Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Walking Dead - Review

WARNING: I will try not to spoil any of the plot but this review will effect how you play the game if you already haven’t. 

Telltale’s take on the successful zombie comic book series has received exceptional reviews from critics. I just finished a play through of The Walking Dead on my Xbox 360 (on a physical disc). I was a little disappointed to find out that you can’t install the game to your hard drive because I own the original Xbox 360 model. These models had louder disc drives which can really take away from the experience especially in story-heavy games. There are also numerous complaints about the physical disc having game breaking problems on the Xbox 360 but I was fortunate enough to not suffer any major problems, only a few stutters that would be fixed by reloading my last save point. These are bugs that Telltale is currently trying to address and will hopefully be fixed soon. My review of The Walking Dead game will not take these bugs into account since they will eventually be fixed.

The greatest part of the Walking Dead is the amazing story that Telltale unfolds. You play as Lee Everett, a man on his way to prison when he lucks out and gains a second chance at freedom in a zombie apocalypse world. You eventually meet a little girl named Clementine who you decide to take under your wing and try to protect throughout the story. While you try to survive in this post-apocalyptic world, you encounter other survivors. Telltale does a great job in creating characters that I either loved and wanted to help out whenever I could or utterly despised and couldn’t wait till I could smash their skull in. Telltale also included some twist and turns throughout the story to keep the player interested. I also liked that some of the decisions that are presented in the game have an emotional impact on the player. You start seeing more of these kinds of decisions starting in Episode 2.  Telltale does an impressive job with recreating the feeling of living in a post apocalyptic world where nothing ever feels safe.

The unique art style of The Walking Dead helps flesh out the rest of the world. The best way I can describe the graphics is cell shading meets the ink style introduced in Street Fighter IV.  The art style fits well with the original source material since it was based on The Walking Dead comic book. The soundtrack created for the game is excellent and fits perfectly within the atmosphere that the game creates. The melodies from the songs generate a variety of moods that range from somber tones to eerie feelings. This is one of my favorite soundtracks in a video game and it is unfortunate that Telltale hasn’t released it officially. I've included one of my favorite songs so that you can have a sample of what the soundtrack is like.

I did enjoy the fact that some dialogue decisions had a limited time in which you could respond. This time constraint prevents the player from just sitting around trying to figure out what the best possible response will be. It also helps keeps the player grounded into the world by not having them taken out to a separate dialogue interface that would impede their connection to the game. Another feature that I loved was the Decision Stat page at the end of each episode. I’m not sure if this was available with the original digital download of the game but it is also available on Telltale's website . The Stat page shows each decision made in that chapter and the percentage of players that choose the different choices. While it has no affect on the game play or how you made decisions, it is nice to see what other people did on their playthroughs. It would be great if this stat page also showed you what your friends did in their copy of the game so you can compare their play style to your own.

The Walking Dead is not without flaw. The major problem I had with The Walking Dead is that your decisions don’t make a difference. The events of the story will happen no matter what you do. This is disappointing especially considering that at the start of each chapter there is some white text that states “This game series adapts to the choices you make. The story is tailored by how you play.” This is far from the truth because nothing really changes when you make a decision. You will always end up going through the same places, and probably with the same bunch of people. This also affects how some characters can die. Many deaths are not preventable and scripted in a cutscene which means your decision to save them was pointless. Other times when you fail to save a character the game gives you a game over screen and forces you to repeat that section until you can save them. After playing a game like Heavy Rain where any of the four characters can die and will affect what happens in the story, I was expecting something very similar to that. Even a visual novel like 999 makes your decision matter by giving you a completely new part of the story. There is very little reason to play this game more than once since nothing major really changes.

Another flaw with The Walking Dead is that the quick time events did nothing out of the usual. Everything is basically pressing a button very fast or moving the cursor to aim and then pressing a button. Even with the aiming you just needed to go in the general direction and it would usually be executed perfectly. However this is just a minor flaw since the main selling point of the game is to experience being a part of a surviving group within The Walking Dead universe.

I believe that if you look at any game there will always be flaws. What matters is if those flaws have a substantial effect on the experience to that point where it is no longer an enjoyable one. So would I recommend this game to others? It really depends on what the person expects from the game. If the person is looking for a game that really takes into account the decisions you make and affects the story then I would not recommend The Walking Dead. However if the person is looking for a great story, with an amazing atmosphere and exquisite soundtrack then The Walking Dead would be perfect for them. Overall I did enjoy the game for what it was and I am looking forward to the next season.