Thursday, 5 July 2012

Review: The Walking Dead Episode 2

It often seems that the best zombie stories are the ones that focus on the interplay between the living as much as they do of the dead; zombies, walkers, the infected or whatever they are are obvious dangers but humans can be just as monstrous, if not worse as they are self aware. This is why The Walking Dead the game succeeds as a brilliant work of fiction as the humans are well thought out with their own agendas and allegiances. The walkers were a much more imminent threat in Episode 1, but in this episode they take a bit of a back seat to a more human drama. Whilst there are some obviously good characters, like your adopted daughter Clementine from the first episode, most characters are shades of grey, and cannot always be relied on.

Like episodes of the TV show, Episode 2 of the game starts with a previously on section tailored to your play through of Episode 1 and ends with a preview of the next episode. Whilst the story is original and very separate from the TV show it still has a very cinematic quality with it's long cut-scenes, artistic graphics and emotional characters. The game plays like the previous episode did; there are plenty of conversation choices, as well as a bit of point and click exploring and QTE action scenes. The emotional tie between you and Clementine isn't emphasised as much as it was in the first episode, which is a shame, but there are still three more episodes coming to further develop that in.
A couple of new faces bolster the ranks of an already impressive cast.
 Episode 2 starts off gruesome and only gets worse as you play through. The survivors of the first episode are now holed up in a crude fort but have run out of food and there are even more people to feed too. A couple of men from a dairy farm happen by and offer to exchange food for petrol, and even invite the group back with them, but bandits threaten the peace and events unfold in a way you would not have guessed from the start of the episode. I don't want to ruin it but I will say that I was equal parts shocked and appalled by the end, though of course, it left me very excited for the next episode.

Episode 1 was characterised by a feeling of dread as the clear and present danger of a horde of walkers is ever present, in contrast Episode 2 has a disquieting feeling, that may seem less severe, but in fact is more alarming. Like I've said before the walker threat is more obvious, whilst the human treat may not be seen before it is too late. What if you don't trust people and they turn out to be saints? But then what happens if the opposite is true? Tension is slowly built up throughout the game, but it's not obvious if something is amiss, if you are just looking too deeply into something small or if you are looking in the entirely wrong direction.
Even in a zombified world kids are still kids.
My main concern with the game at the moment is that if they stick to their current schedule of one episode every two months, and if your choices are indeed remembered, that it will be too hard to remember what your choices in the first few episodes were. The only other problem I had with the game was that the camera angle can feel awkward at times, but with this sort of game that will always be a problem. The only bug I experienced was my character not appearing in frame for one shot and that isn't a big deal at all.

Overall Episode 2 is a great addition to what is fast becoming one of my favourite video games of the year. It mixes together good story telling, interesting characters and doesn't shoehorn in contrived plot points, which together creates a gripping story. The game goes at its own pace and may not be for action lovers but if you are interested in a good story then The Walking Dead the Game should offer you a treat. I give this episode:

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