Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Walking Dead: The Game - Review



(A part of me writing for The Weekly Crisis will consist of reviews for games, tv shows, and movies adapted from comics. This is the first in a long line of articles. ENJOY!)
Everyone loves the zombie apocalypse.  Our culture has an obsession with wanting to watch reanimated corpses be murdered in brutal ways.  While this is quite entertaining, the novelty of it all loses its shine over time with one big exception: The Walking Dead.  Robert Kirkman uses the undead to focus more on human interaction than gory kills.  Developer Telltale has taken the same path with The Walking Dead: The Game and the result is one hell of an emotional ride. Hit the jump to see my thoughts in detail.

The game tells the story of Lee Everett, a convicted felon on his way to a life full of orange jumpsuits, when the cop car transporting him literally runs into the zombie apocalypse offering him a get out of jail free card.  As fans of Walking Dead know, “out of jail” isn’t necessarily preferable when the dead are wandering around.  Injured and alone, things are looking pretty grim for Lee until a little girl named Clementine saves his life.  From this point on, Lee and Clementine find a small group of survivors and do whatever they can to protect each other and stay alive.
The relationship between Lee and Clementine is the most poignant of the game.  Usually children in games are irritating and the first chance to rid myself of their presence is welcome (I’m looking at you, incessant town children of every “Fable” game), but there was something different about Clem.  I didn’t want to feed her to the zombies at all; on the contrary, I found myself actively trying to keep her from danger.  When I first met her, she saved my life.  That is a debt I found myself constantly trying to repay.  This drove me to a lot of gut wrenching choices just like the decisions that Rick must make on behalf of Carl in the comic.

Choose wisely.
Gameplay
Telltale crafted a brand new kind of adventure game this time around.  This is a point and click adventure game with a twist.  While there are classic puzzles to solve, zombies pleading to have their brains smashed in, and tons of scenes to investigate, the real pull is the dialogue and story.  When conversations arise, the player is allotted four choices and only a few seconds to decide.  Once the selection is made, there is no looking back, and people will remember.  Most video games give you the morality choice of a saint or some kitten-stomping demon, but TWD gives you the choice of a human just trying to do his best to keep everyone alive.  Slowly it becomes evident that this is impossible.
By the end of the game, my group dynamic may be completely different from yours.  Whereas I always chose to do my best by Clem and Kenny, you may choose to say screw Kenny and constantly be an ass to Clem.  Group members remember all of the different conversations had during the game, and some of them will hate you for it.  One person in particular hated me the whole time, and I despised his stupid, racist persona.  When the chance presented itself, I killed that prick in gruesome style, but this isn’t a game made to glorify violence.  I felt like a piece of crap for doing it, and that is the most shocking part of the game: TWD prompts emotions.
I know how you feel, man.

Why Am I Crying?
I was actually burdened by my feelings.  I chose how the story unfolded by playing it.  The things that happened were my fault.  Lee became an extension of me.  When Lee had a friend crush in a man’s head with a salt lick while he held back the man’s daughter, I did that.  When Lee gave an infected girl a pistol so she could commit suicide, yep, that was once again my choice.  This was sad, because death is inherently sad and TWD brings this roaring to the front.  This game brought true emotion out of me and slammed me in the face with it.      
This game is Kirkman’s apocalyptic wasteland pulled to beautiful life on screen.  The animation style fleshes out the black and white world of the comic, the dialogue makes the people feel real, and the classic Walking Dead depressing moments come tenfold.  The only difference is the effect becomes more powerful here.  I love the story of Rick and his band of survivors, but they have become almost unrelatable now.  They are hardened from spending so much time in the apocalypse and are mere shells of their former selves.  Lee on the other hand, is me.  I make his decisions and guide his dialogue.  There is nothing more relatable than that in interactive media.
Well that doesn't look good.

The Bad
While I have heaped a good amount of praise on this game, it does come with its faults.  There are some moments that brought me snapping back to the reality that this is just a game.  Most of the problems arise with graphical glitches.  Sometimes lip-syncing will be off or animations will stutter causing some of the game’s shining moments to dull, but these instances are few.  I never once had the game freeze or become unplayable.  More often than not the game ran well and let me experience the wonderful story.
A weary band of survivors.

Verdict - Must Buy.
The Walking Dead: The Game is the best adaptation of Kirkman’s comic.  By leaving the choices up to the player and being more about human interaction than killing zombies, the game hits the player on a personal level.  I formed relationships with these people, I cared about them, and I watched them die at a moment’s notice.  After I finished, I felt as though the game had managed to emotionally scar me, a feeling that the comic before has left one too many times.  I cannot wait for the next installment.  Any fan of video games will enjoy this game, but any fan of The Walking Dead will love it.


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