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The Walking Dead: The Game - Episode 1: A New Day Review

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On 05/10/2012 at 12:00 PM by Jon Lewis

Telltale delivers an exciting and engaging take on the zombie apocalypse.

For fans of "The Walking Dead", fans of Point-and-Click Adventure style games, or fans of zombies in general.

The Walking Dead has been taking the nation by storm with an extremely popular graphic novel and the hit television series. Naturally, a video game adaptation was considered, and many worried that the game would follow in the footsteps of other zombie survival games like Dead Island, or even Left 4 Dead. 

Telltale however took the reins on the inevitable video game adaptation and created a game in line with their episodic point-and-click adventure style games, similar to last year's Back to the Future. The Walking Dead Episode 1: A New Day is a fantastic start to the five part series, offering a deep story and character development that matches that of the series, without compromising the gameplay. 

Of course, being a point-and-click style adventure game means that the gameplay is limited, but The Walking Dead does it in a unique way. Players move a cursor around the screen to look around and pick up items. These items are used to either give to your accomplices or even save your life in a tight situation.

One of the more interesting things about The Walking Dead is the way action scenes are handled. For instance, let's say Lee is attacked by a zombie, and you have a screwdriver that you picked up prior to the attack. Rather than just selecting the screwdriver to initiate the counter-attack, players must move the cursor over the zombie's head, and then select the action. This makes some scenes a lot more intense. In one scene, Lee is being attacked by a zombie and hits his head, leading him to be somewhat disoriented. Through this disorientation, you still have to manage to attack the zombie before you get eaten alive. 

One of the strengths about The Walking Dead, as a whole, is the way it approaches the zombie apocalypse. Rather than using zombies as a tool to scare you, they are used as a tool to help sell how the characters deal with each other in this world that they live in. The struggle to survive is apparent throughout, and not every character is as cut out for it. 

Episode 1, “A New Day” does not follow any of the main characters from the graphic novel or television show. While some supporting characters from both mediums make cameos, the game puts you in the shoes of a brand new character and ex-convict, Lee Everet. Episode 1 drops you into his shoes just as the Zombie Apocalypse begins. Early in his quest for survival, he meets up with Clementine, a young girl who has been surviving on her own. From there, you'll encounter many characters whom you grow to know and care about thanks to the clever implementation of conversation options. 

These conversations typically provide you with four dialogue options to select, and characters will interact with youdifferently depending on your choice, or lack thereof. Unlike other games that let you select dialogue, The Walking Dead times your responses with a meter. Not pressing an option and letting the meter expire will result in silence, which may rub some characters the wrong way. Characters remember the way that you treat them, and there are consequences if you treat them poorly. 

For example, if you chose to respond to a character in an honest fashion, they will actually remember that, and respond to you similarly in the future. If you choose to lie you'll only create suspicion and deceit. The game often prompts what dialogue options are more significant with a small indicator in the top left, which will show when you make a significant choice or not. For example, if you chose to take one character's side in an argument, the indicator will say “This character will remember that you sided with him,” meaning that in later sequences in the game, and even later episodes, those choices will be significant. 

These mechanics would be useless if the game didn't provide an interesting cast of characters but The Walking Dead delivers. Within the two and a half hours of the episode's length, they introduce you to many characters whom will leave a lasting impact. Each character is built up properly with great lines of dialogue and voice acting. Lee is particularly strong, and Clementine is an easy character to love.

Players will develop relationships with these characters and in some heart-wrenching moments will be forced to choose between others in tense moments. There are a couple of moments when you have to make a hard decision and save one life at the cost of another. These make truly memorable scenes. 

One interesting route TellTale took with The Walking Dead is the art style. Instead of going for a realistic look, the game takes a stylized look, similar to the graphic novel version of the series. It was hard for me to imagine the cartoon style look having the same grit and seriousness that the television show and graphic novel have, but this game completely delivers on that front. 

While Episode 1 delivers on most aspects, there were a few glaring technical problems. For the Xbox 360 version, loading times were a bit lengthy. Also, there were times where voices would be out of sync with dialogue, or lines of dialogue would just end abruptly without the character finishing his or her sentence. Along with that, I saw an instance where dialogue just didn't play at all. Thankfully these issues don't occur very regularly, but they do occur enough to be noticed. My playthrough had minimal glitch issues, but my brother's had quite a few, for example. 

Episode 1 wraps up with a preview for Episode 2. In it, you can already see some of the impact of your decisions. The characters that you saved will be at your side, and characters that you betrayed will come at you. As I watched the preview of Episode 2, I only realized that I couldn't wait to see what happens to Lee, Clementine, and my other accomplices. 

After the game is over you can see five of the major choices that you made over the course of the game and how they compare to other players. For example if you saved character A as opposed to character B, they will show you the percentage of people that chose character A versus the amount that chose character B. It's an interesting dynamic that creates a feeling of satisfaction or regret depending on what you chose. 

The Walking Dead: Episode 1 does something in two and a half hours that some full retail games fail to do in 8-10 hours: it creates a cast of likable characters and a host of memorable moments that ultimately engage the player. At only 400 Microsoft points or $5 for the first episode, you can't go wrong.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



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