Care for a little girl in a harsh, unforgiving zombie apocalypse.
PC Release: April 24, 2012
By Ian Coppock
The newest generation of consoles has sunken nearly all my hopes for this industry, but it also taught me something new: the formula of modern game design. Step one: release a half-completed, half-assed game for 60 bucks. Step two: release the rest of the game in $20 chunks, and if you’re EA, start doing so before the game is even out. Step three: shoot yourself in the foot, or get an Xbox One or PlayStation 4. Either method counts for the same end in my book.
It really amazes me how people can hail this new generation of consoles as the crack of a gaming dawn. More like asscrack. None of either console’s exclusives have managed to break 80% on Metacritic, and the actual artifacts are far less impressive. Quick-time events, repetitive COD ripoff gameplay, and… just… ENDLESS sequels. Apparently this industry has run out of solid ideas, because it’s chosen to fall back onto either half-assed new IPs or the fifth and sixth installments in series long past their primes. I can safely say that Ryse and Dead Rising 3 were about as exciting as watching paint dry, and Killzone: ShadowFall for the PlayStation 4 is rather underwhelming compared to its more story-driven predecessors. Never mind that at least half of these consoles’ catalogs have been pushed to next summer to deal with Xbox LIVE and PSN network issues, taking any PC launches with them. Thanks for that, Microsoft and Sony.
To sum up, I needed an outlet for about a month’s worth of frustration and now we’re going to (non)-sequitur into The Walking Dead!
With more than a few of my Facebook friends positively gushing over the TV show of the same name, I decided it’d be a good time to break my own ground in this discussion with a review of the epic, episodic video game from Telltale Games. Both of these media are drawn from the graphic novel by Robert Kirkman, though while the TV series is a loose adaptation, the game is an original story based purely on the (in my opinion, superior) graphic novel material.
You are Lee Everett, a history professor on his way to jail for shooting his wife’s extramarital lover. The cop car he’s in takes a tumble, and Lee wakes up in a neighborhood infested with zombies.
Shortly after infiltrating a suburb, Lee finds a little girl named Clementine, orphaned by the disaster. It’s your job to guide Lee and Clementine through this nightmare, making tough decisions and fighting some serious shit in order to make it out alive.
The game is split into five episodes, which is different from console DLC because they were actually released AFTER the first episode made it out. Lee’s story evolves and darkens during the course of those episodes. Each of this game’s two-three hour installments is riddled with enemies both living and dead, as well as challenging puzzles and moral dilemmas.
Let’s revisit that “choices” term I’ve been using so lovey dovey much. A lot of the video games out there claim that the choices you make do matter, but 99% of the time, these choices only result in one of two possible endings, or a slightly different cutscene. The Walking Dead attains Mass Effect-levels of possibilities, and the episodes do take drastic turns depending on what you do.
As with Mass Effect, Lee converses with other characters and you get to pick the tone of his personality, ranging from paragon to hardass. The personality you pick will rub off on Clementine and certain characters in your survivor’s group. The conundrums in this game are difficult not because of their cerebral intake but because of their purely painful moral dilemmas; my favorite puzzle was one in which Lee must split four pieces of food between ten hungry people, and then deal with the consequences of who he does and doesn’t pick over the rest of the story. The episodes pick up all plot points from each other for a continuous, tightly woven narrative.
The game is navigated in an adventure-style format. You can switch between environmental scenes, interact with objects and explore your surroundings. Combat is kept at a minimum, but who needs it? The story’s twists and character development are a welcome replacement for endless, though sometimes fun, zombie grinds.
The dialogue and the voice acting in this game are a match made in heaven. Each character brings their round of quirks to the table. Lee welcomes into his group, among other characters, a trigger-happy news reporter, a gruff Air Force veteran, a meek Air Force recruit (wait a sec, um) a tomboyish ninja, a happy bum, and a comic book store dude. Such a variety of personalities and interactions makes for intriguing fare. You’ll also (briefly) meet a few characters from the comics themselves, including Glen, a major character, and Lily Caul, one of the Governor’s soldiers.
This game’s drawing upon inspiration from the comics doesn’t stop at story. The game’s artwork is a beautiful, thick-lined 3D rendition of a graphic novel style. A few realists out there might be put off by the cartoonish visuals, but I stopped caring as I got more invested in the story. The visuals pack their own artistic wallop and are surprisingly fitting for a zombie apocalypse story.
Being a zombie game, and a Walking Dead property of any kind, this game is violent and dark. Both very, very much so. Gamers who pass this off as a childish adventure series do so at their own peril, because this title packs more gore than any mainstream “horror” title and even some indie horror games. It presents harsh themes of survivalist morals and is unrepentant in its use of profanity and raw emotion.
It’s awesome, in other words.
The Walking Dead is available in downloadable installments for five bucks a pop, or the entire five-episode game on disc or download for $25. I got mine through Steam, my Lord Protector in the shitstorm that is current-generation gaming (I just can’t shut up tonight, bear with me). Naysayers will claim that the game’s lack of direct action makes it boring, but it’s anything but. It’s certainly better than that half-assed Darryl Dixon spinoff that came out this spring. So buy it. OR I’LL HUNT YOU DOWN AND EAT YOUR FLESH.
You can buy The Walking Dead here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.