I was admittedly somewhat indifferent to hear that Telltale Games (Sam & Max series and Jurassic Park: The Game) were working on a video game of a comic series that some might say has gotten too much attention. Being ever the optimist and zombie lover I am I decided to give the game a fair shake; mainly due to my love for the television adaptation, Telltale Games’ pedigree and Gary Whitta. To say I was shocked at what I got would be an understatement.
The game starts off with our playable protagonist Lee Everett being carted out from Atlanta to prison. On the way, the less than attentive police officer driving the car doesn’t see a “walker” stumble in front of his vehicle, resulting in a bad car accident. Lee wakes up a couple hours later to an injured leg and a dead cop lying in the ditch a few feet ahead of the car. Breaking out of the car and his handcuffs, the cop springs back to life and attacks Lee. After dispatching the police officer, Lee makes his way to an empty home and encounters a little girl named Clementine. They decide to keep moving and encountermore survivors and recognizable locations from the comic/television show such as Hershel Greene and his farm, Lilly and Glenn.
I suppose it would be safe to say that what impressed me wasn’t the fact that the game would be well done as Telltale is renowned at this point for doing the new-style “Point-N-Click” RPG style very well with series like Wallace & Gromit, Sam & Max, Back to the Future and even Jurassic Park being converted into very faithful video game adaptations of the source material. What was surprising was how well the writing is and how perfectly it fits into The Walking Dead universe created by Robert Kirkman as a precursory tale of events prior to Rick Grimes and his story.
Lee is a fantastic avatar character that has a great back-story that slowly comes out while also allowing the player to make decisions based on their own feelings rather than trying to fit a specific way of thinking for the character. Many scenes with Lee are touching and have more emotional weight than ANY character from the show (I actually found myself getting a little sad and outraged for him) which should stand to a testament of the power of interaction as opposed to observation. Story points and backgrounds of characters develop very organically in conversations and helps strengthen the idea that “oh shit, this world is totally real”.
Story aside, the game-play is somewhat weak in that there is very little “playing” in the game. The movement feels sloppy when traversing areas due to the camera pan moving the world around as you walk, each area feels extremely tiny with too much to interact with crammed in and the action cursor feels maybe about 25% too big for its own good. On the Xbox 360, I had major stutter problems whenever a sequence would background load so every time a scare was imminent I was warned and the voice/mouth sync felt off the whole time, making conversations look silly in a way that was obviously not intended. I tried the first 20 minutes on PC and had no problem whatsoever, so take that for what you will. Of course, it must be said that all technical problems aside, the game never was unplayable and the story kept me going with enthusiasm to spare, which counts for a lot.
All around, The Walking Dead marks a new flagship series for Telltale Games and one I believe they have a strong chance to strike gold with. This game is a great jumping-off point for those new to the universe and a solid preface to the die-hards of the series so far. At only $5.00, there is no reason most people shouldn’t own this game to try it out.