Game Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ Complete Game
Recently Telltale games released the fifth and the final installment in their episodic point-n-click game series based on the comic series The Walking Dead. Riding on the coat-tails of the smash-hit television series this could’ve easily been a phoned in affair like so many other video game licenses. Using a genre that is all but extinct in the modern market and featuring almost none of the familiar faces of the source material this could’ve been a hard sell, especially with only a small chunk of the game being made available at the time.
Those who have been waiting on the edge of their seat waiting for the final chapter will already be quick to praise the game and with good reason – few people who finished the first chapter let the rest of the series gather dust. What exactly makes it work? Quite a few things.
Point-n-click games have been practically forgotten in the modern day and Telltale have redesigned the gameplay mechanics from the ground up it. Nonetheless it works in the context of this game with the story and characters taking the fore. Instead of going the usual point-n-click route of weighing down the player with dozens of items and an increasingly large map to backtrack over the chapters are divided into segments that take place within a confined area with the player solving problems and interacting with other characters before moving on to the next. This means that the player feels as though they are actively taking place in a plotted story. While this could’ve felt restrictive the choice system makes it feel more involving. Many of the decisions made by the character, even in the early chapters, can have lasting ramifications on the story and some of the cast can be either a bit part or a major player depending on how quick the playing can think on their feet.
Most games that tout a choice system make it very clear and obvious when you’ve got to make a choice and it rarely comes down to anything other than the good path or an evil path. The Walking Dead blends the forks in the story into the momentum of the plot that you don’t always know when you’re making a decision until the chapter ends. At that point the five-odd decisions made are presented, showing you how many other players took the same path.
Even better is the way the controls and design makes the decisions feel urgent. Unlike traditional adventure games the dialogue options are on a brief timer forcing the player to make snap judgements and go with their instinct rather than try and pick the ‘best’ option. While you’re rapidly picking your response the other players will continue talking to each other rather than pause, helping flesh out the situation. Even better is when the timer is applied to dangerous situations. Late in the first chapter a horde of zombies smash through the windows of the room you’re in and grab two characters giving the player only a couple of heartbeats to choose which one you will save. You only have time to save one and if you hesitate you’re liable to lose them both.
Ultimately it comes back to the story and characters. You have control of Lee who is a history teacher being transported to prison on a murder charge when a zombie apocalypse gets in the way. You find yourself scrabbling out of a wreaked patrol car and taking refuge in a suburban house where he meets eight year old Clem. Together they set out to find her parents. The journey will take them on a long trek where they will meet other survivors, battle the undead, take control of a train, escape from cannibals and find themselves trapped in a city of people going to extremes to survive.
The game is immensely effective at drawing the players in emotionally and you can be assured that some moments are going to haunt you. It’s not even the gory deaths that will get to you, but the small discovery’s – such as finding a zombie of a child who’d hidden in an attic and starved to death, and can’t even hold itself up. By the time the game winds up most players will remember it as one of the most emotionally draining interactive experiences they’d ever had.
Not that it’s perfect. The graphics are pretty rudimentary cell-shaded stuff that evokes the look of the comic but the overlapping textures can be pretty distracting during close-ups. The controls are a bit stiff and during the second chapter had so much lag that they could’ve led to frustrating death during moments when reflexes were required. At the end of the game, after all the heartache, it would’ve been nice if the developers could throw us a bone – they have the opportunity to give us closure but instead leave things open ended and that’s frustrating.
On two occasions during the first chapter your party crosses paths with some characters from the comics/television show – Glenn and Hershel’s family. At the time it feels like they’re trying to shoehorn in as many references to the source material as possible and it’s a good thing that these encounters came to a halt as any further interaction with that storyline would wind up feeling like a stretch of credibility.
If you want a strong story driven game that deals with adult concepts and deep themes then this will be as good as things will get. If you can work past some of the niggling annoyances with the controls then this is well worth the price. Take advantage of the discount by buying the package instead of the individual chapters, it’s worth it.