If you haven’t heard of The Walking Dead by now… what the hell is wrong with you?  Between the comics (haven’t started reading them yet), the show on AMC (love it), and the couple of games (including the horrible one), it’s no secret — zombies are where it’s at.  Telltale Games episodic story was, without a doubt, the single most emotional experience of my gaming life.  Do yourself a favor and play it.

Meet Clementine. You’re about to become close friends.

  • TL:DR: The ending was so good that it made me cry.
  • Platform: Xbox 360
  • Score: 9.5
  • Hours Played: 10
  • What I Played: All five episodes of season 1
  • Recommended: Without a doubt, yes

The Walking Dead takes place in the same universe as the show and comics — shit has hit the fan about as hard as it can.  People are turning into zombies/walkers/biters and the world has devolved into basic survival.  You control Lee, a teacher in Georgia on his way to prison when the cop car he’s being driven in is driven off the road.  I’m about to spoil the first 10 minutes of the game, but not doing so would leave me nothing to talk about.  So, be wary: *Spoiler of first 5-10 minutes* When you wake up, the cop the was driving you is crawling towards you, snarling and looking all manner of nasty.  You manage to break free of your handcuffs and take him out, but WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?!  You wander towards a house and, after another encounter with a zombie, meet Clementine, an 8 year old whose parents are missing.  Lee decides he will look after Clem until she can be reunited with her parents.

TWD isn’t really a game as much as it is an interactive cinematic.  It really prides itself on dialogue and choices, reminding you at the start of each episode that choices you make will change the outcome of your game.  To increase the tension, each dialogue option has a timer, so you have to make a decision quickly.  Some of these dialogue options will make a lasting impact on those around you, noted by a little pop-up of “So-and-so will remember that”.  When that happens, it’s tough not to think, “did I really say what I wanted to say?”  There are some zombies to fight, but this is by no means a “zombie killing” game.

Sometimes, though, you just have no choice.

The pace of the game is just about perfect.  There are five episodes in total (plus the 400 Days DLC episode), each running you $5 for 1.5-2 hours of playtime.  Everything you do makes your game unique from someone elses.  At the end of each episode, your big decisions are matched up against other players’ decisions, showing you what percentage of people agreed with you.  This makes for perfect discussion points.  After each episode, I was able to ask my girlfriend things like how she could possibly do X when I did Y.

Lee and Clem meet a lot of people in their travels, many of which have parallels to the TV show.  The three main characters of the game, for example: Lee/Rick, Kenny/Shane, Clementine/Carl.  Both worlds have a young Glenn who is quick and good at making runs into town and a Hershel who owns a farm.  I’ll stop at the risk of spoiling anything, but some of the parallels are pretty cool once you pick up on them.

Graphically, The Walking Dead has a 3D-but-still-comic-book feel to it.  Amidst the dreary, death-ridden world there are some pretty light moments that show you Clem is still a kid (she will yell at you for swearing, she draws on the sidewalk with chalk, etc.)  There are some bits of noticeable cursor lag in the Xbox version and when you pause the game, the sound keeps playing for a few seconds until the menu finally pops up.  Minor inconveniences for a story that digs it’s hooks in deep right off the rip.

She just wants to find her parents. How tough could it be?

I cannot stress the emotional level that Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead will take you to.  A sweet, innocent eight year old needs to find her parents and you are going to help her.  This review may have been light on detail but the game is so story-driven that I don’t want to risk spoiling anything.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen the show or read the comics — get this game.  PS3, Xbox, PC, whatever.  Carve out a few long play sessions, grab a box of tissues, and help poor Clem out.

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