The Walking Dead: Episode 1 - A New Day review
I'lL eAt YoUr BrAiNs!!!!!! If you don't play this now!!!
note - This review is based on the entire Season 1 of the Walking Dead game.
Telltale Games have been around for a while, a decade in fact, but up until the recent Walking Dead game, you probably wouldn't have heard of them. So who are these developers and what are they all about, you ask? Telltale Games, as the title suggests, are all about telling tales. Rather than a focus on gameplay elements, Telltale’s main goal is to deliver a quality, highly-interactive story with deep, memorable character. They also have a tendency to release an entire game over multiple episodes (usually released about a month apart), which as everyone is aware with television series, can be very frustrating when the storytelling and cliff-hangers are of a high standard. I however, played all 5 episodes of the Walking Dead game at once and I’m glad that I did because I don’t know what I would have done with myself if I was forced to wait months between episodes. The Walking Dead hooked me from start to finish, more than most games and television series has ever done. Yes, I’ll even go as far as to say that this game, in its entirety, is better than any season of the Walking Dead television series. The characters! The atmosphere! The choices that you are forced to make! It was an incredible journey. After the final scene, as the credits roll, I was left speechless, wondering how everything ended up the way it did. Telltale games should be praised for what they have produced as nothing I have ever played quite compares to the experience I had with this masterpiece.
At the start of the game, things aren’t looking too positive for our protagonist, Lee Everett. Having just been sentenced to life in prison for murder, our introduction to Lee is in the police car on the way to the local prison. The next thing he knows, the car flips after hitting a Walker (zombie) and Lee finds himself fighting for his life against a bunch of battered up, bloody dudes, stumbling around, moaning some gibberish (in true zombie style!). This is the time that Lee meets Clementine, an 8 year old girl taking shelter in her tree house, waiting for her parents to return from across the country. From here, the two are inseparable, and do everything they need to in order to survive the hell that they are in.
Lee and Clementine sharing one of their many D&Ms
The way in which the story unfolds is brilliant. Lee is constantly presented with choices that will directly impact future events in massive ways. For example, early in the first chapter, while working on stabilizing a fence, Walkers pop out of nowhere and Lee is forced to make a choice. Should he save the young boy, Duck, or the farm owner’s son, Shawn? Your choice will influence how the other characters act, and how events future events are presented. I understand that a lot of games are putting a large focus on player-plot interaction these days, but very few (if any) present this quantity of DIFFICULT choices. At many points in the game, I just couldn't make up my mind as there was no lesser of the two (or three/four) evils. However, I was forced to pick in just a few seconds, before really considering all the repercussions, as the timer doesn’t allow you to simply sit back and weigh your options. I cannot tell you how emotionally invested with the story and characters you become as a result of this. I found myself unable to put down the game as discovering the consequences of my actions was just so addicting. Not only that, but since there are no ‘right’ choices to make, trying to mend bridges and ensure other characters are alright is something that is constantly on your mind. The Walking Dead tells an amazing story, frequently forcing you into unethical, immoral situations that will heavily impact the story.
The Walking dead is entirely a single player experience, however, Telltale has included worldwide statistics for each of the key decisions within each chapter. This is a fantastic way to gauge how much of a psychopath you actually are. For example, using a completely hypothetical situation, at the chapters’ conclusion, you’ll get to see what percentage of players chose to make scrambled eggs with human intestines, rather than choosing the more humane method of cooking eggs with brain juice. It’s little additions like this that make the Walking Dead such an enjoyable experience and something you’ll be talking about with other gamers for years to come.
There is no point in having an excellent tale to tell if you don’t have an amazing cast of characters to drive it from start to finish. While Lee and Clementine are the main characters, there will be many more that you encounter along the way, each with their own ideas about how one should survive. These characters are brought alive by an excellent cast of voice actors and top quality animation to maximize their emotions. If you decide to treat a certain character right, it’ll pay off (well, most of the time), but if you don’t, their future actions will make it clear that they’re pissed with you.
If I had to name one thing that Telltale games did an exceptional job with, that makes it stand out from countless other games, it would be a single relationship between two characters. That is; the relationship between Lee and Clementine. The two start off alone, scared and clueless and through a series of many traumatic events, create a powerful bond with one another. Lee has his flaws. He’s an anti-hero with a criminal past, but I can’t emphasize enough how much I wanted him to live, simply for the reason that Clementine needs him. I understand there’s a fair share of nut-jobs out there, but I’m sure the majority of players will base their actions on Clementine’s protection. How many games can do that? To be honest, I’ve never heard of one coming even close.
Every presentational aspect of the Walking Dead is at the high standard of the rest of the game. The graphics are clean and crisp, the sound effects and voices will pull you into the moment and music does an incredible job in setting the atmosphere. There are countless moments where you are literally on the edge of your seat, whether it’s because you know that you’re moments away from having to make an incredibly difficult decision, or because a Walker could be jumping out on you at any moment. This is motion picture quality with the power of influence put right into your hands. The only exception to this is the occasional graphical glitch that will no doubt pop up every once in a while. This usually involves characters jumping from one spot to another, but I’m not going to beat the game up too much for it. It’s easily forgiven.
Fact: Tapping the a key will save you from Zombies! Always keep one handy
So, the Walking Dead is essentially an interactive, visual story. What level of interaction do you actually have with the game? There isn't a whole lot to say here, so if you’re looking for a game with fast, frantic gameplay like Uncharted, this shouldn't be your first stop (and shame on you if you ignore this game for that reason). Most of the time, Lee is put into an environment that he is free to explore. This is mostly a case of problem solving through finding items or talking to characters to overcome certain problems. Occasionally, when attacked, you will be required to hit certain buttons or aim at certain areas of the screen, but this is pretty simple and if you fail, you simply have to retry the action sequence. Add these to the requirement of fast dialogue selection and this is the extent of the gameplay. But as you have hopefully gathered by now, this is not what makes the game so incredible.
For those of you who tend to skip right to the conclusion of the review to get a summary of what the game is about, just take these four simple words on board and act accordingly: “Play. This. Game. Now.” It’s that simple. The Walking Dead successfully achieves its purpose better than any other game I have ever played. This purpose is; too tell an incredibly gripping tale, driven by exceptional characters, that is heavily influenced by the many, difficult decisions forced upon the player. This is not a game for those who want trigger-happy action. It’s a game for those who want to be invested and involved in a spectacular, emotionally driven tale. Play. This. Game. Now.
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