Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Walking Dead...the Game.

Yesterday after work, I got home and checked the Xbox Marketplace in the hopes of finding the first chapter of the Walking Dead game available for download. I was under the impression that it was being released on Wednesday this week, but for some reason it went up in the PSN but not Xbox Market. I had planned on getting it for Xbox all along, so for a couple of days I was forced to hold out. Luckily, it was there when I fired up my 360 Friday. Being that the game is broken up into 5 parts, or "episodes", it's relatively cheap at only 400 Microsoft points, or $5 in real monies. As expected, it's short, really short, but that doesn't mean it isn't any fun.

You play Lee Everett, a man who begins the game handcuffed in the back seat of a police car on it's way out of Atlanta. Initially, you're not given many clues as to why you're in police custody or much about your background at all. Before long, the officer driving is forced to swerve to avoid hitting a man walking in the middle of the interstate. The patrol car runs off the road, down a hill and finally smashes into the ground, leaving you unconscious. You awaken and crawl from the wreckage toward the officer who looks dead, but ends up attacking you, forcing you to use a nearby shotgun to ventilate his head. From here, you begin to wander around an abandoned neighborhood, eventually meeting a young girl named Clementine who helps you survive a similar attack inside her house. After deciding to help Clementine find her parents in Savannah, the two of you are off to look for help. Along the way, you meet a few other survivors and band together in the hopes of surviving the chaos and finding any clues as to what's happening and when or if help will be arriving.

That's basically the first few minutes of the game. I actually finished the whole thing in one sitting, at just under 2 hours, and I was very thorough. If I missed anything at all, it couldn't have been much. Unless future episodes are vary in length, it looks like we'll be spending around $25 for a 10-12 hour game. The game itself is basically a point and click, with a few quick-time button mashing sequences thrown in, usually reserved for combat scenarios. At first I didn't care for having to move a reticule around the environments with the right stick, but by the end I was used to it. I still say that Heavy Rain's control scheme is far superior for this type of game, but again, it didn't really take much time to get used to. Graphically, Telltale went the cel shaded route, similar to Borderlands. Everthing looks good enough I suppose, and cel shading gives it a comic booky look, which works well enough. Personally I'm not a huge fan of the look, but it didn't distract all that much. The characters are all diverse and have their own unique facial features and such, but there's not much variety at all in the zombie department. Again, not a game-breaker, but the zombies don't look all that great to begin with, and then you'll be looking at the same 5 or 6 character models throughout.

One interesting dynamic in the game is that in several instances, you have to make a decision that will alter the way the story plays out, both in this chapter and future episodes. Everything from the way you answer questions and interact with other characters, to a couple of scenarios where you're forced to make a decision between saving one character or another. The main draw of this game is going to be the story, and I fully expected this to be the case from the moment I heard it was being made. Thankfully, it's off to a great start in this regard. Good writing, good dialog, and some decent voice acting, which is great as that would likely be the make or break point for these games. There's a bit of fan service in there for fans of both the comics and the television show, some familiar faces and locales, but I don't want to spoil those here. Suffice it to say, it appears that this particular story takes place not long before Rick wakes up in the hospital.

One other thing I want to give the game props for before I wrap this up. I know I'm in the minority of giving a shit one way or the other about this, but one of the first things that scrolls by in the credits of this game is "based on the COMIC BOOK by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard". To everyone at Telltale, let me say thank you. It irks me to no end whenever I see "based on the series of graphic novels" in the television show's credits. I read COMIC BOOKS, the Walking Dead is a COMIC BOOK, which are eventually collected into graphic novels. I see nothing wrong with calling them what they are, will never understand why people are ashamed of it. I guess "graphic novel" makes them feel more grown up. Whatever.

If you have both options available to you, but are debating as to which system you should play this on, I have to recommend the PS3 version as the PSN gives you the option of purchasing a "season pass" which gives you all 5 episodes for $20 versus the $25 the Xbox version is gonna set you back. Don't know if after all 5 are out there will be a discounted option for Xbox as well, but I doubt it. Might as well save that $5 right off the bat. Fans of both the show and the comic will likely dig this game though. It definitely has the feel of the Walking Dead. Solid story telling, and if you're into the point and click genre, this one's no worse than any other. Check it out.

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