I have come to the conclusion that a Zombie apocalypse is inevitable. It is going to happen and the governments of the world know this. So, rather than declaring it outright and causing mass hysteria, the various governments have been enlisting the services of the media to prepare us for the day the the dead walk the earth.
In the case of videogames, we have all been taught how to deal with Zombies. I would like to think that if I come face to face with a rotting corpse who wants nothing more than to eat my delicious brains, then I would be able to overcome that situation without battering an eyelid. Remove the beasts head – no problemo.
So yeah, I could happily sort out a brain-muncher with a handy pick-axe handle. But life is not all about action, we would also have to deal with the emotional choices that, as survivors of a Zombie apocalypse, we would have to make. This is the role that Telltale Games have taken with their latest episodic game, The Walking Dead.
The popular TV show and Comic series upon which it is based, all revolve around an Officer Rick Grimes and his experiences after waking from a coma to a world that has been overrun by the Undead. However, in Telltale’s game, things kick off before Officer Rick wakes up and follows Lee Everett as he begins this story being carted off to prison. Right from the very start, the game sets a scene of foreboding as, whilst driving along the freeway, Police cars and Helicopters all seem to be rushing their way towards some catastrophe that is happening in the city.
I think we all know what’s coming, at least those of us with any past knowledge of The Walking dead do. For our main character, things go from bad to worse as he finds himself face to face with a Zombie that wants to feast on his tasty flesh. What follows is the tale of Lee Everett and the characters he meets along the way whilst trying to survive the Zombie apocalypse.
Split into five episodes, Telltales’ The Walking Dead feels more like an interactive graphic novel than what we have traditionally come to know as a Zombie game. The action sequences, of which there are a few, are separated by conversations with other characters, exploring and finding required items to move the story along. Those gamers who enjoy the graphic violence that often comes with Zombie games will be pleased to know that when the action does come, it is suitably over the top. Sticking a screwdriver in a Zombies head is as satisfying as ever.
But the game is all about the characters themselves and the relationships between them. The player will be presented with choices throughout the game which will affect how other characters interact with them. As an example, players will make a stop at Hershell’s farm, which comic book readers will recognise from early in the comic series. The player must decide whether or not to reveal the fact that he is a convicted felon to the owner of the farm, which may affect the level of trust between the two.
There are plenty of other examples of choices that need to be made within this first episode, and the consequences of these choices may not become apparent until later episodes. These choices, and the other interactions, allow the player to build a relationship with the various characters, becoming invested in their future. It is testament to Telltales’ story telling abilities that I became so emotionally involved with the characters. Towards the end of this episode was probably one of the most difficult decisions that I have ever made within a videogame – and I had to make that decision in a matter of seconds. It was that difficult because I had come to know the characters involved and actually cared what happened to them. I will say no more, find out for yourself.
Visually, the game has also taken inspiration from the comic book series. The cel-shaded looks have a distinctly graphic novel feel about them, albeit in colour. Whilst some may worry that the look gives the game too much of a cartoon-feel, it actually compliments the subject matter by enhancing the feeling of desperation without letting things get too gritty.
The Walking Dead: Episode One – A New Day is an amazing introduction to this series of games and will leave anyone who gives the game a chance wanting more. It will not appeal to everyone however, being that the game is heavy on narrative whilst being light on actual gameplay. But fans of the show or comics will be in their element with this utterly compelling game. Pick it up and learn how to deal with the harsh realities of a Zombie apocalypse.