‘Walking Dead’ game will break your heart
Back in July, we took a look at the first two episodes of “The Walking Dead,” an episodic video game based on the Robert Kirkman comic, which has also spawned a wildly successful TV show on AMC.
At the time, we said it was a fascinating workin-progress, a gruesome, taut thriller about trust and no-win decisions in the face of a zombie apocalypse. Now, a few weeks after the last of five downloadable episodes released to a stunned video game community, “Walking Dead” is being unleashed to retail as a boxed disc for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game consoles.
Now that we’ve played the entire first season of the game and seen how Telltale Games’ ambitious story played out, it’s clear that they were going for something much greater than a kill-theundead gorefest or even a master course on choiceand-consequences game design.
Nope, they were out to break our hearts with one of the most wrenching, moving narratives ever to be told in the medium of video games.
As with the television show, the story got $30-$70 for Standard or Collector’s Editions Rated M for Mature For Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (also available as digital downloads for PC, Mac and iOS devices) better as it went along, increasing in power and detail as you got to know the main characters and followed them through ever-grimmer circumstances. The TV show has sped up the pace and finally has found the right mix of action and drama in its third season. The video game, meanwhile, draws you in with memorable characters, tough life-and-death decisions that affect the dialogue and action in the rest of the episodes, and great production values. It will stand for some time to come as one of the best examples of voice acting and writing in any recent video game.
The character you play, Lee Everett, is a good man with a dark past who makes it his mission to protect Clementine, a young abandoned girl who’s been hiding in a house fighting off invading zombies.
It becomes clear over time that Lee will do anything to save Clementine and remove any obstacle to her safety, be it human or zombie. Lee’s decisions on who to trust, where to seek shelter and how best to keep Clementine out of danger become the heart of the story. By the last episode, Lee and Clementine must make horrible choices leading to a heartbreaking, completely earned conclusion, one unlike anything ever pulled off in a video game. Telltale’s storytelling patience and its trust that players would care and come to love Lee and Clementine pays off. To say the game is harrowing and that it will likely leave you in tears doesn’t quite communicate what Telltale has been able to do here. They’ve nailed a kind of emotional storytelling that typically doesn’t resonate in games. Somehow, through very smart design, technical artistry and commitment to the characters (even the minor ones, many of whom end up as zombie chow) Telltale has created something truly remarkable.
This is a game not just for zombie fans, but for anyone who wants to see a great, dramatic story unfold. Ironically, the digital game version of “The Walking Dead” turns out to be the most humanistic take on Kirkman’s zombie apocalypse yet.