the walking dead

Sometimes words speak louder than action, as TellTale Games creates a unique gaming experience for all. While the zombies try to feed on your brains, the game feeds yours as it proves video games can be intelligent and dynamic and not just for the living-dead teenagers in their bedrooms.

The Walking Dead has become a phenomenon in the past two years, starting with a comic book series by Robert Kirkman, the successful TV series by AMC (a review can be found here) and now the franchise has moved into computer games by small-time developer TellTale Games. But this isn’t your normal video game. Just like the television show, the game is focussed on narrative and characterisation rather than action, powered by the choices the player makes in dialogue with other characters rather than an endless narrative of ‘see a zombie, shoot it in the head’.

Spread over five independent episodes (released roughly once a month), you take on the role of Lee Everett, a university professor who before the outbreak was on route to prison for killing a member of congress for sleeping with his wife. During your travels with the young girl Clementine who you meet early in the game, you must make decisions on what to say when meeting other survivors who will then react accordingly. However, what makes this game so unique is that it remembers what you have said and you must sometimes make life-and-death decisions that affect future episodes and how other characters behave. This really makes you care about the other characters and creates a personal experience as no two people will play the game the same. Often the decisions you must make are forced through time restraints, such as deciding who to save during a zombie attack.

These choices that are made by the player are sometimes rewarded (such as an increase in loyalty from a close friend) and occasionally punished (shunned by other characters and even death). As soon as you make a decision, you find yourself thinking ‘What would of happened if I had saved the other guy?’ or ‘How would it of panned out if I had been honest rather than lied?’ creating endless replayability and each time getting a new game to play.

The game uses a point-and-click gameplay system as you interact with your environment and characters by solving problems, talking to others and occasionally caving a zombie’s head in with a crowbar. Don’t be fooled by the often slow paced point-and-click system used in other games; The Walking Dead is an engrossing and at times harrowing ordeal as you choose who to keep close to you and who to keep your eye on.

At several points in the game, I became so absorbed by the narrative and the characters that I forgot I was playing a game and was more like watching a movie where I was the writer. The characterisation is perfect and whether you are deciding who gets what rations or taking out a zombie with a fridge, you are completely emotionally involved for that 2-3 hours of gameplay per episode which is also great value for money.

There are a few bugs with the game. The comic-book style in which the game is presented can be laggy during action scenes and this can sometimes take you out of The Walking Dead world but these are minor when compared to its many triumphs.

Beautifully written, wonderfully presented and a score that creates the perfect atmosphere, The Walking Dead game is the stand-out success of 2012. Fans of the franchise will love the familiar, eerie feel the game evokes whilst those new to video gaming will find it easy to play and anyone who is unsure on this, watch the trailer below and download at least the first episode, as I promise you will not be disappointed.

9/10

The Walking Dead: The Game Episodes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are available to download for Windows, iOS, Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and iPhone/iPad. 

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