Saturday, 28 April 2012

Review: The Walking Dead Episode 1

The Walking Dead is a game all about story, characters and choice; the gameplay mechanics function well, but make no mistake that is not what will draw you into the game. The developers have made very clear that your decisions will impact, not only the current episode you are playing, but the series as a whole. From what I have seen of the game so far this doesn't seem like an idle promise either, and I am very excited to see how the whole series knits together. The first episode allows for three saves, so you can play through multiple times and see the results of different decisions. As an interesting addition, at the end of each episode, you can see the statistics of  how other players handled the major decisions.
The general presentation of The Walking Dead is very impressive, even if there are quite a few technical flaws, the visuals, audio and general execution are done brilliantly. The graphics convey the games graphic novel roots, many shots look like they could have come from a comic book page. The frame rate is a very noticeable issue throughout the game, especially at the start when you meet your first herd of zombies. The music score that accompanies the game is stunning; it manages to wrack up the tension when when danger is present, but also helps make some of the person to person moments heart wrenching. Some very hard truths have to be told. Throughout the game the camera is a problem as it is frequently awkward and can obstruct your view, though this wasn't a problem during the action sequences.
Throughout the game you meet a sizeable cast of characters who will all make an impression on you and who are all voiced by some incredible talent. The story revolves around two characters and their involvement in a larger group. You play as a middle aged man trying to survive as the world goes to hell who forms a partnership a little girl. The relationship between your character, Lee, and the girl, Clementine, is great as she looks up to him and he protects over her; he possibly sees her as a source of  atonement for mistakes he made in the past. There are some moments of dark humour amid the craziness that show that, even if the world is over, people are still human. My only issue with the character models was that sometimes they tried to make the faces too expressive and eyebrows would just go everywhere.

There are some truly touching moments in The Walking Dead, which hopefully will be continued in the future episodes. To reiterate this is very much a story and character driven game, you have a group of ordinary people in extreme circumstances and you are witnessing the results. Much like the rest of the franchise the walkers are not the only antagonists, you are dealing with some of the worst aspects of human nature as well; in many ways the walkers aren't even the main adversaries, they are just a nuisance in the background of a very human drama. There are four more episodes yet to come, in monthly instalments, and I for one cannot wait to see how the story unfolds.

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