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Old 04-26-2012   #1
Don Chipotle
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The Walking Dead part 1: A New Day

I don't know if you heard but there is a pretty popular television show called The Walking Dead. Did you know that that show was pretty shit for most of its episodes? Well did you also know that the show is based on a pretty good comic book series called The Walking Dead? What do you mean no? Have you been living under a rock?

It is no surprise that a video game based on The Walking Dead would get made, I mean hell there is already a Game of Thrones game in the works and that show is even worse than TWD (and the books suck too!) so it was obviously only a matter of time. After all, zombies are still kind of a big thing in games. A video game based on The Walking Dead could easily be a third person shooter in the Left 4 Dead style and honestly, I expected that. What I did not expect was for Telltale, the guys who made Sam and Max and Money Island relevant again and made one decent Back to the Future game, to make an adventure game version of Walking Dead.

And I did not expect it to be so engrossing.

For fans of the comic/show, know going in that you aren't going to be playing as Rick Grimes. You don't run into Shane or Lori or Michonne. At least not yet. The game is its own story that serves as both a prequel and sidestory to the main series, and it follows more in line with the comic than the show.

Most of what makes the comic so appealing is that a large portion of the conflict comes not from the zombies but from the tension and conflict from the cast. Though the characters in the game are new, Telltale did not skimp on the character interaction and drama.

The Walking Dead game puts you in the shoes of Lee Everett, who finds himself in the back of a squad car when the game opens. You don't know why he is in the back of the cop car, but from the way he interacts with the cop it is clear that he has been through some shit and is just trying to live a regular life. Of course, as this is a zombie game, things go tits up and soon Lee finds himself having to deal with zombies and acting as a surrogate father for Clementine, a young girl whose parents are away when everything goes down.

A character like Clementine should, naturally, set off all sorts of alarms. Kids in apocalyptic scenarios are always terrible, either they are annoyingly loud and stupid or annoyingly precocious. Clementine is neither and her interactions with Lee (and his interactions with her) sells their relationship almost immediately which makes the rest of the episode believable and appropriately dramatic.

Lee eventually runs across some other survivors ranging from a family of three to a reporter to a computer nerd and it is when Lee is interacting with these people that the game really shines.

The game is an adventure game but it is an adventure game in the L.A. Noire/Heavy Rain sense of the word with just a pinch of Alpha Protocol in the mix. You control Lee with the left stick and you look around with the right stick. As you walk around the environment you will find different interactable objects. Standard adventure game fare. The L.A. Noire and Alpha Protocol bits come into play when talking with people. You don't get to redo conversations and you have a limited amount of time to respond. Characters react and respond differently to your responses and since you can't think about responses for too long or go back and select them, you have to live with your decisions. Decision making is not a new video game mechanic, and some would argue that there is too much of it in games these days, but in The Walking Dead your choices have weight as they will often get reflected right back at you.

And the game will make sure the consequences are felt.

One thing the game does rather well is the characters. While they aren't all great and one of them is a walking cliche, the characters for the most part are all unique and interesting. It is hard to say these characters are well developed since this is part one of five, but they have all shown that there is more to them than what they put on the surface.

The part where the game is a game is standard fare. It's not overly difficult and it is fairly linear. There's only one real puzzly part but it is perhaps the most tense part of the game. It involves finding ways to silently kill six zombies and the only weapon the group has is a gun. The solutions to the puzzles are all fairly obvious, though I found myself rolling my eyes at a few of the solutions. There's not much to the actual gameplay part, which is good since it allows the game to focus on its strength: the writing and characters.

Much like Heavy Rain, The Walking Dead is a game that I simply do not want to play through again. And I'm not. It would ruin the game if you played through it again purposely seeing the different ways your choices impact the narrative.

The game is also fairly short, but again this is an episodic series. I finished it in just over two hours and I thought that it was a good length, especially for five bucks. Above all, though, this game does the impossible. It makes zombies actually terrifying. Yes, they are still kind of dumb and slow moving, but by the end of the game I was terrified.

While I cannot recommend this game on a gameplay level, I can recommend it on a dramatic and character-driven level. Unless you're some crazy person who thinks that zombie games can't possibly be good or tense. The Walking Dead: A New Day is a great introduction to what could be the best zombie related video game in years.

How dreamlike to see my x-sisters, outside the context of a Papa Song dome. They sang Papa Song’s Psalm, over and over; background hydraulics underbassed that sickening melody. But how jubilant they sounded! Their Investment was paid off. The voyage to Hawaii was under way, and their new life on Xultation would shortly begin... Watching them from the hangway, I envied their certainty about the future.
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