The Walking Dead game review

  • 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



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  • slimjim441 - April 24, 2012 11:38 a.m.

    Sweet. Pretty happy I pre-ordered the first 'season.' At least so far. We'll see how things go. Meanwhile, I'm downloading Episode 1...
  • F4G1TR0N - April 24, 2012 11:44 a.m.

    Nice job Coop, mmm watched the TV series and am not fond of it, same with the comic, through I appreciate what they have both done for the zombie genre. Maybe this game will give me a chance to get in? Would you say it would be worth it to buy the season pass?
  • GR HollanderCooper - April 24, 2012 11:49 a.m.

    I honestly don't know, but definitely pick up the first episode.
  • F4G1TR0N - April 24, 2012 11:56 a.m.

    Sounds good man, if anything I will get my friend to buy it, he happens to love the walking dead haha.
  • grappler51 - April 24, 2012 12:01 p.m.

    Is the season pass only $25? Seems like a pretty good deal. I loved the comics and the TV series is pretty great as well, so I might have to pick this up.
  • patbateman17 - April 24, 2012 12:58 p.m.

    So they will be releasing episodes monthly starting today? I always debate whether or not to pay for something that isn't out yet...what if Ep 1 is awesome, Ep 2 sucks, Ep 3 is mediocre, Ep 4 is awesome and Ep 5 sucks?...
  • IsaacShadow - April 24, 2012 2:29 p.m.

    When is is going to be released on to Xbox Live? I check and it isn't there for purchase. I would really like to get my hands on it.
  • Hydr0ponicK - April 24, 2012 5:53 p.m.

    I read that it's still in development for 360
  • godisanarc - April 25, 2012 4:02 a.m.

    Comes out today 4/25/12 on 360.
  • Hydr0ponicK - April 24, 2012 5:42 p.m.

    Just played the demo, and with the PS3 pass at $20, it's a pretty tempting purchase.
  • Hydr0ponicK - April 24, 2012 5:52 p.m.

    Does anyone know how long the season pass offer last by the way?
  • patbateman17 - April 25, 2012 6:51 a.m.

    That seems to be the set price. I have a hard time paying for something that will be out every month for the next 4 months...maybe I'm just a skeptic.
  • Hydr0ponicK - April 26, 2012 2:36 a.m.

    I was skeptical too but I did it anyways. This first episode was fun and I'm excited for the next one. The ps3 theme is cool to boot.
  • patbateman17 - April 26, 2012 6:34 a.m.

    Yeah I mean, I spend $20 on lunch at work in two really, if each episode is 2-3 hours at 5 episodes and are even just as good as the first, I'd say it's a pretty good deal. Not to mention I just dropped that much on Crysis 1 and am sort of wondering what all the praise was about - so far I find it REALLY difficult to spot enemies with all the bright colors. Maybe I just suck at Crytek games :) although I enjoy Far Cry 2 minus the pointless driving from map end to map end.
  • fault3 - April 25, 2012 12:34 p.m.

    so you write about taking care of a girl and taking her under your wing.. but underneath it you show the same girl now being a zombie :D i guess that is the end of that episode :D
  • patbateman17 - April 25, 2012 1:53 p.m.

    That would be the babysitter. Please play the demo before commenting.
  • jackthemenace - April 25, 2012 2:54 p.m.

    The lack of score's kind of a bummer :P But, yes, I'm very tempted to pick this up (metaphorically) on PS3 at some point. My only worry is that my mate's told me it's brilliant, but kind-of short, and I don't want to be shelling out £4-£5 every month for something that, in the end, isn't going to total the amount of time and content a full-blown non-episodic game would
  • Hydr0ponicK - April 26, 2012 2:39 a.m.

    You'll want to play the episode again as the choices you make will drastically change the story.
  • Gennadios - April 27, 2012 1:24 a.m.

    My first playthrough clocked in at around 2.15 hours. Closer to 3 if you cake into account me switching back and forth through several sections just to see what kind of outcomes I like best. Are you really that worried about shelling out 5 pounds for a 2 hour game when the majority of AAA titles feature 6 - 8 hours of gameplay for 60?
  • WINNER: Dark Souls - April 30, 2012 4:01 a.m.

    Plus it's only $5..C'mon, man.

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