I love zombies. There, I said it; I’m glad that we got that out in the open. Recently zombies have been everywhere. With the rise of popular zombie based movies, such as Shawn of the Dead, zombie based graphic novels / hit TV shows, such as The Walking Dead and games, like Left 4 Dead and Dead Island, is there much room for new zombie based material? Well, last year Telltale Games attempted something that’s never been done before. They released an episodic games series on the Xbox Live Arcade, PSN and via Steam, The Walking Dead – The Game. But, this game series is no classic zombie ‘hacker and slasher’. You won’t be facing hordes of hundreds of zombies as you unload your heavy machine gun into their brains. Nope, all you’ll be facing is a gripping story. Well, a gripping story and a shed load of zombies.
This is going to be a series of articles, one on each of The Walking Dead game episodes – A New Day, Starved For Help, Long Road Ahead, Around Every Corner and No Time Left. Telltale have really captured the essence of The Walking Dead, it’s a story of survival, driven by the characters. Robert Kirkman began the graphic novel series detailing the journey of Rick Grimes and his rag-tag bunch of survivors back in 2003 – it was met with acclaim. In 2010 AMC aired the first episode of The Walking Dead, a televised version of Kirkman’s graphic novel (with a few changes to story lines and characters here and there) The TV series faced just as much success as the graphic novel, drawing in millions of viewers from across the globe. In 2012 Telltale games jumped on the opportunity to develop a game version of this epic tale. In all honesty, initially I was sceptical. Game adaptations of films and TV shows rarely go well. There was a strong possibility that Telltale would just rehash Kirkman’s story for a third time – there’s only a certain number of ways that Rick Grimes could escape from a zombie infested hospital and travel around apocalyptic Georgia. Instead of regurgitating the fantastic story that’s been told by both Kirkman and AMC, Telltale opted for their own version of the tale.
The story is set in the same time and place as Rick’s and the other survivors. The difference is that you won’t be following Rick. In fact, you won’t be following any of the original survivors from the graphic novel or TV show (bar the odd cameo appearance of some well known faces). Players will be controlling a new character, Lee Everett. Lee is a complicated soul and throughout the episodes you’ll piece together segments of the man that he once was before the infection spread. Lee has quickly become a fan favourite for most gamers, with a huge amount of praise going to Dave Fennoy, for his fantastic voice acting. But it’s not just Lee that has grabbed the hearts and minds gamers. His loveable companion, Clementine (wonderfully voiced by Melissa Hutchison) became the centre of attention as Lee (and thus, gamers) devotes all of his efforts to ensure her safety. This is a story driven by the characters, but, in true Role Playing style, you will become Lee. Every action and every decision will affect the game in unforeseen ways. The Lee that you control in the first episode will not be the same man by the last. It’s a real testament to both story telling and character development; hopefully other game developers will take a leaf from Telltales guide to story telling. Here’s hoping.
It’s all well and good that a game plays well. A game needs a strong story to keep our attention, unless it’s a sports game … or Call of Duty. But a game also needs to look good. On modern consoles it’s all about the game graphics. Does it look realistic? Does it run smoothly? Does it sound crisp? These are questions I’ve heard far too often. In my opinion, a game doesn’t need to look realistic to have good graphics, or even to be a good game; I mean, look at Borderlands, Minecraft and Space Invaders. Telltale’s version of The Walking Dead takes much of its inspiration from the graphic novel, with the graphics having a real comic-book feel. This is no mean feet; the harsh lines and hard edges help bring post-apocalyptic Georgia to life in a really exciting, and different, way.
You’ll struggle to find a game as engaging and immersing as Telltale’s The Walking Dead: The Game. It’s soul destroying, heart wrenching and tear jerking, but it gives you the occasional spark of joy and hope that will keep you believing that the survivors might just pull through. Keep your eye’s peeled for the next installment of ‘Reviewing The Walking Dead’, with Episode One: A New Day.
By Alecs Pillik