Most people begin their day with a yawn and a scratch, grumbling about the routine to which they’ve become accustomed. Lee Everett began his day in the back of a Georgia Patrol car leaving Atlanta.
As the officer driving Lee catches his eye in the rear view, he says something you wouldn’t expect: “Well I reckon you didn’t do it.”
And thus, A New Day has dawned…
Reviewing The Walking Dead, Episode One: A New Day
Now the very first thing you’ll notice about The Walking Dead Game are the visuals. Accomplished with a brilliant form of cell shading and hard lines, fans of the series will immediately draw connection with the famous Kirkman and Adlard graphic novel. This is done masterfully and purposely by the designers at Telltale Games, precisely because this story runs congruent with the comic series, and not the Andrew Lincoln television horror/drama.
So you may be asking: Where’s Rick Grimes? Where’s Shane Walsh? Where’s Daryl Dixon?! All I’m going to say is, slow your roll. This incarnation of The Walking Dead takes place during the beginning of the apocalypse. That means no Rick.
It also means you’ll get to know Mr Lee Everett, a former University of Georgia professor. He’s an original character created specifically for the video game, because let’s face it: hasn’t Rick been through enough? Now I won’t reveal too much, but let’s just say that Lee has some skeletons to empty out of his closet.
Along with Lee we have little Miss Clementine as our secondary protagonist. Clementine is an eight year old orphan from Atlanta, Georgia who saves Lee from a zombie. As thanks, Lee promises to take care of Clementine until they find her parents.
For those worried that this is a giant escort mission, I can assure you it isn’t. The inclusion of Clementine is to showcase the innocence that can exist in even the most dangerous of situations; you’re meant to experience the change in both Lee and Clementine by comparing them to one another. You’re meant to see that even in the face of overwhelming odds, we can ban together for good; that the most important thing in post-apocalyptia is humanity.
The Walking Dead is not your traditional zombie game, nor is it your traditional video game. So if your looking for a zombie shooter or a Dead Rising equivalent set to Kirkman’s universe, keep shopping. It is a point and click adventure set to a visually stunning stage that changes according to the decisions you make and the ties you keep. Each “stage” is set with items that Lee can interact with, by using the left analog, (based on XB360 and PS3 controls) to move and the right analog to “aim” your “reticle.” This reticle mimics the shape of a directional pad, allowing four areas for the face buttons to appear depending on the type of interaction Lee can complete with the specific object, person or zombie.
This is how you play The Walking Dead, or rather how you interact with the story, propelling it ever forward. Certain areas require a dialog between Lee and one or multiple non-playable characters. At this point in the experience, you are given four response options each of which Lee will, (most of the time) reiterate verbatim to the other character. But be quick; each dialog comes with a timer to add that sense of desperation and life or death decision-making that comes with living with the dead.
Now while this element of gameplay is not unique to the virtual gaming scene, what is unique is the way it impacts your future conversations and stage set ups. NPC’s remember and take note of your conversational choices, effectively changing the relationship Lee has with that person until they go their separate ways. This is by far the most interesting aspect of the experience, in my opinion. Theoretically, it will create different playthrough’s for each and every individual, tailoring their experience to the choices they make in Lee’s shoes.
Ultimately, what the writers and developers at Telltale games wish to accomplish is to bring a fresh, yet familiar take to The Walking Dead universe. They want you to live through the controversial changes a man goes through during a zombie apocalypse. They want you to make the calls no one should have to make. To put you in split second situations that require decisive action, while laboring you with the heavy consequences that follow. And in that regard, I believe they are on their way to performing at expectation!
The Walking Dead is rated M for strong language, intense violence, and blood and gore. It’s a great experience for fans and newcomers alike, clocking in at roughly two hours. Players can choose between two game modes: Standard, which outlines interactive objects within Lee’s vicinity, as well as displaying consequences to Lee’s actions, and Minimal, which displays nothing outside of dialogue choices and face button interactions. The series will run for five episodes, to be released monthly at $4.99 a piece. A season pass is purchasable for the PS3 at $19.99, a must have for those looking to see it through to the end, as it saves you $5; PC and Mac owners can have the entire series for $24.99; XB360 owners are left with purchasing the series one episode at a time at 800 Microsoft Points at piece.
Look for the next episode, Starved for Help on May 30th.