The Walking Dead Episodes Review
I don’t think I have ever waited for a XBLA title like I have with a retail release, but with the Walking Dead, I await each instalment eagerly and hit download as soon as it appears in the XBLA catalogue.
“The Walking Dead Episode 2: Starved for Help” does that rare thing that a licensed product and video game tie in can do – actually work as an enjoyable gaming experience. It pleases me to say that the Comic Series is great, the TV show is great and now, the Video Game is great!
Developed by Telltale Studios, The Walking Dead was conceived to be based around the comic series of the same name and consist of 5 episodes, released monthly. Although scheduled to be released in late 2011, the game was actually put back until 2012 with Episode 1 being released in April. While the idea was to release the episodes monthly, further delays in production saw Episode 2 postponed until July but it was definitely worth the wait.
As soon as you load Episode 2 and hear ‘Previously on The Walking Dead’ you are instantly brought back into the world you left and the decisions you made from Episode 1. Nothing much has changed from Episode 1 in terms of graphics, gameplay or sound, but that is not a bad thing.
The plot sees you play as a character named Lee, someone new to the Walking Dead universe for fans that have read the comic book. In Episode 1 Lee finds a little girl, Clementine, who had lost her parents to the Zombie virus [Ed- Or so we think at this point in writing]. After playing through Episode 1 and making some hard decisions, Lee and Clementine, along with a group of survivors end at a motel and that is where Episode 2 starts off.
Episode 2 starts off with some great action scenes and choices that you really have to think about. However, as soon as you meet the brothers who run the dairy farm, the writing and characterisation becomes very predictable. While it is still enjoyable to play through the story, the horror clichés are very obvious and there are no real twists. The excitement of playing through the story though is in the decisions you have to make. Who do you save? Do you kill someone or spare them? Where does your loyalty lie to other members within your group? This is where the game really excels.
Another feature for the game that works well is in the control system. The game is a glorified point and click adventure with some button action sequences throughout, however the controls work really well to immerse the player into the environment and story.
The graphic style of the game also works really well, both with the tone the game’s surrounding and also with the control System. Using a rotascope type effect, similar to what we have seen in Boarderlands the style is not too realistic but not jarringly unreal. The best way and perhaps most appropriate way to describe it, is that the graphics look like a moving comic book
As I said, there are numerous choices you have to make throughout the game and these really shape your character and I think could have an effect as we progress into further episodes once they are released. A great example of the importance of choices is that following Episode 1, the group of survivors you are with at the start of Episode 2 could be different and so other players could have a completely different gaming experience to you.
The amount of choices you make leads to some great re-playability options. While I believe that the general story will move in the same way regardless of what you do, to talk to other people playing the game who have different NPC’s alongside them is a really interesting thing and definitely gives me the reason to pick up and play the story again and change what I do as I go. This level of re-playability and the decisions you make also leads to the game being one of the most talked about games I know of between people playing it. At the end of the game you have your statistics so you can see the percentage of players who made the same choice as you. Talking to people you know and finding out what decision they made and what happens when they make those choices is really interesting. It’s also great to hear people’s reasoning on why they decided to kill someone or why they decided to save someone, as though they are justifying their decision for a real life event. That is how immersive this game is.
Consisting of 7 chapters the episode lasts around 1 and a half hours to 2 hours, but it is great value at money for only 400 MSP each episode. Telltale have already said that the next episode will be released in mid August and I would love that to be the case. However, even if I have to wait another month, I’ll still be buying it as this is one game where delays don’t put me off, but only make me want it that little bit more.