The Walking Dead Episode 1: A New Day Review (PC)

I’ve been sat here for a good ten minutes trying to work out how to start this review. Do I start by comparing The Walking Dead game to all the games it shares similarities to? Do I jump into praising it for everything it deserves to be praised for, or do I take it slow and talk briefly about the show and comic? Yes, I think I’ll start with that...

While the game is based in the same universe as the TV show and the Comics, with ‘Walkers’ (Zombies) and the occasional Bandit or two, the characters and main storyline is unrelated. The games (developed by Telltale Games) are released episodically, with each episode taking around 2 hours to complete.

"Believe it or not - this doesn’t end well"

This short length of time really allows the game to pack a punch, condensing fantastic storytelling and gameplay mechanics in such a short space of time. While the game plays out like some sort of hybrid of Alpha Protocol, Heavy Rain and L.A Noire, it carries it off well, and you never feel like it's trying to wedge a generic mechanic in there like the aforementioned games occasionally did. It all feels totally natural. The Alpha Protocol style dialogue system (which was the only good thing about that game) works well as it not only presents a wide variety of choices, but it also pushes the game forward with its timed responses; responses that speed up in stressful situations such as being interrogated.

You play as ‘Lee Everett’, a shady character whose back story envelops depending on what choices you make. You start off the game in the back seat of a police car, on your way to prison for murder. The car then proceeds to crash, and this is where you discover that not everything is how it should be...

I don’t want to give too much of the story away, as uncovering secrets and plot lines is an important part of the game, but I can say it’s simple yet gripping. While the story would seem mundane to anyone else, it seems almost overwhelming while playing it as the entirety of it revolves around you and the characters you meet. This is all helped by the brilliant voice acting and characterization that adds to the overall atmosphere of the game, that is one of overwhelming doom and utter depression. Events tug at your heart strings and quash every inch of hope the game sparing throws your way.

"Most of the weapons you use are improvised, making the combat especially brutal"

Another thing the game does well is making sure your choices count. These can be things as simple as the relationships between you and the other characters, to deciding who lives and who dies. Because each episode is quite short, you feel the repercussions of your actions almost immediately. The similarities to Heavy Rain and L.A Noire come in the gameplay. Being a Telltale game, it is still essentially point and click, but they dress it up like they do in L.A Noire. You walk round a room, interacting with various objects and characters to help you progress. Action is a mix of quick time events and aiming and firing, depending on whether or not you’re equipped with a weapon. Most weapons in the game are whatever you can lay your hands on, making for some particularly brutal encounters. At no point in the game are you not in control. Cutscenes are kept to a minimum, and all dialogue is dictated by the player. I’m not usually a fan of point and click games, but that’s because I usually find them dull. The Walking Deadnot only grabbed my attention, but it also tried to bite my arm off whilst mumbling “braiiinsss”.

Each ‘level’ is a good mix of exploration, interrogation, puzzle and action. It all flows really well, with only a few technical issues hampering it, such as the lack of a ‘run’ button, to speed up moving round an environment, and small objects such as bins and plant pots hampering movement.

The game also throws a lot of recorded lines at you, and so when persisting with a dead-end line of interrogation, there are still a good three or four lines that you’ll go through before it looks and you realize you’re barking up the wrong tree.

"Sure, anyone can look badass if you let them carry an axe!"

Furthermore, the game looks amazing. The cell-shaded animation helps take the edge off the intense amounts of gore within the game, and aside from a few chins here and there, the character models look great. Even the scenery looks amazing. At one point, you find yourself in the woods, and it looks like a beautiful puppet show, with layers of detail overlapping one-another. The music in the game is subtle, but adds to the suspense when it needs to.

The Walking Dead game surprised me, pleasantly. Telltale Games are a very hit-and-miss studio, and many episodic games, especially those based on external source material, tend to fall flat on their face. However, some scenes in this game genuinely moved me. And not only the death. Some of the conversations were brutally honest, with some fantastic writing and on more than one occasion it took me a while to absorb what just happened. Most games, no matter how dramatic their story tires to be, you can simply shrug off whatever happens as soon as you power down the console, but not this one. You’ll find yourself over-analyzing all the decisions you make, and lusting after the second episode. Fans of point and click, fans of The Walking Dead, fans of good games and fans of good stories; this game is a must. And I’d recommend it to everyone else too.

Top Game Moment: Can’t be said without spoiling the game, but decisions. Decisions are what make this game.

Platform Played: PC