Dead Man Walking
The last few years have seen zombies rise in popularity to the point that they’ve become somewhat cliché, with only a few rare examples in the genre (in any medium) able to rise above the crowd of limbs and brains to establish their own identity. The Walking Dead is one that has. Anyone familiar with Robert Kirkman’s comic book series or the AMC television show based his work knows that it’s not your average zombie story. Where many tales of the undead exist for the sole purpose of showcasing as much gore, guns, cheap scares and action as possible, The Walking Dead focuses on something else entirely: what it means to be human. That’s a hard thing to capture, so I was more than a bit nervous when I heard that The Walking Dead was making the jump into the world of video games. It made me even more nervous when I heard that instead of a boxed retail product, the game would be an episodic tale developed by the hit-or-miss Telltale Games. But having played the first of five episodes in the series, I feel safe saying that this is the game the license deserves.
As I mentioned earlier, and as fans of franchises such as Dragon Age or Mass Effect can attest to, games are becoming more action-oriented every day. That being the case, Telltale Games probably could have phoned-in a first person shooter with the player mowing down hordes of the undead and made a decent amount of money. They also would have completely abandoned the tone and purpose of the source material in the process. Luckily the story and game style really make it clear that the developers understand the purpose of Kirkman’s original comic line. The point was never to show the reader how big of a badass the main character is, or to wow them with gratuitous gore (although, as a by product, both of these end up happening). The point was to create a philosophical conversation about what real people from normal walks of life would do when put in incredible circumstances. The game captures this tone perfectly, and the result is something great.
My Darling Clementine
The story of The Walking Dead doesn’t follow any plotlines from the book or TV show, but instead introduces players to a brand new protagonist and group of survivors in the time right at the beginning of the zombie outbreak but before Rick Grimes (the main character of the book and TV show) awakes from his coma. This makes the game worth playing for both franchise veterans who want some more backstory for the world that they love, and for newcomers who are worried about jumping into a story they know nothing about. I won’t get into many story specifics as the story is definitely the main draw of the game, but the game starts out with the main character Lee Everett being driven in the back seat of a police car. You don’t know what he did, why he’s there, or even where he’s going. A sudden turn of events leaves Lee stuck on foot in an area he doesn’t know. Shortly after Lee meets a lone young girl named Clementine whose parents are “on vacation,” and from there the game proper sets in motion.
Throughout the story, the player is forced to make choices that will carry over from episode to episode a la Mass Effect 3. These can range from small decisions such as how much information to reveal about yourself to certain people, to huge choices such as which characters live and which ones die. It’s hard to tell right now how big of an impact these decisions will have down the line, but right now they seem like a great addition to add gravity to many situations in the episode. These choices led me to instantly start a second playthrough after my first was complete to see how the story would change if I replaced my calm and good-hearted Lee with a mean-spirited alter-ego, which will potentially add a number of hours to gamers playtime with the game as a whole as it comes out piece by piece.
Places the focus on story and character, extremely satisfying gore, sets up choices that should build nicely through the next episodes.
Occasional audio glitches, voice acting is hit or miss, animations can be stiff.