Telltale rebounds from the disappointing Jurassic Park series with the first episode of its upcoming The Walking Dead story that’s set just after the outbreak begins. The end result is a much more polished game that is a better all-around experience.
What’s It About?
Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic series made a big splash when it launched in 2003 and an even bigger splash with the television series that has been very popular since it launched in time for Halloween 2010, so it’s no surprise that a game has appeared to capitalize on that recent success. The big surprise was that Telltale Games is the studio that has stepped up to the plate with a canonical addition to the universe with the help of creator Robert Kirkman. Their penchant for episodic adventure games really fits the property well in that they can break up the story into digestible chunks that fits the sort of pacing you’d expect from the comic or TV show.
The Walking Dead definitely feels like a game that was made with the failures of the Jurassic Park game in mind since more control has been given to the player along with simpler quick time event sequences that helps it feel like an evolution of Telltale’s older games with newer mechanics that mesh together really well. Taking a cue from Mass Effect, you now have control over some story elements due to the choices you make throughout the game when talking to people. It isn’t quite as drastic as Mass Effect, though that may change as you see the long-term ramifications of your choices in the four remaining episodes. The quicker pace of the dialogue is due to the addition of a timer that pressures you to make your choices without hesitation, though I was sometimes rushed to choose while trying to weigh the ramifications of the choice I was about to make.
Putting this in terms of the TV show and comics, this first episode takes place near the start of the outbreak while Lee Everett, a convicted murderer, is on his way out of Atlanta in the back of a police car. The policeman is willing to talk to you if you’re up for a conversation, though you will notice other cops and helicopters heading back to the city as a “riot” seems to get out of hand in the city. Unfortunately for both the cop and Lee, they crash their car into a walker wondering the highway that comes to a rest upside-down in the forest, which ends up with Lee being knocked out for a couple of days while the cop is lying motionless outside the car. From there, you learn more about what has happened and have to find help to get to safety from the undead hordes that you will encounter.
Why Should I Care?
Telltale has really done a great job of tweaking their style of adventure gameplay to fit The Walking Dead, which means a big focus on character dialogue, a good mix of action scenes, and much less of a focus on puzzles. They were smart to make the pace much faster than any of the Sam & Max games because the puzzles are straightforward and lack most of the backtracking that’s required in the traditional adventure archetype.
The Walking Dead is easily the most successful attempt at bringing comic book-style visuals to a game that is visually impressive while also giving the team room to cut plenty of corners with the types of detail you’d expect if this had a realistic visual style. The voice acting is also a highlight as Lee and the rest of the cast does a great job with their roles, though writing has a couple of rough spots with one particular character being one of the dumbest people I’ve seen survive the apocalypse in a while.
Why Is It Worth My Time And Money?
Telltale Games has done a great job of turning The Walking Dead into an adventure game and appealing to the best parts of the show and comics. It only takes about two hours or so to get through the first episode, which is short enough to marathon through it to experience it as intended. There is a bit of replay value to be had by making different choices throughout the episode to see how different it can be in each of the three save slots that are offered. The thing that really sets The Walking Dead apart from the other Telltale series is that I can definitely see myself keeping up with the release schedule, which never happened with their previous series. The pricing is particularly nice at $4.99 or 400 Microsoft Points for individual episodes and $19.99 on PSN for the Season Subscription (not offered for the XBLA version).
There is one major issue that I had with the XBLA version of The Walking Dead that makes it hard to recommend that version as much as the PSN version. It involves the whole picture being so dark that it becomes very hard to see what’s happening and thus affecting my enjoyment of the experience as a result. Luckily, I figured out with some help that the issue involved the reference levels in my Xbox 360’s display settings not being set at the default level, which has never affected any other game I’ve played in my four years of owning this console. Changing it back to standard setting returns the game back to its former glory, so this is a very odd bug that can be very detrimental if the player isn’t as persistent about fixing it. I’ve been in contact with Telltale about the bug, but have yet to hear more about the issue and will update this review as I get more information.