The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – A New Day Review
April 24, 2012
PC (Steam), XBLA, PSN
Zombies are a recurring theme in modern games, and that’s anything but a complaint from me, I personally am a massive fan of the genre. Movies, Games, Books, Comics, you name it and I’ll give it a go, so I didn’t hesitate when I heard they were making a Walking Dead game. My interest was piqued in the series after I stumbled across the comic books, then I learnt there was a TV show, which went on to become one of my favorite series of all time. And now this, I’d been following the game for a little bit before it came out, and that had its ups and downs. At first all I could think of was how epic it would be, to be able to actually be inside the world I’ve been learning about, and then I worried that turning it into a game would distract from what makes the series so great. The emotion. It’s rare to find something like the Walking Dead, something that really grips you and makes you feel what the characters feel, and it’s tough to try and capture that in a time when most games are a thrill ride of special effects and action. It’s refreshing to see that Telltale Games have done something different, they’ve really followed suit of the comics and TV series.
One thing I found out about the game before I actually played it, I feel, is a pretty important thing to bear in mind whilst playing the game. Think of The Walking Dead as an interactive story as opposed to a fully-fledged game, this might put some people off, because there isn’t quite as much ‘gaming’ as other titles on the market, but you have to make really difficult choices in the game, and we’re told that these choices will follow us through the remainder of the story, and will come back to either help, or potentially hinder us.
Something I was a little skeptical about, before playing the game, is the way that it’s being released. They’re planning to release an episode every month, for a total of 5 episodes. This worried me, because I felt that making players wait to progress might throw them off a little, and maybe put them off from continuing the story. But we’ll have to wait and see. Personally, after just finishing episode 1, I really want to continue. The storyline is equally as gripping as the TV, maybe even more so because you are in charge, every decision is in your hands, and that makes me feel like this game is going to be different for everybody. That, is something I love about gaming, sitting around with your friends talking about your personal experience, and how you and other people handled it. A nice little touch is that at the end of the episode it shows you a few statistics about how many people took the same major choices as you, and you can see there is a real divide of people in some cases.
I was also a little worried about the story, being that the developers decided against following the story we’re familiar with, and set the game in a time before we knew about Rick, and before everyone knew the world had completely gone well and truly down the pan. We do meet some familiar faces along the way, and you’ll recognize some of the areas in the game, but don’t worry, because the game is set before the series, I haven’t stumbled across any potential spoilers as of yet. I’m not going to delve into the specifics of the story, because I feel like it’s important that you, as a player, know as little as possible before you begin. That way the story really is yours to mold.
Let’s have a little look at the actual gameplay, the premise is simple, you control Lee around the world and in a way similar to point and click adventures, you move a reticle around the screen and choose whether to ‘Investigate’, ‘Use’, or whatever other options are available at the time. Physical input is minimal, but mentally, and even emotionally, you really need to work hard to make a choice. What makes it even more difficult is that the bigger choices you’ll need to make, the real live or die choices, are on the clock. The situation slows down, and you’re in Lee’s shoes. You genuinely feel like it’s all up to you, and not in a Superhero “save the world” kind of way, but in a “all of these people are relying on me” kind of way.
One criticism I have is that the reticle system can seem a little bit in the way, filling up the screen with all the options can sometimes distract from the real substance, but then something will happen to pull you right back in again. Also, some of the animations look a little off, and the voice acting, although good, seems hastily cut together, with sentences feeling like they cut off too early, and sentences starting in one tone, and ending in another. Although, in a situation like an apocalypse, it almost feels right that people wouldn’t be as in control of their emotions as before. That being said, I can’t defend it as a feature, it just sounds a little weird.
Despite these issues, and the few places where animation isn’t quite perfect the art style in this game is fantastic, reminiscent of graphic novels, in a Borderlands-esque, cell-shaded style.
To be honest, even though there are some blips with animation and audio, I feel like the game runs really well, and I know a lot of people really didn’t like the Jurassic Park game that came from these guys, but this is definitely a well needed step up from that.
I would strongly recommend picking up this game, although the first episode is relatively short, it paves the way for some really great things to come, and with multiple save slots I’ll definitely be going back and changing the major decisions, just to see how it plays out later on. It really fulfills the notion that a great storyline is more important than some of the more technical things in a game.