Editor’s Note: If you have not played Season 1 of The Walking Dead, be warned that this review will contain spoilers.
The Walking Dead (TWD) is one of pop culture’s most recent major successes. Starting out as a comic book, the world created by Robert Kirkman slowly gained a massive following and was eventually chosen to run as an episodic TV show on AMC. This move was the perfect one to make; the popularity of the show skyrocketed, and each new season of the Walking Dead is something fans eagerly await every year.
The story is as follows: a rare virus has broken out, causing people who are infected to become very sick and die. The result of this death and the virus in the body reanimates the corpses into what the show calls “walkers”. What starts out as a single case (patient “X”) soon turns into what is thought to be a worldwide, or at the very least nationwide, apocalypse scenario, with more and more of the still-living being bitten by the undead and joining their ranks.
What is more unnerving than the thought of fighting armies of zombies is having to deal with the rest of the human survivors in this new dog-eat-dog world of survival; this is where both the show and the game shine. Supplies are limited, safe havens are scarce, and keeping your friends and loved ones alive is paramount. The human struggle of living in a world full of death and decay is often more important and interesting than the walkers themselves.
The Walking Dead, created by Telltale games, is an episodic graphic adventure that follows a different cast of characters than the massively popular show. Episode 1 of the first season was launched back in April of 2012 and followed Lee Everett, a former university professor turned convicted murderer, and Clementine, a young girl holed up in her home at the time of the outbreak, trying to get a hold of her parents.
Throughout the various episodes (five in total), Lee and Clementine become like father and daughter. They trust each other no matter what the circumstances are, and they stick together even when meeting other groups and dealing with the conflicts that come with living in a post-apocalyptic world. This all culminates in the final episode. Lee is trying to get Clem to the east coast where her parents are when he is bitten by a walker. Clem is forced to shoot the only person she has left in the world to care about, or leave him to die and turn into a walker, based on your choice. Lee dies, and an emotional Clementine is left to fend for herself. Two silhouetted figures notice her and begin to walk toward her, leading us into Season 2.
The Walking Dead plays like a third-person point-and-click style game. You can move your controlling character around using the Left thumbstick (LS) while rotating the camera with the right thumbstick (RS), while the camera pans through different cinematic style camera angles, like the old Resident Evil games. Objects of interest appear with small white circles around them, meaning you can head over and interact with them. Sometimes this leads to simply looking at something of interest; other times it will be to pick up an object to toss into your inventory for later use. Action sequences are rarer, usually used during an escape or fending off a walker attack. These are done by lining up the on-screen reticle to a certain area and hitting the right trigger (RT) or a face button, or pressing the on-screen direction on the left thumbstick to avoid capture. If you are too slow on any of these actions, a gruesome death scene usually follows, and you are forced to start over from the previous checkpoint.
Presentation and the art style in TWD are fantastic. A wonderful and underused cel-shaded approach to such a gritty world gives it more color and emotion as opposed to the much darker and more violent scenes you would expect in a world full of death and suffering. It also makes the game feel more inviting for someone like me who isn’t a fan of the horror genre but still really enjoys the story of The Walking Dead franchise. The musical score has such a huge impact on the game; it’s the perfect silence of certain areas as you are exploring mixed in with the sounds of the forest or an abandoned house creaking and cracking under your feet, and the intense, run-for-your-life moments that the music complements perfectly. The ambiance of TWD is in full effect and is crucial to the game’s overall feel.
The Walking Dead game has received massive critical praise due to its strong character-based story and decision making that has real, significant effects on how the game plays out. Every question has multiple options, and each option has an effect on whoever you are talking to. Characters will remember how you acted or what you said in certain situations, and your decisions can come back to haunt you. It’s the same for your on-the-fly choices such as looting the supplies from an abandoned vehicle or not. Everything you do has consequences and ultimately changes the fate of the game.
Before you even begin Season 2, the game scans your hard drive for file saves from Season 1 or the spin-off DLC titled 400 Days. If you have played through both, all of the choices you have made will be carried over and you will continue on like that. If you are new to the game, or foolish like me and accidentally deleted all your save files, then fear not; you can still start the game, but the choices made will be randomized and the game will begin.
Episode 1, for me anyway, began with Clementine following Omid and Christa, who you met towards the end of Season 1. You play as Clementine this time around, and Omid instructs you to head into the girl’s washroom while he tends to his pregnant wife. A series of events unfold, and Omid is shot and killed, leaving just you and a very depressed and emotional Christa to make do with what you have. Christa leaves to find more firewood to help cook dinner, when a shouting match breaks out. A group of violent survivors are questioning Christa when all hell breaks loose, resulting in a water-bound escape from both the other humans and walkers, leaving Clementine washed up on a riverbed, cold and alone.
As you travel through the unknown forest, exhausted and injured from a run-in with a seemingly friendly dog, you start to break down and pass out next to a rock while walkers start to close in. Just as one of the undead closes in, you are saved by Luke and Pete, two guys from a nearby survival camp. As they discuss your injuries, you succumb to your exhaustion and pass out, only to wake up in a new camp full of new people, new stories, and new struggles. Throughout the episode, you are tasked with trying to convince your new group that you aren’t bitten and infected, gaining or betraying their trust, and forging new relationships that will carve out your own unique journey for Clementine. There are also a ton of surprises and shocking, split-second choices that are thrown at you until the 1st episode comes to a close.
A montage of what’s to come flashes across the screen, tempting and teasing at new events and characters, including a few familiar faces. Each episode retails as a download for $4.99, or you can purchase the season pass and get episodes 2-5 for $14.99, which, if you are as invested in the story as I am, is well worth the price for one of the best stories in gaming.
All in all, Season 2 picks up right where the first ended, with strong storytelling, great characters, and some very intense and sad moments. Season 2 is really shaping up to be another classic.
This review is based on The Walking Dead: Season 2: Episode 1: All That Remains for the Xbox 360. The game is also available for PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, PC, iOS, and Ouya.