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The Walking Dead game review

Astonishing
AT A GLANCE
  • An incredible story
  • Well-developed characters
  • Seeing how your choices affect the rest of the series
  • Infrequent graphic and audio bugs
  • Some choices feel meaningless or futile
  • Looking Clementine in the eyes after doing something wrong

By and large, most choice-driven games have followed the same formula, inviting you to make your mark in the world by deciding if you want to be “good” or “bad,” and accepting the binary nature of existence. But in the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead, where the titular dead walk the decaying earth, the notion of good and bad is somewhat dated. There’s no “right” when right can mean shooting an innocent child before it can turn into a flesh-eating beast, and there’s no “wrong” when wrong can mean stealing the supplies you need to survive from those just as needy as you. The Walking Dead is the story of the choices you can’t live with, and the choices you can, coming together to create an experience as depressing and pessimistic as it is remarkable and memorable.

The Walking Dead never pretends to be anything less than a cruel, dour analysis of humanity’s downfall. You’re tossed into the cuffs of Lee Everett, a convicted murderer on his way to prison when the first episode begins. In the opening moments, his police escort is sidetracked by the zombie apocalypse, freeing Lee into a world that’s not nearly as comfortable as a jail cell would've been. Soon, he’s joined by the young Clementine, a child left on her own after her parents took a poorly timed vacation and her babysitter contracted a bad case of the flesh munchies. And off into the new, horrible world Lee goes, hoping to find Clementine’s parents despite knowing that they’re likely dead; off to find sanctuary when he doubts one even exists.

In stark contrast to the rest of gaming, The Walking Dead is more focused on what you do than how you do it. There aren’t many traditional puzzles, per se, as much as there are tasks that you’re asked to perform to move the story forward. Menial activities like finding batteries for a radio or starting up a train aren’t all that engaging by themselves, but they serve a very necessary pacing purpose, as well as give you a chance to explore the world a bit and get to know the characters better. If you’re looking to rampage around Georgia popping the heads off of undead monsters, you’re better served by one of the many other zombie games on the market.

Though some might be turned off by this minimization of traditional gameplay, it works well in the context of the game. The effect you have on the world is fairly minimal by design, mixing together Telltale’s point-and-click adventure game style with a smattering of quick-time events and choice-driven dialogue. This amorphous take on gameplay works very well to make you feel like you’re a part of the world, without allowing you to go too far off the rails. But just because you’re not allowed to stray too far off the beaten path, doesn’t mean you don’t have an actual influence--on the contrary, your words and actions actually play an integral part in crafting the world.

Incredibly strong writing and voice-acting give the narrative the spotlight it deserves. The vast majority of the characters you interact with are well-developed, and it’s hard not to feel compassion for even the meanest of the bunch, making you actually care about who you foster relationships with and who you choose to disappoint. What’s more, your actions have an impact not just on the events that you encounter, but in how people treat you. Don’t back up Kenny when his son is accused of being bitten, and he might not have your back a few episodes later when you need him to. Side with Lilly when she’s trying to ration the food, and she might respect you enough to help you in the coming episodes.

Your choices, both large and small, have repercussions, and can change the course of the remaining episodes--even if it’s only a slight shift. Split-second choices made later in the game can rewrite how people react to you regardless of how you’ve treated them up to that point, making each and every action all the more important. Inaction, too, is usually an option, amplified by the inclusion of a timer that makes it possible to completely miss a chance at making a decision, forcing you to sit on the sidelines and watch whatever your indifference hath wrought.

These decisions wouldn't be as emotional if it didn’t feel like there was something on the line, but there is: Clementine. The hopelessness of the world would be infectious if not for her constant optimism, giving you something to fight for. She’s slow to adapt to the fact that good and evil are now meaningless, and her innocence keeps the concept of hope alive in the survivors. More importantly, it makes it harder to justify going against what you think is truly “right,” since you know you’re going to have her big, sad eyes staring up at you. It’s heartbreaking and motivational, inspirational and depressing.

The Walking Dead’s success isn’t in creating a Choose Your Own Adventure game with hundreds of possible outcomes and limitless plotlines. Instead, it reflect the reality of life, reminding you that many of the choices you’re given have predetermined outcomes, and some things simply can’t be changed. And yet, this undermining of everything that makes The Walking Dead unique is arguably its greatest triumph. Despite not always being in control, The Walking Dead makes you feel as though you are. Even though you can’t always save someone from death, you can give it your best try, shaping the person you are. And it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth the effort to change what, in all likelihood, can not be changed. 

Sure, you can replay it to see what else would happen, but that won’t change anything. It won’t change that you’re not going to leave The Walking Dead happy. You’ll feel like you made mistakes. You’ll feel like you could have done better, if you gave it another go. At best, you’ll leave without any regrets, knowing that you did the best you could do. The Walking Dead deals in a spectrum of emotion that few other games dare to take on, and it does so with aplomb. It’s utterly triumphant, crafting a narrative that proves the power of the medium by embracing what makes it unique, leading to one of the most memorable gameplay experiences ever created.

More Info

Release date: Apr 24 2012 - Xbox 360, PC, PS3 (US)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS Vita, PC, PS3
Genre: Action
Published by: Telltale Games
Developed by: Telltale Games
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language

Topics

telltale

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73 comments

  • Beatenbythedead13 - March 8, 2014 6:15 a.m.

    Most over rated tripe ever
  • Mr.YumYums - July 1, 2013 12:56 p.m.

    Cool spoilers in the comment section......
  • Dave2123 - April 9, 2013 5:10 p.m.

    I don't believe this game deserves GOTY and how can you give it full marks when there are some bad points. I know it's based on the comic but why would i want to play a game with rubbish graphics when there are such amazing ones out there. This can hardly be called a game considering today's modern standards. It's innovative and I can see why some people like it but the only thing you do is (basically) click. The story, however, is engrossing and very well written, but the lack of proper gameplay and graphics mean it is severely lacking. If it had the graphics and gameplay of some AAA titles it could be the best game ever made, but really, the only attraction is the story and your connections to the characters (which would be even better if you could fully control them). It's, essentially, some decisions made by clicking and loads of cut scenes, which usually everyone complains about despite adding greatly to the story. They should have made a television series out of it or something.......oh wait!
  • pinoklin - September 14, 2013 10:22 p.m.

    you're not dissing the game for it's graphics are you? You do know that the game has it's own art style, that makes it even more unique than AAA standard "good" graphics. who the fuck needs realism when you have a unique style. also, the gameplay is brilliant, as it merges you with the story, it's not a shooter, f you want something 100% gameplay focused play left4dead, it's fucking awesome and fits your tastes too.
  • MeLuvWalkingDead - February 26, 2013 4:08 p.m.

    okay. I finished the game a second time and I found out that if you hide the bite, you go alone except you can either bring Ben or Kenny, but Christa and Omid bail. I brought Ben and your forced to cut your arm off YOURSELF. And guess what happens while you're doing that. Ben passes out onto the floor. Its pretty funny. Don't call me stupid but I just found that out today because everyone I know shows the bite and I wanted to see what happes when you hide it. SO yeah, needed to share that with somebody.
  • MeLuvWalkingDead - February 18, 2013 12:29 p.m.

    Dear Robert Kirkman, When will season two come out? It's killing me!!! I wanna know who we're gonna play as in the next season. Hopefully it's Clementine.
  • MeLuvWalkingDead - February 16, 2013 12:30 p.m.

    Hey t_skewl. I totally 100% agree with you. The game wasnt just suspenseful, but it put a dramatic act in there. It isn't just about people running for their lives from zombies. But it's also about the human nature and not just killing and stuff. It's really unique and I think Robert Kirkman did a fantastic job on the game, show, and comics. I'm glad there's none of that romantic crap in there, cause that would've kinda ruined it. That's just my opinion. Disagree if you want to. But, well. I'm a sucker for romantic movies. But romance and zombies, just don't fit. Reply back to me if you agree.
  • MeLuvWalkingDead - February 16, 2013 12:21 p.m.

    Hey guys. Thanks to my bro, I'm a walking dead FREAK! I love the game. It's so suspenseful and it makes me cry, and go on the edge of my seat. Thank you Robert Kirkman. Long live you! You rock!
  • NotoriousGamer - February 14, 2013 3:22 p.m.

    I cried at the ending of Episode 5, I agree with everything but you should also add that if you only care about gameplay then this won't be for you, fantastic game 100/100, 10/10, 5,5!
  • ObliqueZombie - December 28, 2012 12:01 a.m.

    I bawled like a goddamn baby during the final minutes of episode 5. No game in my 14+ years of gaming has done such a feat. This truly is worthy of the GOTY award.
  • BladedFalcon - December 11, 2012 5:42 a.m.

    Okay, so I finally bought and played this game based primarily on this review and all the praise it has been getting, and I definitely didn't walk away disappointed. The artstyle is great, the story is overall amazing, but specially, the characters and the voice acting are just incredible, merging together to create a very bleak, and deeply moving experience. I certainly wouldn't be upset if this won game of the year.
  • CitizenWolfie - November 28, 2012 2:23 a.m.

    "At best, you’ll leave without any regrets, knowing that you did the best you could do" This was exactly my experiences upon completing the game. Easily my personal GOTY and one of my favourites of the past ten years. Really glad it was honoured with five stars.
  • Edias - November 27, 2012 3:23 p.m.

    I've been gaming practically my whole life, and The Walking Dead has proven to be one of the best gaming experiences of my life thus far. Sure, the gameplay was simplistic and the choices could have had a larger impact on the outcome but the story was excellent and the gameplay worked well enough to drive it along. I wish more games were of this caliber, and I can only hope that Telltale will take what they've learned from this season to make the next one even better. Also, without hopefully spoiling anything for anyone (skip the rest if you're worried about it) my money is on Kenny being the main character next season. I've heard some speculation on this, from various people/on various websites, but this is the option that makes the most sense to me. He's gone through a lot, he's grown considerably as a person, he has the potential to grow even more and he's got the strength and willpower to make it as a leader and to (possibly even) survive. They could even start the next season off right where they left him. It would make for a thrilling start to the season.
  • kazi-izak - December 27, 2012 4:54 p.m.

    Bro, Kenny Died :'( while trying to save Ben.
  • deus ex treme - November 27, 2012 2:18 p.m.

    Will this game be coming to xbox 360 on disc?
  • Craza - November 27, 2012 1:16 p.m.

    I watched Pewdiepie's playthrough on YouTube, and it was absolutely amazing to watch. It made me want to buy it and play through it making my own decisions. At the end of episode 5, Pewdie just breaks down and leans off screen to bawl his eyes out, and I was right along with him. I didn't agree with all of the choices he made, but seeing how fleshed out it was really astonished me. It was on sale on Steam, but I still didn't have the money to buy it. Maybe near Christmas when Steam has their big winter sale, I'll buy it. It is a must-play, and I'm happy as can be to see it's gotten such high marks.
  • liamn-chunk-boy-burns - December 6, 2012 1:25 p.m.

    You watched pewdiepie's ones? there well funny, but so are cry's. type in cry plays: walking dead. it is brilliant
  • patbateman17 - November 27, 2012 8:27 a.m.

    Absolutely, hands-down my favorite game of the past few years and easily my GOTY. I can't remember the last time a game sucked me in on such an emotional level. In Episode 4 I actually reloaded to make two different decisions after deciding my snap decisions weren't good...and actually regretted doing that. The best way to play this one is snap-decision making and just live with it. I def. think everyone should play this game, absolutely incredible.

Showing 1-20 of 73 comments

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