The Walking Dead Game on PS3, XBOX 360, PC, iOS

May 2, 2013
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"Fight the Dead, Fear the Living!"

Game: The Walking Dead (THE GOOD ONE!)

Systems: PC/PS3/Xbox 360/iOS

Developer: Telltale Games

Genre: Interactive Adventure/Puzzle/Survival Horror

Rating: Mature

Aloha! Rambling Gamer Here! With this column I want to look at different, underrated games besides the typical dull and run of the mill, milked and redundant War Game franchises on the market. Call of Duty is far from a terrible game series, but at the same time there's never been much innovation since the first Modern Warfare game in 2007. Sure, the formula is good, it has splitscreen for friends (which is something I haven't seen much in a lot of current games), and I LOVE getting to hear the most vulgar and immature players whine over headset. But, I'm not going to shell out $60 on the same thing with some touch ups. I want something original that dares to be different. Fortunately, I found my answer at half the price: The Walking Dead game! I'm talking about the series that released a little last year. Starting last Spring it was split up in "episodes" until October, and then all 5 were released on disc in December. You might be wondering why I'm reviewing something that isn't exactly current. Well, they're supposed to be releasing a Season Two soon, and if you're a fan of AMC's shows like me, you'll probably want something to tide you over before say, the 4th Season of the Walking Dead or the final season of Breaking Bad. So why not catch up and see what you've been missing?

It might sound stupid to call a video game about a zombie apocalypse original and innovative. Zombies have been done to death (pun intended) in horror and would probably be number 2 behind terrorists if somebody made a top 5 list of most cliché game enemies. Hell, they're so cliché that they've been mixed with other cliché bad guys and you end up with things like Nazi Zombies. But the Walking Dead takes a very different approach. It shows you how people can be even bigger monsters, and takes a thought provoking look at people trying to survive the hardships in the new, hellish post plague world, and it definitely isn't afraid to ask "what would you do?" If anything, it's weird to call it a game at all. It's more like an experience, one you shouldn't miss out on. So let me do the obvious and tell you why I think YOU should give it a try, Since there's no MP, I'm going to split it up by story and gameplay.

(DISCLAIMER: DO NOT confuse this with the OTHER Walking Dead game, Survival Instinct! I'd never pressure you to buy such a STEAMING, SCATOLOGICAL, DISGUSTING TRAVESTY of a game! Sure, Daryl Dixon might be one of the coolest characters on the show, but if he were real he'd sure as hell be ASHAMED and INSULTED that this pathetic, rushed excuse for a game was made for him! The Walking Dead= Good Game! The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct: AVOID AT ALL COSTS!!!! HIDE YOUR WIFE!!! YOUR KIDS!!!! ANYTHING TO GET AWAY FROM THAT MESS OF A SICK, BLOATED CASH COW!!!!!)


From the beginning, the game gives you a warning of how what you do will alter the plot, a warning you shouldn't take lightly. The Game isn't a direct adaptation of the comics or show, instead, it's more of a spin off, having it's own original characters and story with some clever references to the comics here and there. You play as Lee Everett, starting out in an actually pretty calm opening. Lee is a man with a regrets, a convict who's in for murdering a senator because his wife had an affair with him. You're being escorted to jail in a squad car and chat a bit with the middle aged cop, and aside from the weird messages coming in on the car's police radio, there isn't really any sign that things are going to hell.

But then the cop swerves off the highway and for a change, Lee begins to follow the law. Murphy's Law, that is. The accident knocks him out cold and leaves him with a nasty leg injury, and like another certain main character in The Walking Dead, he literally sleeps through the start of the Apocalypse. He gets out of the car and what does he find? The cop lying in a pool of blood, an empty shotgun with a shell waiting to be loaded and used, and a really, REALLY rotten smell. Lee needs the keys to get out of his cuffs, which happen to be (in)conveniently on the cop's body. Now, anyone who's seen a zombie flick or the AMC series can probably guess the "shocker" that happens next. One jump scare and one shot to the face later, Lee is free, but he's still an alone newbie to this whole zombie apocalypse thing, and makes the mistake of yelling out to those shadowy figures in the distance, who'd rather eat his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti than help him out.

See? Anything that can go wrong will go wrong! But Lee won't tolerate the horde of decomposed Hannibal Lecter wannabes that want his entrails on a platter, and so he outruns (or out-limps in this case?) the hungry dead and hops a nearby fence, leaving him in the backyard of somebody who'll change his life forever. He runs into the (seemingly) abandoned house to look for bandages to patch up his leg. He finds a walkie talkie as well. A little girl named Clementine is hiding in the tree house in the backyard, and Lee, being a nice guy at heart who made one terrible decision, naturally wants to help the kid. You talk to her a bit, listen to some ominous messages from her parents on the family answering machine, and get a bit curious why she's hiding.

(Un)fortunately her undead babysitter is there right on time to answer that question. Clem gets down in time to hand you a hammer, and you finish her off in a pretty brutal scene. You head out and meet two young men, Shawn Greene and his buddy who has such a minor role that I forgot his name. Anyways, Shawn is related to Hershel, whom, to anyone new to the Walking Dead, is an old veterinarian who happens to run a farm miles out from civilization. Sounds good, right? WRONG.

Though, they have a pretty nice stay at the farm for a bit, and this part does a good job at giving you a first impression of most of the main survivor group you're with. Anyways, It's hard to talk about this game without spoiling plot, so I suppose I'll move on to...

The Gameplay:

Like I stressed before, it's kind of weird to call the Walking Dead a "game" when it's more like it's own animal, like a hybrid of mediums. This is NOT your typical, fast paced zombie shooting gallery. Though, that was never the main focus of the Walking Dead as a series. The zombies are usually put on the sidelines, the main focus is usually the psychological impact the Apocalypse has and the drama and tension that'd come with survival. The game lets you interact at points, usually offering you a few ways to approach a decision, and I love how it works. At the end of each episode you can actually see your stats compared to other players and find out if you were the minority or majority with certain choices, which was a touch touch in my opinion. You can choose how Lee reacts to things, and while some ways are better and more moral than others, the swings and mood feel natural. Even some of the more threatening and angrier responses you can make Lee say don't seem too out of character for him. I tried to think about what I'd do and I tried to make Lee a humble, neutral type who still gets assertive when he needs to be. It's interesting how your choices can come back to bite you too.

For example, without giving anything way, Lee's friend forces him to go along with some tough choices and so I tried to talk him out of it. While I didn't like his shift in character, I was impressed with how real the strain in their bond felt. It really is up to you when it comes to who you want to side with, and you can't please everyone. It was tough arguing with old friends, and my God it was depressing trying to tell hopelessly optimistic half truths about Clem's parents to make her feel better, when the voicemail in the opening makes it pretty clear that the odds don't seem to be in their favor. Like life, it's pretty much what you make of it.

Aside from being forced into tough dilemmas and having some of a say, another big part of the Walking Dead's gameplay seems to be puzzles/investigations. They're really practical and satisfying to solve though. Whether it's finding something to MacGyver a silent zombie slaying weapon, improvising an escape or investigating suspicions in the group, they're all pretty varied and well done, for the most part anyways. Sometimes the game hints you on how to do the obvious but doesn't really help much when it comes to well, more difficult stuff. That was a bit frustrating, but like the story, the game itself doesn't really hold back. I couldn't be mad at it for long. It never assumes that the audience are lobotmized apes. Despite the low budget you can really tell that the developer's put an effort into making an unorthodox, thought provoking "game".

Unfortunately, the low budget might be a turnoff for some. The Graphics aren't a technical gift from the Gods. It's a bit cartoonish and meant to be a homage to the art style of the comics. It might bum you and make you wonder how it can be scary at all, but it has enough psychological thrills and tension to make up for that. The controls are a bit (more like A LOT on the mobile version) clunky and lag on occasion which sometimes gets me killed when I have a delayed reaction in a fight and I can't swing my gun around fast enough. Another thing that bugged me was the lack of a sprint button. You shouldn't have a casual walk in a BLOODY, ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (pun kinda intended)! Though, the awkward controls sort of make sense in context. Lee isn't meant to be a hardened Marine or John Mclane type Supercop. He's an average, flawed mortal man in one tough adventure in Post-Apocalypse Foster Parenting.

Overall, I enjoyed it. It wasn't "fun", but it was compelling, engaging, and for a $30 dollar package it really has stronger writing than a lot of big budget, full price games. While it might be funny to say about a zombie game, the story really hit home and resonated with me, and this is saying alot for being the soulless scumbag who laughed at the incinerator scene that made everybody cry in Toy Story 3 (they could always be recycled if the were melted, and besides, Pixar could milk the franchise more that way! Tupperware Story anybody?). Clementine WASN'T a cartoonish, brain dead stereotype of a little kid (unlike the other kid in the survivor group whose so forgettable I forgot his name -_-), no. Having a good bit of young cousins that I have to help care for weekly really helped immerse me into it. I'd loathe to have them exposed to all the hardships Lee and Clem have to face. As corny as it sounds, it really moved me and got me thinking. While I doubt I'd have to worry about protecting them from zombies, it honestly made me appreciate being there for them a bit more, and that's a poignant thing for a half price, low budget game to pull off. The Walking Dead was a pleasant surprise for me.

And if an underrated independent game can do that, why can't more of the popular ones try to deliver, innovate and mature? Sure, mindless shooting can kill a little time, but if more games had meaningful, down to Earth stories like The Walking Dead, gaming probably wouldn't be such a scapegoat for crimes and be considered "brain rotting" by people who've never played a game in their life. I'm not asking much. But with reality TV trash like Honey Boo Boo and all the remakes in Hollywood lately, there's got to be SOMEWHERE else I could go to get a good story, right? While as a story I give it a 9.5, as a game, I'd give it an 8/10.

Fortunately, there is, and at a pretty cheap price. And it is NOT the steaming mediocrity that is Survival Instinct.

The Good:

- Compelling, thought Provoking Writing and Characters

- Where the story goes is mostly up to YOU

-Makes up for cheaper graphics with more psychological fear

-Puzzles done nicely

-Has a seperate focus from the show and comics but it doesn't deviate from it

-Has some clever nods/crossovers to the source material

-Groundbreaking and innovative

-Unlike the show, you'll HATE zombie encounters and be motivated to protect the group

-Clementine feels real and isn't a burden

The Bad:

-Kind of a love it or hate it experience. Might be a bit slow paced for some.

-Can be pretty glitchy and laggy sometimes

-Was almost UNPLAYABLE on my iPad when I tried the free demo version because of the awkward touch controls, so get it on the console or PC version if you can.

-Some of the choices are a bit binary and linear (Ex: I tried the third option once when I saw a woman being attacked by a horde in a street. You either had to run into a nearby convience store and use her to occupy the undead while you look for food and supplies, or use your sniper rifle to put her out of her misery. Not wanting to do either, I tried gunning for the nearest zombie and even on a clear kill shot to the face, the game just passed it off as a miss and forced me to run away and stop being a hero. What the hell, game?!?!?)

-Sadly the only GOOD Walking Dead game is one without any Daryl Dixon.

The Ugly:

-After the first zombie kill in the opening, Lee asks "are you dead?" WHAT DO YOU THINK?!?!?! I get that zombie/vampire movies don't exist in horror stories with them so they can excuse the characters being unfamiliar with the monsters, BUT STILL! TWELVE GAUGE+FACE=DEATH.

All in all though, I recommend it. Live long and prosper, and until I review again, this is the Rambling Gamer sounding off!

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