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How AMC's Walking Dead Game Could Have Been Awesome

On 06/25/2013 at 04:19 PM by Justin Matkowski

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In 2013, Licensed games are still fighting an uphill battle. When you take into account their reputation, it's hardly a wonder as to why this is. For every Batman: Arkham City, Spider-man 2, or TellTale's The Walking Dead, there is a laundry list of licensed games that were cheap cash grabs, showing a lack of care, creativity, or common sense that went into them. You would think that step 1 in creating a title based on an already existing IP would be: "what is it that people love about it, and how do we transfer that into a stellar gaming experience?" The licensed games that excell, such as the Batman: Arkham series and even Capcom's 8-bit Disney classics such as Duck Tales, create an interactive work that is faithful to its subject matter in terms of both how it plays and the feeling it captures.

As a huge fan of The Walking Dead (both the comic series and the show), to say I was let down by The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct would be an understatement. However, the title's lack of polish, quality, and budget was hardly a surprise; the fact that we saw hardly any gameplay footage lead up to its release, it was being outsourced to a studio with a dodgy portfolio, and that it was clearly being rushed to coincide with Season 3 were all red flags as to the title's inevitable failure to capture what fans of the franchised love. AMC's The Walking Dead game didn't have to be a "dead in the water" title - it could have been fantastic, differentiating itself from Telltale's incredible comic-inspired adventure adaptation and interpreting the themes of the show into a great gaming experience. Here is how I think it could have been done; I even whipped up some visuals to aid the imagination, so here goes!

         In the immortal words of Paul Bearer, "Ohhhhhhhh yesssssssss"

Choosing The Right Publisher

To get things started right, let's go with a publisher/developer that would have been far better suited for the job than Activision: Bethesda. Bethesda has been knocking them out of the park lately, and they show no signs of slowing down. They are also the masters of massive open-world rpg's, which is exactly what AMC's The Walking Dead game should have been: I can't tell you how many times I've taken part in (or overheard conversations) about what someone would do or how they would act in the scenario of a zombie apocalypse. This game would give you just that opportunity to explore those notions by having you create a character at the games onset with a great skill tree system ala Skyrim to back it up: want to be a rugged woodsman, with an emphasis on tracking and stealth? Go for it. Or would you prefer to have a knowledge of medicine like Hershel Greene, which would prove invaluable to a post-apocalyptic world? Be our guest! And in case Bethesda Game Studios would be too busy to take on the work load, Obsidian could always step in; they've shown they are more than capable with tackling an open-world monster with Fallout: New Vegas.


           Anyone who's seen Rick pissed knows it's not wise to anger the man.

Character Interaction

Bethesda's titles focus on interaction between the player and the world they are exploring, especially in regards to NPC's going about there digital lives amidst the landscape. Imagine if AMC's The Walking Dead game followed the timeline of the television series: the game begins with an escape from Atlanta amidst napalm raining down in a frenzied attempt to slow the outbreak. From there, time progresses - maybe you run into Shane, Lorie, and Carl on the highway out of Altanta, and decide to follow them back to camp. Or you go it alone, and might not meet up with the group until you stumble across Hershel's farm, over a month of in-game time later. Perhaps you don't even get a glimpse of Rick's group until the "Ricktatorship" has begun, and by that time you've already buddied up with The Governor at Woodbury. That's how massive and alive TWD's world needs to be. It's not a stretch either, considering Bethesda's games already feature NPC's on a schedule; this would just take it one awesome step further. To sweeten the deal, there is a reputation system like the one featured in New Vegas, so don't expect to be welcomed with open arms by 'Team Prison' if you've spent dozens of hours being a bastard in Woodbury.


           "Woodbury, eh? Sounds nice......"

It's A Mad (Massive) World

Robert Kirkman's vision for The Walking Dead is a sprawling, post-apocalyptic epic; in effect a story without end. The game should reflect this by giving fans a gigantic world to explore, with boatloads of content to discover and quests to see through. What's most important though is the effect the players have on this harsh landscape where society has crumbled and everyday is a struggle; give gamers the option to in effect, create an alternate timeline to the television series based on their own actions, while keeping big plot beats in place. Robert Kirkman has said that the reason the show deviates from the comic is to keep fans on their toes and retain that element of suprise. In AMC's The Walking Dead game, maybe because you convinced Rick to travel to Fort Benning, so the trip to the CDC never happened and Jackie is still with the group. This will put the player in control, and can provide some brilliant parallel moments that could even be better than the comic or show itself.


          Imagine this playing as you say goodbye to a character you've known for 100's of hours

This Sorrowful Life

One of the biggest failures of Survival Instinct is that it had none of the emotion and pathos that are so crucial to The Walking Dead, and make the universe so compelling. In AMC's The Walking Dead, the players should feel the weight of their actions and be forced with the hard, desperate truth that in this world everyone is living on borrowed time. Titles like The Last of Us, Red Dead Redemption, and Telltale's TWD have shown the naysayers that a game can make you care deeply about the characters, and can bring brilliant emotional moments for gamers to the surface. Imagine that because of your mistake (or something completely outside of your control) you're forced to mercifully put down a character that has been with your group for 70+ hours to prevent them from turning into the undead, and coming to terms with the fact that in this world, it's the living who are truly the 'walking dead'. Throw in Bear McCreary chilling soundtrack, and you have the makings of some of the most emotionally driven moments in gaming history.

So what do you guys think? Is there something you would add that could make the game even better? Or for fans of the franchise, how would you approach a Walking Dead gaming adaptation? Sound off below, and as always, thanks for reading!




06/25/2013 at 04:30 PM

I think that it should be black and white, with all of the blood being red.  Not just one shade of red, caked on dried blood should be darker than a fresh river of blood.

Justin Matkowski Staff Alumnus

06/25/2013 at 05:14 PM

That could actually be pretty awesome, especially if they adapted a full tonal range black and white with awesome partical/lighting effects! And digging the differentiating blood colors as well, adds a nice realism to it.


06/25/2013 at 05:39 PM

I only read the first trade paperback, but I absolutely loved the art.  So I was disappointed to see that the tv show was colour.

Justin Matkowski Staff Alumnus

06/25/2013 at 06:39 PM

The re-colored black & white episodes they've aired have looked great, I'm guessing the decision to not go black & white was the network's. Alex Proyas and Brandon Lee wanted to do "The Crow" in black and white like the graphic novel, but the film studio shot that idea down.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

06/25/2013 at 05:25 PM

I was pretty impressed by that telltale game.  It would be nice to get an Elder Scrolls: Walking Dead type game, that's for sure. it could be an MMO too where you could be killed by other players for resources.  If you haven't tried it, check out DayZ.  Great game.

Justin Matkowski Staff Alumnus

06/25/2013 at 06:41 PM

I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by TellTale's take too! A sprawling, epic single player mode coupled with a multiplayer like you suggested would be incredible! It could be like "Free Roam" in Red Dead Redemption, but with more world-building.

Unfortunately, I haven't played DayZ as my desktop is a MAC (slave to the industry I'm in, which is very iCentric), but I've watched a lot of vids and read a lot about it and it sounds awesome! I'll be getting a PC in the somewhat near future hopefully, and one of the first titles I'm picking up is going to be DayZ for sure.


06/25/2013 at 08:58 PM

Great ideas dude! I ve been playing State of Decay a lot recently and that game has some serious potential. I think it represents the future of Zombie games and would love to see a version of it in FPS form, though some of the charm might be lost like that. The game it's self allows you to fortify a home, form a group, lead them, gather resources, make gardens, bunkhouses and medical facilities and even lay traps for passing Zombie Hordes. To say its an Arcade titler the open world it presents is pretty vast. The main things I think they will improve on however for their new game 'class 4' will be vehical costomisation, allowing you to take groups out with you, more specific purpose for different cars (i.e. being able to transport lots of gear in a SUV. Sorry I'm giving improvements for a completely different game but if the WD could follow this program it would be a winner for sure!  

Justin Matkowski Staff Alumnus

06/25/2013 at 09:09 PM

Thanks man! I've been playing quite a bit of 'State of Decay' lately myself! I was surprised at the sheer size of the map, like you said considering it is an XBL arcade title it's pretty damn impressive. It gets a lot right with its focus on fortifying your homebase, taking down zombies with stealth, and even going to the mental well-being of everyone in your camp. I agree that it definitely shows a hell of a lot of potential, and is an incredibly solid example of how to do a zombie game right!


06/25/2013 at 09:38 PM

Glad I stayed away from Survival Instincts, but I'm still interested in the Tall Tale games. The Last of Us was pretty damn amazing, but it did take a lot inspiration from the Walking Dead in terms of "humans are worst monsters" outlook.

Justin Matkowski Staff Alumnus

06/25/2013 at 09:44 PM

I haven't played Survival Instincts - I held off on ordering it until I saw some finalized in game footage (which Activision kept in the dark for a good, long awhile) and by then I had read the reviews/watched Let's Plays and my itching suspicions about the game being a cheap cash-in were validated. Definitely checkout the TellTale series, it's awesome! The decision system also changes quite a bit, so multiple, entertaining decision routes add a lot of replayability to an already great game.

I don't own a PS3, and I sorely felt that fact when hearing about how great The Last Of Us is. I was wondering if it retained that feel; when I first saw the trailer for Last of Us I was thinking "this seems to feel like The Road/The Walking Dead in it's tone." 

Thanks for commenting!


06/26/2013 at 12:47 AM

I've never seen Walking Dead. I'm really out of the loop when it comes to modern television, but this sounds like an awesome game. The ghouls in Fallout 3 made me jump so many times and a whole game like that would be insane.

On another note, I'm pretty excited about a remake of Duck Tales. I hope they do a good job on it. That game is so beloved by a great many people that I can see angry mobs with torches and pitchforks raised if they mess it up lol.

Justin Matkowski Staff Alumnus

06/26/2013 at 12:58 AM

lol! Oh my god, the Feral Ghouls - I'm convinced that Bethesda has stocks in Depends, because hearing those growls in a darkened subway tunnel was like housing a burrito and chasing it with a protein shake! The quest that gives you the Ghoul mask so that they no longer attack you is a godsend!

I'm pretty stoked for Duck Tales too, and I truly hope they do it justice! It is a true classic, and if they screw it up we are sending Tom Hardy dressed as Bane to Capcom headquarters!


06/26/2013 at 09:59 AM

The Walking Dead is on my list of shows to watch eventually. That does sound like a pretty sweet game though, and I'm not even a fan of open world games. I find the post-apocalyptic setting much more intriguing than the fantasy of the Elder Scroll games.

Justin Matkowski Staff Alumnus

06/26/2013 at 12:58 PM

If you have Netflix, Seasons 1 & 2 are streaming with Season 3 likely to be added when it drops on Blu-Ray in August (I think). Thanks man! I think what could differentiate this is that it is post-apocalyptic, but you're not forced into the commonly used nuclear wasteland model, which can be a very bland world to explore and look at palette wise. I find people generally gravitate towards either the post-apocalyptic setting or a fantastical pseudo-medieval world, and it's always interesting to hear which one people prefer.

Thanks for stopping by man!

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