If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Hola, Spillerados. Meks comes back from the dead to bring you a review on a certain little game, called "The Walking Dead"
Excuse me while I sip my cheap PBR and flip my ironic, hipster scarf as I type this, but I've followed the comic series years before the AMC Television show became all the hype and biz-neeze. I initially scoffed at the idea of a Video Game based off the franchise, thinking it would be nothing but a cheap Facebook App your goddam relatives would pester you on about.
If you send me another notice regarding any farm/city/etc... ending with "ville" I will fucking end you, grandma!
Once I heard it would hit consoles, via Xbox Live / PSN, it made me more cynical. I love the franchise, hunting down the graphics novels upon my discovery of these undead treasures. Sat down eagerly during the premiere of my weekly television love. Needless to say, I've fanboy-ed the fuck out of the franchise, so hearing about a console game made me feel a little uneasy. The amounts of fucks i've given was at an all-time low at this point. You can't really blame me though, video games based off of popular franchises hasn't exactly had the best track record. Sure, you'll get a "Wolverine" or "Spider-man 2" every now and then, but the majority of the franchise game market is filled with disasters like these.
The 9/11 of The Nintendo 64.
Only with the strong word of mouth, and gameplay footage through them vid-ya game boys, I was intrigued into trying this out.
Telltale presents you with a storytelling experience, unlike another game labeled under the zombie genre. This diverges from the comics and tv show, setting you with new original characters. You start out as Lee Everett, a convict being taken to jail over a crime not gone into detail. Of course, as soon as the dead start rising up and proceed into the mankind munchies, your escort trip to jail have a change of plans. You're introduced into a world of survival horror, pairing you up with a little girl left all alone, name Clementine.
What makes this particular game unique, in both the sense of gaming and storytelling, is its focus on the interactive storytelling. Much like most games, you are immersed into the world you're thrown into, and invested into the characters you interact during gameplay. The gameplay however, is all cutscenes, and you're left with time limited dialogue options to choose from, as well as tough decision making choices during intense cutscenes. It's pretty much like most of Bioware's games… but without disappointment any advanced battle gameplay mechanics, in which re-reading this sentenced I just typed, sounds fucking horrible, "Cut-Scenes, the Movie". BUT… it's a goddamned good cut-scene! Bizarre, I know! A game in the zombie genre, where the focus IS NOT shooting zombies in the head. This is not your "Resident Evil", "Left for Dead", or whatever latest iteration of "Call of Duty: We're out of ideas, so shoot up some nazi space zombies and possibly an undead George Romero while you're at it: Black Ops VII".
This could explain the quality of his recent films as of late.
This game hits the mark where most zombie movies (or movies in general) fail to do so, the story, which is broken up into 5 episodes. The human element, the emotions and baggage it brings. Characters we actually give a shit about, humanizing them for us to relate to. With flaws and imperfections that frustrate us, and tragedy that brings us to sympathize and weep for their plight. Being a zombie apocalypse and all, there are no shortage of tragedies in stock, because zombies tend to be dicks that way. Also the living… they're assholes too.
Asides it being a well told story setting place in a horrific world of the undead nom nomming the earth, YOU are put into the shoes of Lee Everett. Fucked up choices will be made, and fucked up consequences will be followed, as you experience every emotion and trauma your character goes through. This game isn't your 8-bit classics of old; its deep, emotional, character development will not hold back making you feel guilty about your decisions, even in the long run. Imagine if Mario gave you shit for all those goombas you made him stomp, skinning raccoons to wear for survival, and to putting a bullet bill in Luigi's undead brain.
In regards to the story being broken up into separate episodes, released in between months of each other, is a brilliant move. I've heard people say they'll just wait until all segments were released to give it one long play through. That would be a disservice to the overall experience, because the time in between and wait for each episodes add to the depth and time passage in the story. You journey with these characters for months surviving in this world, time wears them down as they reminisce about past events, choices you made in months past. You get nostalgic along with the characters over the events you've all been through. Playing it sparingly in half a year span, jumping back in as episodes are released brings you more into this world much more than a straight marathon playthrough would. I'm sure some of you haven't played along with the episode releases, fortunately Telltale plans to release a Season 2 for you to try this experiment.
Where this games soars in storytelling and the choices intense, the consequences to those choices are unfortunately not as strong. In other words, this game is more linear than the game would lead you to believe. I questioned how drastic the story would go, as every choice you make would have some sort of butterfly effect, drastically changing the episodes and ending to come. The moral of you're main character can be determined, and your relationships can go from fond friendships to bitter hatred towards you. I've even made it a point to start another game and play it simultaneously with different choices as the episodes came along. The alternate game starred Lee Everett, The Dickish, as I proceeded to make all the worse choices in an effort to create the darkest timeline possible.
Evil Abed would be proud.
The thing is, your path is still the same, no matter what choice you make. You will still be forced out of a safe haven, you will still trip and fall like a moron, and you will STILL not be able to save certain characters. I tried too many times hitting reset to defy fate. The choices you make will affect relationships, how people interact with you, but the path will always be the same. EVEN some items you choose in certain situations still make no difference, sections like those makes it seem like a cheap ploy, only giving an illusion of choice and consequence. To be fair, the rest of the major choices are nearly as bad s the "item" choices, the road will be the same, and all you can do is make the ride a little less bumpier.
Hell, I may be asking too much asking for multiple different endings, with episode breaks making things all too tricker. Not to say this is a complete fault not to play the game, it's still one hell of a story. The differences you DO see still make things worth while, seeing different character reactions to certain situations, little easter eggs of differences depending on what you've done previous episodes. It's intriguing to see your character be either a rational leader, or a threatening brute. The subtle character moments that change, puts a nice little twist in the experience. Although they may be small differences, it's these characters and their development overall that make the game so compelling.
This game may not win a lot of gamers over, this is not a typical zombie FPS or a light, joyful game. This exceeds in story and is worthy of comparison to the tv show and books. It will pull your heartstrings and beat you down relentlessly, and you will cry like a little bitch.
This is art. A tale of a man and a little girl, as they brave through a world of survival horror… and you're calling the shots.
For a price around $25-$30, and storytelling is your thing, this easily deserves the rating of "Full Price"
Available for PS3, 360, iOS, Mac, and PC
Til' next time.