Has every night since The Walking Dead’s season finale been a struggle for you as you fought to overcome the shakes and sweats that are telltale signs of WDW, or Walking Dead Withdrawal? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Thankfully, a game just came out that can help you get your Walking Dead fix, and it’s also way cheaper than black tar heroin. Head past the jump for my review of The Walking Dead Episode 1.
The Baby Factor: Take Telltale Games’ previous offerings–maybe skip Jurassic Park–and get them together with a bunch of newly infected undead (so they’re still fresh) and watch the passionate lovemaking until you’re ready to join in.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Jurassic Park, but I am a big fan of The Walking Dead. Like, a really big fan. Huge, even. So despite not loving developer Telltale Games’ last game I was more than willing to check this out. For the unfamiliar, this is just the first of five planned episodes that should be releasing in the coming weeks. Each will cost $5–or your can get a discounted season pass for $20–and take roughly 2 hours to beat. It’s bite-sized zombie drama and boy does it work.
The good thing about something like this is like an episode of the TV series, you can finish this in a single sitting. That’s really the best way to go about it, but if you can’t manage two free hours in your obviously very busy schedule of dungeon raids and internet porn, nothing’s lost by breaking it up over a few days. This feels like an interactive episode of the television series. The characters are just as believable and the tension between them is palpable.
Episode 1 introduces a new protagonist, a man named Lee Everett. He’s the only character you’ll be controlling over the course of the five episodes, so you’ll be getting real familiar with him and his story. It’s a good thing he’s a very interesting character with an intriguing back story, much like a majority of the characters in the game. There’s a mix of new characters and faces that should be familiar to fans of the comic and television series, and like any good drama, your relationship with each of these characters can be critical to your survival.
One of the major differences between this game and Telltale’s previous work is the timed based decisions. Most of the decisions you need to make can only be decided on in a short amount of time, like choosing who to save when multiple survivors need your help. Some of the things you say to the other characters will affect later games, so if you tell them a lie you best remember what you said in case it comes up in the future. Your decisions and relationships, the latter of which can also be improved or hurt depending on your decisions and how much effort you put into getting to know and help them, both carry over into future episodes. This means your story will be unique when compared to someone else’s, and it also offers a decent incentive to playing through the game multiple times so you can see the outcomes of different decisions.
You’ll also have more control over your character than you have in past Telltale Games. You can move Lee around the environment and interact with it to find items and solve puzzles. Because of the wonky, almost tank-like controls and the fixed camera angles, the game occasionally feels like one of the old school survival horror games. Fans of the genre will probably find something to like there, but newcomers might not be as nostalgic. The puzzles are a little more scarce than you might expect from this type of game, but the ones that are there are pretty clever. They never feel forced, and that’s a very good thing. They’re also not all that obvious; you could be a few steps into a puzzle before realizing this is actually a puzzle, and that subtlety is something other horror games could really learn from. In Resident Evil, you’re given flashing signs and sirens that go off letting you know you’re about to solve a puzzle, and for me, that usually breaks the immersion. In Silent Hill, they’re integrated a little better, but they’re still obviously yelling, “Hey, look at me, I’m a puzzle!” Subtlety can be a powerful tool, and it’s used wisely here.
The Walking Dead Episode 1 is a promising start to what could end up being a fantastic series of games and a great way to spend an evening. The only better way to spend your $5 is if you were to invest it in Mountain Dew: Pitch Black.
The Final Word: Whether you’re a horror fan, a Walking Dead fan, or are looking for an emotional, dramatic story filled with interesting characters, this is a must-buy.
This review is based on a digital copy of the Xbox 360 version of The Walking Dead, which was provided by the publisher.