superhero games. Heart breaking, poignant and featuring a scream worthy conclusion, Telltale’s latest creation is also their finest.
NOTE: This game was played as a “Season Pass” DLC via the PSN network, even though the review is posted on the disc version. From all accounts, the retail version plays identical to the online. Also note, this review does not include the 400 Days DLC.