I was done with post-apocalyptic Zombie games forever. Zombies have entered interactive entertainment and infected us with a lust for killing these brain-damaged, blood-thirsty foes. We’ve fed them exactly what they wanted: not brains but sales. We’ve been the ones chomping the content up and, until recently, I really didn’t want to play yet another game including these creatures.
And then TellTale got involved. They’ve put out some good content in the past but absolutely nothing had prepared me for just how great their entry into The Walking Dead universe could be.[videoyoutube]TellTale have managed to create an superb, artistic piece of work here. Following a group of characters (mostly) separate to the television and comic versions, they’ve formed a narrative so brilliant that it could rank up there with the greatest games of all time, and have shaken up zombies as a whole forever.
Yes, there will still be the mindless yet fun Call of Duty Zombies and Left for Dead-a-likes, but hopefully more fantastic tales of an infected, post-apocalyptic future such as this will appear.
Not that the driving force behind the game is the zombies, mind. The Walking Dead is, at its core, a game about connections between a group of people that have banded together to survive a horrible ordeal. The zombies – the Walkers – are just a backdrop, while ultimately the narrative and survival aspects is where the real focus of the game lie.
The story is built in a way that television, books, comics or movies could never achieve. Your choices – from rationing food between the surviving camp members to even making the tough choice of deciding who lives and who dies – change the outcome of the game completely.
You’ll regret the bad choices you’ve made, you’ll reason with yourself that the groups survival – your survival – is more important than being moral and you’ll face an inner turmoil as the clock slowly ticks away for your next choice.
It’s a very real, somber experience and it’s absolutely one that shouldn’t be missed.
Choices are ever present in The Walking Dead, even in dialogue. Lee – the character you control who you’ll come to know and love – often has to be careful with what he says, but you’ll have a few good choices for each situation and words can often save the day rather than actions.
It escalates brilliantly with each of the five two-hour or so long episodes. Tensions mount, the zombies forces grow as more people succumb to the infection and choices become unbearably hard to make. Stress is a very real feeling in this game and it’s anything but lighthearted. For the best experience the game should be played at pace, TellTale’s own almost monthly release schedule over the year cementing that fact.[drop]I haven’t mentioned how the game plays, but that’s not absolutely necessary – it all works very well, in an almost point-and-click adventure style with a lot more action and a lot less clicking. Problems and puzzles will need to be solved, but it’s really the narrative that’s the true puzzle – deciding what’s best for the group is harder than any locked-door mystery could ever be.
This game connects you and the characters like no other. You are living the zombie apocalypse, not just glimpsing into a world through a screen. Emotions are raw and genuine, choices are brutal and yet necessary, the outcome is heart-wrenching and yet so incredible.
It’s arguable that The Walking Dead hasn’t only forwarded the zombie trope in interactive media, but the medium as a whole. Choices you make have a huge impact – it’s not a matter of gaining XP or being at a certain point on a morality scale but instead a matter of life and death.
Episode 5 released just a few days ago and its title is No Time Left. Unlike the title suggests, there is time; time for Zombies as a whole to evolve, time for more experiences like this, but it’s definitely time for games such as The Walking Dead to be recognised alongside other mediums, where this form of interactive entertainment belongs.
I urge you to play this game from the start and experience Lee and Clementine’s adventure, as it’s without a doubt one of the most rewarding pieces of fiction this year, packed with more emotion than you could imagine.
For all of this, it’s the best game I’ve played all year and, you never know, it just might be yours too.