Telltale Games is famous for turning hit franchises (Jurassic Park, Back to the Future) into adventure games, and now The Walking Dead is among them. This game is based off of Robert Kirkman’s award-winning comic series. The Walking Dead is quite different from other adventure games, due in large part to constant rough decisions and cinematic action. That is why this game is something special and worthy of the hype it has been receiving.
Telltale chose to put every single action and decision in your hands, and the experience is enthralling. Think of this as a shooter, but instead of enemies with guns, it is choices. Most are timed, some long, some short, but you need to choose quickly. Usually, there are four choices that will change things throughout the episodic series, and its scope depends on how you decide to resolve the action. The game starts out in a sheriff’s car, and there are a number of emergency vehicles driving around. Suddenly, a zombie crosses the highway; the car strikes the zombie and crashes in the woods. You are then immediately thrown into the action with zombies quickly closing in on the crash site. The first scene has you trying to grab a shotgun on your left and a shell on your right. You go to put the shell in, but you drop it as a zombie is crawling towards you. This is shown in a first-person view to add tension and suspense. You turn the camera and click on the shotgun shell to try again, cock the gun, and blow the zombie’s brains out. All this happens in the first two minutes of gameplay.
The game is packed full of sequences like this, but is nicely paced; there are some areas where you can wander around and explore, like most adventure games. Usually, this involves gathering a few items to continue on, but the game focuses on conversations, and there is a choice to be made for almost everything you say. A hint will pop up at the top of the screen telling you how the character reacted, how important it was, and to tell you that this choice will affect something later on. Some of the choices are so drastic that they change how the entire episode plays out. The decision to save certain people happens so quickly that you only get a few seconds to decide. In some instances, you only have a few seconds to determine the entire course of the game.
As you would expect, there is plenty of zombie killing, but it is done in a more realistic way than other games. There may be times where you will have to sneak around, trying to figure out how to take out zombies as inconspicuously as possible. There will be tools in the area that you have to somehow get without alerting the zombies. These tasks are cleverly designed puzzles, and it integrates with the story seamlessly, keeping you engaged with the game at all times. Stabbing and killing zombies feels satisfying thanks to clever camera work, which puts you right in the front seat of the action.
The game will keep you hooked, and you won’t want to quit. The voice acting is great, with a comic book art style to help bring the world to life. The only complaint would be that the game is lacking technically, featuring low resolution textures, poor sound quality in spots, and some glitches (stuttering and hang-ups). However, this shouldn’t irk you enough to turn the game off out of frustration, and hopefully, a patch will come along for the hiccups.
Overall, The Walking Dead: Episode 1 is a great start to a possibly great series. With engaging cinematic camera work mixed in with great storytelling, you will be hooked. If you can look past the dated visuals and technical flaws, you will be in for one of the best zombie treatments since Left 4 Dead and Dead Island. Thankfully, this game pushes the zombie genre in a new direction. We look forward to seeing what our choices will ultimately bring at the end of the series.
This review is based on a review copy of the Steam version of the Walking Dead by Telltale Games