The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season (2012)
PS4 / Rated M
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Thanks to recent success, Telltale Games has become a household name among gaming fans. They are now a well-oiled machine that is putting out their now famous brand of adventure games, with a focus on storytelling, at breakneck speeds. Contrary to what you might assume, most of these games are actually pretty good. The game that put Telltale on the map and started their second wind was their episodic adaptation of The Walking Dead. It was a game that was highly regarded among critics and fans alike, garnering a massive following.
What made this game special for people was two things. First, the two main characters that you follow through the story were extremely well done. Lee Everett is a good man that has another side to him. We first see him being hauled away to the slammer due to a mishap in his relationship. On the way to prison, the police car runs into a zombie on the road and they are propelled into the nearby grass. The action begins. Lee manages to escape the site, only to stumble upon a house that seems to have another soul in hiding. Cue the introduction of Clementine, a rather young and shy little girl that has been hiding away in her house for a while now. Her parents are gone and she would not have survived if Lee did not stumble upon her house.
Telltale does an amazing job from the get go of making you really care about the two characters. Lee is faced with a big challenge in helping Clementine with finding her parents, as well as survival. Clementine should not be painted as a deadweight, but instead as a lightbulb for Lee. Lee has some trouble coming to grips with the morality of some of the decisions that he has made in his life, and Clementine acts as a moral compass from that point forward. The two grow quickly attached to each other just as fast as the player gets attached to them. The scenes involving the two lead characters were by far some of the best scenes from the whole series.
The other thing that really makes the game special is Telltale’s style of adventure game that they instituted with this release. When the game came out, gone was the format of the traditional adventure game and in with Telltale’s new format of quick time events and heavy decision making. There is a greater emphasis on story this time around and every dialogue option that you choose in the game has an effect on how things play out, whether big or small. They do not give you a whole lot of time to make these decisions either. I often found myself making impulse choices and saying things I did not mean to say. That might be frustrating to some, but it only makes complete sense. With the world in shambles due to the zombie outbreak and its people facing immense danger every day, there are going to be a lot of impulse decisions being made.
Each episode of the five episode season has a set of tough decisions that you have to make, and boy do these decisions live up to their name. Some hit you right in the face in terms of toughness, but others do not seem like they make a big difference at the time, but they end up influencing the story in ways you could not imagine. There is a moment towards the halfway mark on the season that was tough to swallow for a lot of reasons. I am not going to spoil anything, but anybody who has played the game should already know what I’m talking about. What happened was out of my realm of control, and it made me feel helpless. The game gives you a chance to react, and I acted impulsively, and maybe a little irrationally, when faced with the decision of dealing with a character. I have never felt that kind of feeling before in a game, and it was great and infuriating at the same time.
The supporting cast of characters that you tag along with during Lee’s journey with Clementine all bring a lot to the table in terms of greatness. The game was almost flawless in getting me to somewhat care about all the characters that it gave me. The last two episodes of the season after things are shaken up in the middle leave players with, in my opinion, some of the weaker links when it comes to characters, which made the decisions I had to make a little easier to stomach.
Once again, I am not going to spoil anything in terms of story, but the finale takes what’s left of your heart strings and rips them out with ferocity. The game twists and turns and plays with your emotions, leaving you tired by the end. The final moments of the game, where it’s just Lee and Clementine together, make for some tear-worthy moments. I am not one to cry during any form of entertainment, but I have talked to people who have. It’s a rough portion to play through, and it wraps everything up in a hard but satisfying way.
The complete edition comes with the DLC that was released with the game called 400 Days. It tells the story of a wide variety of other people in the form of short playable chapters. I thought it was a nice little break from the main story, but given how quickly the game runs through the stories, I found it hard to get attached to these characters like I did in the main offering. The decisions that they gave you in these chapters did not have the same effect as a result. The special episode ended in head-scratch worthy fashion, with a confrontation that I was not expecting. Overall, 400 Days gives players a fun little experience in the world of The Walking Dead, but it is not necessary.
The Walking Dead does a ton of great things that were sometimes tainted by some technical problems. There was a lot of hitching and sometimes the game chugged along in terms of performance. These are minor quibbles on a masterpiece of a game, but it’s a game that is not going to win any awards in the technical categories. This might not be your traditional adventure game, but it was a milestone for Telltale, setting a foundation for their future in the game industry. The Walking Dead was a game that tried a lot of new things, telling an amazing story. If you were ever on the fence, make time to play through this gem of a game.
Also available on PC, Mac, PS3, PSVita, Xbox 360, iPad, iPhone