At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players
Andy Daniel PC/Mac Telltale Games Telltale Games 1
Requirements Also on...
Minimum: PC - Windows XP SP3/Vista/7, 2.0 GHz processor, 3GB RAM, 2GB HDD space, 512MB video card, DirectX 9.0c. Mac - OSX 10.6 or above, 2.3GHz Intel processor, 4GB RAM, 2GB HDD space, 512MB video card PS3, Xbox 360

The Walking Dead - Episodes 1 and 2 review

I must admit, I didn't delve into the world of The Walking Dead via the medium of Comic Book until the TV show appeared, and boy did I regret not finding it sooner. The story of Rick Grimes, his family, and a bunch of other misfits struggling to survive in a world ruled by slow moving zombies is compelling. Not because of the horror, but because of the human interaction; the group need to work together to survive emotionally.

It's not the comic book I am reviewing, but the Telltale Games adaptation. Developed and published by the same team that brought us videogame adaptations of "Back to the Future" and "Jurassic Park" in collaboration with the original author Robert Kirkman and other famous screenwriters such as Gary Whitta, we are witnessing a game truly canon to the comic book series.

Just another day in the Walking Dead

Just another day in the Walking Dead

But we don’t see Rick Grimes or his family at all; this is not their story. We follow Lee Everett throughout this five-part series, starting right in the back of a police car, escorting him to jail. This is when the apocalypse begins, and the car crashes, leaving Lee to escape and discover this horrific world, starting with the undead form of his police officer escort. Lee soon finds Clementine, the innocent young girl of the story, a new orphan of the apocalypse. Lee chooses to guide Clem, and the pair form the story protagonists as a guardian and innocent duo. It is up to the player, through Lee, to keep Clem safe from zombies and the harsh truth. This isn't an escort game though, so don't worry about leading Clem around, or defending her constantly.

Lee, meet Clementine

Lee, meet Clementine

The gameplay is a hybrid of point-and-click adventure puzzle, quick-time-event based action survival horror and RPG. At times the player can lead Lee wherever you like around an area, free to start a dialogue with nearby survivors in your group or look at and interact with items. Other times, more often when attacking zombie hordes are involved, you are button bashing to prevent a decomposing corpse from snacking on your neck. These changes in speed and gameplay come often enough to keep you guessing, and to allow you to catch your breath before the next horror comes and kills one of your friends.
And that will happen a lot.

As in the comic book, nobody is safe. Tragedy is around every corner, multiplied dramatically by the emotional investment Telltale brilliantly coaxes the player into. It is easy to ignore characters in other games to a point where killing them off just lets them get out of the way, but not the characters in The Walking Dead. They aren't heroes, or Rambo-esque zombie stompers. These are decent humans, caught in an apocalypse, and are easy to relate to. It is a testament to Telltale’s narrative that I actually feel saddened when I have to make a choice between saving two people on the brink of death, especially when, like all choices in the game, it has to be made within mere spine-tingling seconds. A choice that happens regularly.

What do you choose? Either way, make it quick

What do you choose? Either way, make it quick

It doesn't matter which you choose either. The story continues with that character you saved in the game. Didn't I tell you that the series is multiple-path? Every decision you make, whether you tell Clementine a not so convincing white lie, how many times you strike a zombie, or whomever you choose to save from zombie chow not only affects the outcome of the game's future, but is meticulously tracked by Telltale. These choices help determine the story of the game as the future episodes are written. The popular decisions are also stacked up against your own at the end of the episode, to see whether you sided with the community on particular decisions. It was nice to see that the majority of gamers chose the same person as me towards the end of the first episode.

So Episode One lets us meet familiar faces and locations. Herschel's Farm is familiar to those who read the comic and watch the TV show. After Lee discovers and pairs up with Clementine, the two get the opportunity of reprieve at the farm while he wraps his head around the world events. We establish the connection Lee has with Clementine, and meet some friends who will stick around for a while; Kenny and his family have aspirations of a good future, but also provide enough hothead personality to demand relocation. We follow the group to Macon, Georgia only to end up bunkered in a pharmacy with more survivors, each with their own story to tell, and forming their own relationships. It's difficult to name characters, as the inevitable decision will come regarding their lives.

Herschel’s farm proves to be a familiar location

Herschel’s farm proves to be a familiar location

The notable aspect of this episode is when Lee comes across a motel with a trapped survivor. Upon reaching and freeing the lady we learned she wasn’t trapped, she had imprisoned herself. The reason? She was bitten, and was on her way to joining the top of the food chain group. I'll not spoil the events which followed, but they involve making some tough quick decisions once more.

Apparently Episode One is a training ground, and the story gets deeper in Episode Two. After leaving the pharmacy, for the obvious reason that the zombie horde invaded and took residency, the group take over the aforementioned motel and begin reinforcing it. Six months later and a genuine problem arises; lack of food. In the struggle for nourishment, and the distribution of inadequate rations, the group starts tearing apart. It seems a reprieve is in hand when a nearby dairy farm offers food in exchange for petrol. The dairy farm seems perfect, food and drink, an electric fence, and nice people. As Lee starts to snoop around though, things are not as they seem, and some disturbing events follow.

The comic art style both looks great and aligns perfectly with the comic

The comic art style both looks great and aligns perfectly with the comic

The most disturbing aspects are left for the very end, and alongside the clever open-ended nature around conversationing, are thrown into sharp relief with the discovery of a video. It demonstrates the excellent story and nature of the game and its intentions, and actually left me a little haunted, but desperate to move onto the next episode, due sometime in August.

I don't think you need to be an existing fan of the story to enjoy Telltale’s adaptation of "The Walking Dead" comic in videogame form. The highly interactive nature rivals the complex Heavy Rain while still inducing terror comparable of Resident Evil and other survival horror games. The short nature of the episodes so far are quick enough to complete in an evening or two, and in that time you will doubt your conversation choices, and the consequences thereof. That is when you will realise that you have become a fan like me, and you won't be able to wait for Episode Three so we can ruin more relationships and decisions.

Ratings

Overall A special open-ended narrative that will have you discussing with friends the morals you have sided upon, while being explosive enough to keep you on your toes not just for the action sequences, but for the dialogue too. 9/10

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