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Review: The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – A New Day

by May 21, 2012

For the uninitiated, The Walking Dead started off as a comic by Robert Kirkman and has spawned a TV series and now a video game. While the game borrows from the the comic and TV show the cast and their adventure is completely original so if you haven’t been exposed to The Walking Dead before now,  you don’t have to worry about making this your starting point.

The Walking Dead is an episodic game with a total of 5 episodes planned with one being delivered each month.

The game opens up with the lead character in the back of a police car being taken to jail for a crime that he may or may not have committed. The game gives all of it’s characters a very organic feel that allows you to investigate and judge them on their personality and actions rather than back story.

On the way to jail there are signs that something big is happening around the state and after a nasty accident you wake up in a zombie filled world with only one goal, find safety.

Almost everything wants you dead.

This won’t be a solo affair though, from the very onset you’re thrust into a world of survivors and it’s up to you to interact and choose sides. The first survivor you’ll run into is a little girl named Clementine and from that point on your goal changes from only you surviving this ordeal to having you and Clementine survive. This means looking out for both of you by the choices you make.

Speaking of choices you’ll be making a lot of them and the story will change depending on what choices you make. There are multiple characters you’ll have to interact with and each of them may turn into a potential ally or foe later on in the game so you have to choose your words carefully. Some characters will be sympathetic to your story while others will want you dead, the trick in the game is to judge just how much you want to share with certain characters and if there’s some information you may not want to share at all. The tricky part is that while interacting with characters you need to give out information to get information so you’re always in a situation where you have to think about the risk/reward.

Characters in The Walking Dead remember what you say and how you acted in every situation so make sure you can keep things straight. If you start telling a lie make sure you stick with it because there’s a chance it will come out and turn allies into foes.

The choices you make with or against characters are by far the deepest parts of the game. Every action you make along your way causes ripples in your world. This is due to the amazing storytelling and believable, fully fleshed out characters. The characters are all superbly done with their own personalities and motivations. There is so much care put into each character that when one dies you’ll feel it, when one disappoints you it’ll bother you, and when one hates you it’ll anger you.

Some characters will have your back, others won’t.

The depth of the characters also makes the gameplay more engaging when deciding who to side with and what to share with who. In many games it’s easy to see what characters will and will not be with you for the duration. You always see a shallow bit player who’s eaten by zombies right away while the character who is fully developed follows you through to the end. In The Walking Dead everyone is up for grabs, you may have just spent the last 20 minutes getting to know a character and a few minutes later they’re no longer among the living.

Gameplay is a hybrid of point and click adventure and a traditional action game. You use the left analogue stick to move your character and the right analogue stick to move an on screen cursor. When it comes to interacting with things it’s as easy as moving the cursor over the object and hitting the corresponding face button. In some of the action sequences you need to hit a certain face button repeatedly or use the cursor to interact with objects in a set path, it’s brilliant in it’s simplicity.

When responding to other characters there’s a timer involved that you have to get your answer or question out in time, it makes for a very natural feel when developing relationships with characters because your guesswork is on the fly the entire time.

There are also puzzles in the game and they follow the same lines as classic adventure games. Find items in the game world and use them  to solve problems during game play. There are not many of them but they’re all very well designed with logic coming into play for all of them. This isn’t a case where you won’t know what to do with the objects you have. While not used often, the puzzles are a strength of the game.

You may have just spent the last 20 minutes getting to know a character and a few minutes later they’re no longer among the living.

The graphics are a cell shaded style that fit the source material perfectly. While it doesn’t carry a vibrant palette the color in the game makes certain situations pop. It’s a dark and gloomy game with color accents that help add variety and detail to the world. It runs flawlessly with a smooth frame rate throughout the entire episode.

The sound is masterfully done. Characters are voiced well and are believable, zombie noises are inhuman and guttural, and all environmental noises are spot on.

Music in the game is subtle with no tracks overpowering any one scene, instead it helps deliver a layer of polish to the game, think of the music like icing on a cake.

Why it may be helpful for people with anxiety:

  • Great characters
  • Gripping story
  • Easy controls

Why it may be unhelpful for people with anxiety:

  • Quick time events while forgiving might be hard with cold/numb hands
  • Death and loss everyone
  • Apocalyptic world
  • Dark and gloomy

Why you should be playing this:

The Walking Dead is an amazing game that will keep you hooked in the 3 to 4 hours you’ll be playing it. It makes you feel for the characters and be conscious of the decisions you’re making, at one point I slipped up and told one person too much and now I’m keeping my eye on them throughout the story because I don’t know if it’s going to come back to bite me. I know I can restart the episode but that’s cheating and throwing away something Telltale worked hard on, making all these choices count. The story and events have you on your toes and restarting an episode devalues it into a basic “rinse and repeat” formula for gameplay. My advice? When you play the game, stick with the choices you make the first time.

To how much I love the game it’s a tough sell for anxiety. The world is a dark and dreary, one with little hope and danger everywhere. You’re always on your toes and you never know when you may need to make a choice or fend off an attack. If you’re feeling fine this is a game to get but I don’t think it’s going to alleviate many people’s anxiety symptoms.

This review was based on the Xbox 360 version that was provided by the reviewer.

Overview
Release Date

April 27, 2012

Digital or Retail

Digital

Platform

XBOX 360, PS3

Developer

Telltale Games

Publisher

Telltale Games

Badges
Positives

Great story, amazing cast of characters, perfect setting, audio work in fantastic

Negatives

Story moves slowly in places

Should you check out the first episode of The Walking Dead?

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