Ready for another zombie killing game? How about one that focuses more on the relationships between the surviving humans rather than that of zombies and the weapons that permanently cure them of their undead condition? In other words, how about a thoughtful action adventure rather than yet another mindless shooter. If that's something worth your consideration, Telltale Games' Walking Dead: The Game may be just what your undead apocalyptic aspirations may be looking for. Read on for the full review.
Telltale Games, the masterful game company behind the very well conceived and received Back to the Future adventure game series, has produced their next adventure game series based on the Walking Dead zombie comic stories of Robert Kirkman. Like the television series of the same name, Walking Dead: The Game projects a different set of characters in a world afflicted with the same problem... dead people walking, killing, eating and turning their victims into even more flesh-eating zombies.
Even though this basic premise and story have been retold countless times since George Romero defined it over 40 years ago, the visceral aspects of loved ones turning on you and infecting you with their deadly virus remains a frightening plot device. In the world of Walking Dead, quality zombie kills are still a gruesomely rewarding aspect of the story, but there's also a much deeper analysis of the human condition facing such predicaments. Walking Dead: The Game focuses on this condition and the relationships between the remaining living characters you meet along the way.
You play Lee, a man heading toward a life of prison that happens to find himself free after a head-on encounter with a zombie on a highway. After experiencing the voracious nature of zombies up close, Lee meets up with a young, abandoned girl named Clementine. It is at this point that Walking Dead: The Game takes on the job of survival from a very different game mechanic compared to first and third person shooters. Character interactions are managed via a set of canned responses, but it's the choices you make within the limited amount of time that the game gives you to react to these decision points that define your relationships moving forward.
For exmple, you can choose to keep your convict status a secret, but characters will remember your answers and react accordingly. And unlike other single-standing adventure games, Walking Dead promises to carry these character-shaping decisions you make through the other episodes, ensuring that the game's outcome will be different based on the responses you give.
Graphically, the game has been slimmed down compared to its desktop and game console versions in order to accomodate the cooler-running iPhone 4 and iPad graphics processor. Even so, I encountered an occasional slow down and stutter while playing the game on the new iPad. And while Telltale advises iOS customers that the game will only run on the iPad 2, the new iPad and the iPhone 4 and 4S, I was able to get it running on a first-generation iPad (albeit very slowly, to the point that the game was barely playable). But assuming that you have newer Apple iOS hardware, the game is a visual and sonic treat. In fact, I have to say that the audio is simply awesome. The game recommends wearing headphones while playing it, and I emphatically agree. A tremendous effort was put into the audio engineering for the game. Coupled with the excellent voice acting and well-written script, the story has the same professional level of quality you may have come to expect from the television series.
The first of five episodes is available for purchase from the App Store for $4.99 and offers players the chance to pre-pay for the remaining 4 episodes via a $14.99 in-app purchase. This makes more sense compared to Telltale's Back to the Future, which consisted of 5 separate apps and icons filling up the launch screen. There are enough open issues at the conclusion of the first episode that the in-app purchase is an obvious choice, if only to know you'll be further entertained with each new episode as they're made available over the coming months.
Overall, Walking Dead: The Game is not just another zombie shooter, but rather a graphic (yes, very graphic) novel come to life. Given the subject matter and degree of profanity used in the game, this is an entertainment title geared toward older teens and adults. So if you're a fan of the Walking Dead television series, or enjoyed Telltale's Back to the Future adventure and are looking for something with a lot more gloom and doom (and gore), Walking Dead: The Game is worth the nearly five dollar entry fee.
Price: $4.99 (for first episode)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars