This week’s videogame review features zombies, choices, and a lot of heart. Telltale’s latest game is so much more than just the “point and click” of its earlier works like Sam and Max or Back to the Future, and allows the players a bit more choice over what action they would take in similar situations. Oh, and did I mention that there are zombies??
You start off as Lee Everett, a man convicted of murder with a dark past, but you get little more information on than that. While traveling down a stretch of highway OUT of Atlanta in the back of a squad car, the officer driving doesn’t keep his eyes on the road (as he is more concerned with talking your ear off) and gets into an accident, knocking your character unconscious as zombies appear to stagger towards the wreckage. Upon waking up, out of a daze, you realize you are free to move. Using the left stick to look around and the right stick to move, you now have to navigate an injured Lee to safety, which is no easy task. From looking out the broken window, calling out to the police officer who appears to have been thrown from the wreckage, to kicking out the window so you can pull yourself out of the car’s cab, and even finding the keys to unlock your cuffs, suspense and drama seem to be what Taletell was going for, hitting the nail on the head. Lee then comes across Clementine, a young girl who hid in her tree house who seems to have been abandoned. Clementine essentially acts as the players conscience, fully trusting Lee yet still letting the player know how she feels about you or certain choices you’ve made..
Without giving too much away, as you explore the world and find useful items in it, you will be better prepared for the next “zombie encounter”, but that isn’t to say that this is your average “shoot em up, kill em all” zombie game. Unlike games like Left 4 Dead or Dead Rising, most items are single use, improvised, and very limited. A good aim and not getting ahead of yourself is key in this game, as most encounters consist of you “mashing” a button to try and free yourself from a zombie’s grasp or of you aiming the camera angle at a shotgun you find, placing the cartridge in, and cocking it to prepare to fire.
Choices made in this episode will be remembered in later episodes (5 in all) so be prepared to play multiple play throughs, and with 3 safe files, who wouldn’t want to replay? Leaving during day or night will have you walk into different groups of people, get help in different ways, or lead you down a different (yet still similar) path all the way to your first stop: Hershel’s Farm. Now, for fans of the comic, this is the comic version of Hershel, not AMC’s. He’s crass and judgmental and makes poor young kids sleep in barns. At times while stories are told or people ask you questions, you have split seconds to respond with your buttons anyway you seem fit, but remember: You are asking this man for help. Maybe he can sense you are lying. Listening is key in all of the cinematic cut scenes, as is responding. Silence is a choice in the game and some could take that response as unseemly. While at the farm, you can speak to other characters who made their way there and find out new and interesting things about them, sometimes adding to the story in ways you wouldn’t understand at the moment. This game pulls at your heart strings and your survival instinct when it calls you to make your first choice of who to help and who to not. Characters will die as a direct result of your decisions, just as you will make friends or enemies, all from the choices you make during your adventure. The dialog really adds to the choices and decisions you made, further immersing you into the world of The Walking Dead.
You meet up with a new group at the farm and decide to travel together with a hot-head redneck named Kenny and his family, stopping at, surprisingly enough, a drug store from Lee’s past. The more you play, the more you unlock about Lee Everett as a person, not just as some rendering TellTale came up with. Unlike the hero of the comic, Rick Grimes, Lee is on the opposite side of the law when the zombie apocalypse strikes. Clementine isn’t his real daughter and he’s not chasing his family down. Lee is just a man trying to make sense of this new world and survive in it. This is about the area you’ll meet the next guest appearance, Glenn! After a heated argument, you are finally accepted inside the drug store, but just what kind of people are in there already? And what do they know about Lee? How is he connected to the owners of the drug store? After a series of minor adventures, including taking out about 5 zombies in stealth mode, you are met with yet another choice of letting someone chose suicide over becoming a zombie. Like I said, this game is about choice, and it doesn’t cut corners, and people WILL react to your decision.
Clearing this area also gets you an axe, much more effective for killing zombies with, and, after a near-death escape where you are forced to make THE BIGGEST decision of the game yet, gets you a new safe zone to stay at. All cards are laid down at the table at the end of the episode, as it is revealed that someone in the group knows about Lee’s dark past and has threatened to expose him if you aren’t careful, all leading to a real kick in the pants moment with the words “to be continued” across the screen. You’ve made your choices. You see where you stand, a man trying to survive and keep a little girl alive. But can you live with what the game made you do to get there?
The Walking Dead: A New Day has amazing voice acting paired with life and death situations and chaotic events that make it something not to be missed. The only real down sides to this game that I see are frame rate issues and the fact that Telltale can’t seem to keep a promise on when the next episodes will be delivered. It was originally slatted as a monthly release, but with 2+ months later, a lot of people were upset at buying the season pass and that there was zero response from Telltale about the delay. The gameplay actually reminded me a lot of Heavy Rain, but with such better voice acting and an in-depth story that leaves you craving flesh… I mean more episodes!
The first episode averages out about 2 hours long the first play through, but like Ive stated, with multiple responses and multiple choices, you are going to want to spend a little more than 2 hours on this game. Stay tuned after the episode for an amazing “Next time, on The Walking Dead” preview that is full of screams, hunger, and blood… aptly named “Starving for Help”. The first episode is available now, while the second is promised to be available for download later this month.