The Walking Dead Review

12Mar

By Paul Barbara

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As an Aussie gamer it can be frustrating at times to miss out on certain games hitting our shores.  2012 was the year that The Walking Dead was released and never saw daylight here in Australia.  Well, fast forward to 2013 and the experience can now be had, thanks’ to its release on Xbox Live.  All five episodes were at my fingertips with no waiting between episodes and no pondering what will happen, it was time to experience one of the best games of 2012, The Walking Dead.

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Developed by Telltale games, The Walking Dead is essentially an action adventure style of game with a very large component of “choosing your own adventure” so to speak.  Telltale games have been known for other awesome episodic games such as the Back to the Future series which sold incredibly well and is one of my personal favourites.  The Walking Dead begins with you, Lee Everett who is on his way to jail in the back of a police car that’s driving along a big open highway.  Shortly after the squad car crashes and when you awake, the officer has been killed and you’re left wondering what has happened and what to do next.

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As the story begins to unfold you learn that something has caused a zombie apocalypse and your intent on surviving it any way you can.  It’s here that you stumble across a lonely little girl named Clementine who is in need of help to find her parents.  The two of you team up on what is going to be one epic and emotional adventure, and nothing will come between you and Clementine as you strive to protect her at all costs.

As you play through The Walking Dead you’re presented with choices that impact the game.  For example, you can choose to help a civilian in need or perhaps walk away, the choice is yours.  At first I didn’t contemplate the importance of these choices; however these decisions soon become quite serious and affect the way the game plays.  Your thrust into many of these decision based moments that require you to make a quick and fast decision; say perhaps on whom to save?  It’s certainly something that’s intense when you’re faced with an immediate threat and have only 3 or so seconds to make a call on someone’s life.  This makes The Walking Dead one of the most intense games that I’ve played in a long time, that is not simply a follow the story type of game.  Your choices influence outcomes and it’s amazing how it comes together.  The choices also appear as simple commands on the screen such as press ‘x’ to save a certain person or press ‘b’ to run as fast as you can.

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The gameplay also requires a certain amount of exploration as well.  As you reach each area for example, you may need to find a key, or a way to escape a sealed room.  It’s important to look at your surroundings and select items of interest.  If there is an item of interest, say a key, then by using the right thumbstick which controls an on screen reticule,  you can hover over to the key and a selection of options will appear, from a simple ‘observe’ icon to perhaps a ‘pick up key’ command.  It’s extremely intuitive and works well.  Before long, you’re clicking and pointing at everything as you try and solve the various puzzles throughout the game.

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What makes The Walking Dead so special in my opinion is the ability to make choices.  Each choice you make will affect your relationships with different people that you meet who are part of your group.  These decisions will affect you throughout the game which really makes you stop and think about each decision you make.  This dynamic personally is what makes The Walking Dead a truly engaging experience.

At the end of each episode you’re also shown a summary of your choices at key points in the game, and how your choices compared to everyone else’s choices that have played The Walking Dead.  No matter what you choose, the ending is ultimately the same, but the way you go about your adventure can be carried out in many different ways.  Hence why there is an extreme amount of replayability and you can always experiment with decisions and their impacts by perhaps choosing a different path.

Graphics & Sound

Visually The Walking Dead has a unique art style akin to that of a comic book.  Some may refer to it as animated cell shaded graphics, which can also describe its presentation. The game did suffer from a few noticeable pauses and or freezes at key decision points of the game which tended to slow things down for a brief moment, however these were not detrimental to the overall experience.  In terms of audio and sound, the musical score is fantastic and the sounds of the walking dead send shivers down your spine.  The characters voice acting is also fantastic and you can really appreciate a sense of desperation and fear in the characters voices.

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Overall

Apart from the occasional game freeze and scene pauses, The Walking Dead managed to exceed my expectations in every way possible.  The story was well thought out, and your battle for survival was believable.  Throughout the entire game I felt like I was Lee trying to do everything I could to survive.  Lee’s decisions were my decisions and the consequences of those decisions were also mine to feel.  The Walking Dead is an emotional game that puts you on the spot to make some tough decisions which stay with you throughout the game.  I must say that overall The Walking Dead was a pleasure to experience and a title that I cannot stop recommending to every single person I meet.  It’s truly a masterpiece and one that Telltale games should be proud of making.  Zombie fans rejoice, there’s a new survival horror franchise in town.

9.5 / 10