The Walking Dead: Game Review

Developed by: Telltale Games
Published by: Telltale Games
Media reviewed: PS3

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve teared up in the last, oh, four or five years. After finishing Telltale Games’ latest production based on Robert Kirkland’s graphic novel, I’ll give it credit for adding another finger to that count.

These aren't zombies; this is Black Friday at Wal-Mart.

These aren’t zombies; this is Black Friday at Wal-Mart.

First things first: this game is set in the realm of the comics, NOT the show. It doesn’t make much difference, as you won’t encounter Rick’s group (well, most of it, anyway), but it is worth pointing out. You play as Lee Everett, a middle-aged man that’s sitting in the back of a police cruiser leaving Atlanta when the outbreak occurs. After your car crashes and you escape your bonds, you come across a young eight-year-old girl Clementine, whose parents were in Savannah when the shit hit the fan. Agreeing to look after her, the duo sets out — and thus begins one of the greatest and emotional duos in video game history.

Broken up into five “episodes,” gameplay is reminiscent of the PC point-and-click adventures of old. Moving one cursor around allows Lee to move, while the other interacts with the environment and characters. Throw in a few quick-time events when the undead start to appear and you’ve got the basic gist.The cel-shaded look makes it feel like a graphic novel and really immerses you into the world, but don’t let the cutesy look fool you: there are still zombies around and there are some absolutely brutal kills to be made.

The most fun is derived from the conversation system and the choices you have to make. Almost every conversation has four options (mapped to the face buttons) and a time limit to respond. You can usually choose the “…” if you’d rather keep quiet, or up to three other responses for the various situations you and your group finds yourselves in. It’s fantastic: do you want your Lee to be headstrong and selfish? Or compassionate and friendly? Do you care about Clementine or is she just a burden on your shoulders? There are so many ways to play and so many split-second decisions to make that multiple replays are practically a given. At the end of each episode, which take about 2-3 hours to complete, Telltale also lets you know by percentage how many players made (or didn’t make) some of the major choices that pop up. And trust me, there are some major choices that need making, often in a matter of seconds.

One of the greatest pairs in gaming history.

One of the greatest pairs in gaming history.

After five episodes playing as the compassionate, selfless Lee, I was left feeling such an emotional rush that I haven’t felt in a video game since the original Metal Gear Solid (I had a thing for Meryl). Unlike the countless silent protagonists or super soldiers that you’ll play as in games lately, you’ll actually care what happens to these characters. Unless you’re a complete sociopath, that is. By the time the credits rolled and the final post-credits scene played out, I was eager for Season Two.

There are a few glitches that pop-up and unfortunately, some of them were game breaking. In episode four, for example, I couldn’t leave a particular room without falling through the floor. I had to reload an earlier save twice just to avoid it. Annoying and immersion-breaking, yes, but forgiven once you get back into things.

If you didn’t download the game episodically when it was released, there is a disc version now available for $29.99 — an absolute steal for the amount of gameplay, replayability and pure emotion you’re getting with this package.