The Walking Dead: Episode One Review

With a world gone to hell, and no easy choices - what would you do?

The Walking Dead Episode One Review  Everybody Plays
30th April, 2012
Game Info // The Walking Dead: Episode One
The Walking Dead: Episode One Boxart
Developer: Telltale Games
Players: 1
Online Multiplayer: None
Subtitles: Full
Available On: Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Point & Click

It's a stereotypical enough scenario - what if there was a zombie outbreak, and no-one knew how to control it? That's the story behind The Walking Dead, a popular series of comic books and a US TV show, which follows the tale of survivors of just such an outbreak in Georgia (in the US, not the country near Russia). But far from other games, which would see this as an excuse for an all out gore fest, with protagonists armed to the teeth who don't care about the hordes they're slaying (see: countless other games), instead, the Walking Dead hits a lot closer to home, by focusing on the normal, every day people, caught up in a nightmare scenario.

The Walking Dead is a point and click game by Telltale, the people who previously bought us Jurassic Park, and the much cheerier Sam & Max and Strongbad games. Moving your character with the left analogue stick, and moving an on screen cursor with the right, the Walking Dead has a slower pace than most "zombie" games, although fast reactions can still be required - they're just used in other ways.

You play as a man named Lee Everett, a deliberately ambiguous character, with a shady history. After being thrown out of a police car that was taking you to prison (for a crime you're initially kept in the dark about), you awake to find your driver outside the car, and a trail of blood behind him. It seems he didn't leave the car of his own accord, but was instead dragged from the car, and killed - at least for now. It doesn't take long to discover who was behind the attack, as a group of shuffling undead appear, and give chase, forcing you to leap over a fence, into the safety of a quiet back garden. Exploring the house in an attempt to find help (your leg was injured in the crash, and you're bleeding), you find a scene of chaos - bookcases up-turned, blood on the floor, and three frantic answerphone messages from an incredibly worried parent. Initially calling to warn her babysitter that she wouldn't be back that evening, after her husband had a run in with a "crazy guy" and had to go to hospital, the messages soon turn to sheer terror, as you discover Atlanta's been placed on lockdown, as more and more people begin to get infected. The terrified mother pleads with her daughter, Clementine, to call the police if she can hear her, before trailing off in tears. Exploring the kitchen, in one of the draws, you find a walkie talkie, through which a child's voice crackles. It's Clementine - an eight year old girl, who's survived on her own for several days, by barricading herself into her treehouse. The first (living) adult to set foot in her house for days, Clementine is initially introverted, yet pleased that you're there - and it's this relationship between Clementine and Lee that's one of the most interesting parts of the game. Clementine is a young girl - she's terrified that she's been left on her own, she's worried about what's happened to her parents, and she's seen violence that no-one should have to see - yet alone a child, but initially, you'll have to fight to win her trust. You're a stranger, after all. Through the conversations you hold with her, you'll be faced with tough decisions - one of the earlier conversations asks if you've ever killed one of the zombies - and you genuinely don't know what to say. Do you admit it, and risk losing her trust (after all, what if she turns and decides you're a lunatic?), or do you lie, and run the risk of her eventually finding out? The choices you make will affect your relationship, not only with Clementine, but also with any characters who may be in earshot. Some may appreciate you trying to look out for her; others may not - but everyone will have an opinion of what you're doing - and the actual story of the game will change to reflect that.

The Walking Dead Episode One Screenshot

You'll come to rely on your fellow survivors on several occasions. Best that they can trust you too.

As you progress through the game, you'll join together with a group of survivors, trying their best to make sense of the changing world around them. While other zombie games feature shooting as their main attraction, it's the conversations that take centre stage here, as through the actions you take, you'll be able to shape the game's story for yourself. Full of believable, human characters with their own strengths and weaknesses, the game's incredibly well written and acted, which makes many of the decisions you have to make so much harder. There's often no middle ground here, either - your options are just several shades of grey, with no easy decisions. Because you're with such a ragtag band of people, each with their own beliefs, traits, and personalities, it's next to impossible to avoid treading on any toes, because in so many cases there is no right thing - only different degrees of wrong. And in a game where the entire story revolves around trust (after all, would you risk your life for someone you didn't know if you could trust?), you'll constantly be making difficult decisions. It's nice, however, that your actions are reciprocated. Stick up for someone, and they'll remember at a later date, and may help you out of a tricky situation. Your standing with members of the group changes with each and every decision you make, and it's balancing things - acting with your heart, or your head, that's the interesting bit. Sadly, the game seems to make a habit out of letting you build relationships with characters, only to then make you choose which one of them you want to save, and which you want to let die - and there's never an option for choosing both.

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