Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Walking Dead: Episode 1 PC Review

Zombies, choices and drama, that's what The Walking Dead is all about. It puts that all into a point and click adventure, the kind of game Telltale Games is known for. The graphics are stylized and inspired by the original The Walking Dead comics. The combat is handled through quick time events, which many people hate, but they are handled tastefully and professionally. The Walking Dead game is a five episode series, the first part of which just came out last Tuesday on the 24th for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. A new episode will be released once every month following that initial release. The first episode costs $25 and lasts 2-3 hours, but when you purchase the first episode you are really purchasing all five episodes, so you are really purchasing 10-15 hours of gameplay. Episode 1 focuses greatly on choices, constantly notifying you when a character takes note of your actions and gives you plenty of options to piss people off, help them, save them or let them die. For now it is difficult to tell if your choices truly matter, but once the rest of the episodes come out we will see if your choices truly matter. Read on for a review of The Walking Dead: Episode 1 - A New Day.

One of the first things likely to disappoint you in The Walking Dead is the graphics. Some of the character models are believe-able and are detailed, while there are plenty of zombies and a few people who look bland or hastily designed. This is especially evident when a zombie horde is shown. When a single zombie is shown it will often look quite good, but when they have a horde there are so many zombies on the screen that they didn't bother to detail them or the graphical engine cannot handle having a bunch of highly, or moderately, detailed zombies on the screen at once. There is a similar problem with the environments, in which the area closest to you, the area you move in or experience events in is detailed and pretty good looking, but then if you happen to look past that to the background you will find blurred out textures and horribly looking distant objects. In the first episode you are at Hershel's farm for a short period of time and this area aptly displays this problem. The closed in area around the house, which you get to walk around and explore, has plenty of detail, color and some real models, but if you look over the fence and into the field beyond the farm you will see trees that look a decade old and non-existent grass.

If only you actually could see any of this when you look off the farm
In the end the graphics are pretty mixed. They certainly won't bother you if you aren't trying to loo beyond what the game is focusing your vision on, but if you like to look at everything and you like to, as the phrase is said, take it all in, then you may find some significant gripes. The graphics may detract from the experience every so often, but for the most part they do their job and make the world feel moderately believe-able, which is something very important for a game focused on character interaction and story. The animations in the game are quite good. There are some odd movements here and there, but a lot of the gestures, movements, swings and combat animations are spot on. Hopefully the games graphical engine, or just the models and environments, will be improved by the time the next episode comes out.

Looks pretty good right? Well check out the trees in the back left
The Walking Dead's story is one of its better points. You play as Lee Everett, a man who may or may not be killer, which you learn plenty about throughout the first episode, and you get to choose what kind of person to make him throughout the game. You can make him upfront and honest about his life, to an extent, or you may hide everything from everyone. The game starts as the zombie outbreak is starting to spread all over, but you are specifically just outside of Atlanta, one of the main cities in start of The Walking Dead show/comics. Each character you meet in the game has their own motivations, connections and background, making them all believe-able characters and unique feeling. There are even a few well known characters in the first episode, like Hershel Greene and Glenn, but they do not disrupt the story from the show all that much. While you do meet these characters they don't do anything that makes their stories separate from the timeline's of the other two stories. They also don't make these two characters part of the main set of characters, meaning you don't seem to earn influence with them the same way you do with the rest of the characters.

That is indeed Glenn and he is still great
To my surprise I like parts of the story in The Walking Dead game better than The Walking Dead television show. I especially enjoy the relationship they build up between Lee and the girl you meet very early on named Clementine. They make it easy to get interested in the back-grounds of all the characters you meet and they make it so constantly have choices, some of which are tiny, like backing someone up in an argument, while others are massive decisions that involve saving someone's life. I also appreciate that they make some conflicts between characters feel plausible, sure it's a zombie outbreak, but some people are assholes and some people just won't get along. There are gimmicky moments every so often, but they really did a great job with the voice acting, animations and script to make it easy to invest in the story. I cannot wait to see what happens next and what new characters will surface. Plus, like I said earlier, it will be very important to see how your choices affect the story in the long run.



Combat is often vicious, quick and brutal. They handle combat with quick time events, which plenty of people despise because quick time events often feel shallow and far less fun that a real combat system, but let's face it, this isn't a first person shooter it is a point and click adventure game. The quick time events have you selecting parts of a zombie to stab or pressing a key desperately to escape a zombie's grasp. They are designed quite well and I cannot imagine a point and click adventure game handling combat much better than they do in this. Sure it would be better if you implemented some Mount & Blade style melee controls, but without merging genre's they have done what they could to make combat exciting. If combat were the main focus in The Walking Dead then it would be a problem, but the story is the main focus and the combat system that is here is not lazily created. Jamming a pick through a zombie's skull feel's about as good as it can for this type of system, they definitely did a lot with it and made it enticing, but if you hate quick time events then you are still going to hate it. Most importantly, the combat feels like an extension onto the point and click system, so it fits right in, feels good, looks good and does it's job. 


The Walking Dead has a lot of sounds to deal with; whether it's gunshots, stabbing noises, cleaving through flesh noises, voices, zombie moans and groans, alarms, car noises, ambient sound and music. There is some theme music that is high quality and pleasing to the ears, plus it really fits the mood and atmosphere. The majority of the sounds in the game are quite good, except for everything related to guns and explosions. There are a couple of times in the game where you hear distant gunshots or explosions and they do not sound good. They are certainly there and you definitely know what it is, but it is a really far stretch from the sounds of gunshots/explosions in any decent shooter out there. Some of the gun shots sound decent close up, like when it's a single gun firing, but other than that they do not match the quality of voice acting, music or most everything else. I am happy to say that most of the sounds are well made and fitting, especially all of the voice acting, music, and the little sounds you often don't appreciate it, like opening doors, moving a table, turning on a tv, little things. Zombie moans & groans could use work, but do not detract from the experience in anyway, they just don't quite reach the quality that one might expect from The Walking Dead. Before I get to the last comments and score take a look a good bit of the game in action. 



Last Comments
The Walking Dead: Episode 1 is not for everyone. It doesn't have mind blowing graphics, it doesn't have innovative mechanics, it doesn't have a super attractive combat system, but it does have a great deal of strength in story, tone, environment. It does make a point and click adventure feel interesting once again. Only one episode is out right now, another one due on May 24th, and that's all your going to get for $25, but in four months time all of the episodes will be out and it will be a fairly lengthy game with a ton of choices. No one knows if your choices truly matter just yet and the series will be broken or made by how your choices affect the story down the line, but based on the first episode it does look like your choices really do change things and create a different story line. If they can fix up the graphics a little, fix a few of the technical problems, like sound glitches and crashes, then the series could end up becoming one of the best point and click adventure games in a very long time. 

Violent Score: 3.5 (out of 5) 


Recommended? 
-I don't recommend it wholeheartedly just yet. Wait at least until the second episode comes out, and our review, to see whether or not your choices in each episode do interact in significant ways. Plus it would be nice to have more content at your fingertips than 2-4 hours, especially when you just put down $25 for it. Although, if you purchase the game on Xbox 360 or PSN you can purchase it episode by episode, but that of course costs more in the long run. 

Steam Page: http://store.steampowered.com/app/207610/
Main Website: http://www.telltalegames.com/walkingdead/age_gate

-Written by Sean Cargle

2 comments:

  1. Direct 2 PlayMay 2, 2012 2:49 AM

    Do it really mean that if we are purchasing First episode then actually we will have all 5 episodes? It will be truly exciting if we can enjoy all episodes for just $25.

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    Replies
    1. Yup and I've been told the prices for each version are different, meaning Xbox 360 is a little more expensive apparently, about $30, while PS3 is about $20, but I'm not sure if that is relative to how much support those versions will be getting or something.

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