You probably know all about Telltale’s adventurous take on The Walking Dead, which released in 5 episodic installments over the course of 2012. Taking a comic book series and a TV show known for its zombie scenarios and making it anything other than a first person shooter might have seemed like an odd move to some, but Telltale clearly saw past the horror and straight to the humanity of Walking Dead’s world — and that sometimes, humans are the scariest creatures of all.
In a departure from our normal reviews, all four of the GamerSushi writers have contributed to this piece. As you may know, Walking Dead was our number one game of 2012, so we wanted the review to reflect that high place that we’ve given it. To review the game, each of us have written about the one aspect that makes this game stand apart, and why we personally chose it as our game of the year. Enjoy!
The Dialogue: Anthony
The Walking Dead is a unique game; featuring both a streamlined answer to the adventure genre and a groundbreaking narrative that most games would kill for, it was initially tough to decide what stood out to me the most. But it occurred to me before long that the dialogue is what made the game so very special for me. Many games offer dialogue options and some even have consequences that result from the choices you make. But The Walking Dead differs in a few critical areas that make the game stand out from the crowd.
First, the timer. Now, this isn’t exactly revolutionary as other games have had timed dialogue choices before, namely Heavy Rain. But like Heavy Rain, it matters what you say, thus the tension of making a choice is amplified greatly. In Mass Effect, whoever Shepard is speaking to is quite content to sit there calmly and wait for you to respond. Not here. The other aspect that is kind of subtle, but pushes this over the top for me is the fact that people keep talking while you try to decide. So many times have I been about to make my selection when the speaker says something in a certain that causes me to change my decision at the last second. It’s not something I can remember experiencing in any other game and it is a large part of why The Walking Dead stands out to me as such a fantastic game.
The Consequences: Mitch
While The Walking Dead may have one distinct outcome, how players get there can differ greatly from person to person. The choices in the game come so many in number and in so many shapes that no two playthroughs will be exactly the same.
When guiding protagonist Lee Everett through his trials, people may find their moral compasses shifting this way and that as they acclimatize to the messed up world they find themselves in. Certain characters may rub people the wrong way while others will stick with that character through thick and thin. Despite some shallow action sequences that the game thankfully does away with as it goes on, The Walking Dead triumphs on the breadth and strength of its choices and consequences.
The Emotions: Eddy
Walking Dead is a game that punches you right in the feels, and never lets up. So many games play doctor when it comes to trying to give players an emotional journey. While this usually happens through beefy leading silent white males, Walking Dead actually does this through a story of a man trying to find a new place after doing a bad thing in the world as we knew it before. Through Clementine, Lee not only finds a purpose but redemption. He’s willing to do anything he has to do to protect her, and that bleeds through to the player at every turn.
As Walking Dead progressed, I found myself not only emotionally invested in the characters and what happened to them, but I became emotionally attached to Lee and Clementine’s adoptive father/daughter relationship as well. Especially as the saga neared its end, I kept fearing for Clementine’s safety much like Lee would, and made some terrible choices in order to keep her safe. Few games have been able to create that gnawing sense of dread that something terrible might befall someone you love the way Walking Dead has, because so few games know how to tell a story that feels this real.
The Climax: Jeff
When people think of final boss encounters, they probably don’t imagine scenes where two men sit across from each other and have a polite (if strained) conversation, but that’s what The Walking Dead delivers, and it’s easily one of the most intense and compelling climactic scenes in recent gaming history. It’s both dramatically satisfying and consistent with the themes of The Walking Dead universe, where zombies might be dangerous, but human beings are always the true villains.
In Lee’s confrontation with the mysterious man who took Clementine, we discover that what seemed like a trivial moment earlier in the series actually had far greater importance. Suddenly it becomes crystal-clear that your actions throughout the game have had unimaginable repercussions, and as we hear the villain’s tale, he is simultaneously both tragic and terrifying. The scene ends with a gut-punching twist, and then we follow Lee and Clementine as their story draws to a conclusion with one of gaming’s rare examples of falling action. The final act of The Walking Dead cemented its place in my mind as the game of the year 2012.
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And there you have it, the GamerSushi review of Walking Dead. How many of you have played this game? Do you think it deserves the S ranking? Why or why not? Go!