The Walking Dead: Season One (the game) review

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A videogame is made to make us feel that we can be the hero of the galaxy or the best in certain sports, and with time the immersion a game can provide to a player has become even greater with the advance in technology but also in how the story is told. Nowadays, many games let you choose what you want to say, but the outcome will not make a significant difference compared to the other possible choices, which makes them practically useless. Other always follow the same pattern: to have a good ending or a bad ending. The Walking Dead: The Game has surpassed the traditional mechanism of how the player can experience that he is part of the narrative world by fully relying in what makes everybody unique: decision making. The difference now is that everything you choose will have a consequence. Everybody likes to know that their decisions make a difference and this game delivers that satisfaction with a story so deep that the emotional connection the player will feel from the beginning to the end will be like no other.

Based on the comics of the same name, The Walking Dead: The Game is a point and click adventure game spread in 5 episodes but far different from others you have probably played. Zombies are almost everywhere these days and almost every game about them will involve gunfire or another way to crush their brains. But this is not a typical kill-all-the-zombies-you-can kind of game. The Walking Dead is all about involving oneself into the story of some regular guys who have no idea of what’s going on and are just trying to survive by any means possible. Everything begins with Lee Everett, our character, on his way to prison until the police car overturns and the next thing Lee knows after waking up is that a zombie outbreak has spread. While trying to find help, he runs into a little girl named Clementine who hasn’t known about her parents in a little while and becomes his responsibility from now on.

As you progress, you will meet more people with whom Lee and Clem will share their fight for survival and the real core of the story-telling will come to light: decision making. In most of the conversations you will have to choose what to answer. Based on what you answered, the characters will remember that you only care about yourself or also about them. It sounds very simple, yet there’s another circumstance that causes the experience to be tenser than what it already is. You will have limited time to say something and if you don’t say anything, even that will have its own repercussion, as everybody will see Lee can’t make a difference in situations like these. And it gets tougher, because the moments when you will have to intervene with your own answer also involve very difficult and emotional decisions. There will be times when you have to choose which side you are on, who you save and who you let die. What makes this so special is that the tense, the fear, the responsibility will be yours. You will feel it with every decision you choose.

And that emotional experience comes most of the time thanks to young Clementine. Sometimes in the gaming scope, having to take care of somebody else is a burden, especially when that character can’t defend himself. However, that’s not the case here. Clementine is not a regular kid, not even for a videogame character. She’s not dumb, nor a girl that can take full care of herself. She’s fragile, she needs somebody for protection, and that person is Lee. Nonetheless, throughout the story, taking care of the child will no longer be Lee’s concern, it will be yours, because it’s impossible not to become fond of Clem as she is forced to grow up rather quickly. Her innocence definitely makes you rethink the answer you already had in mind. She is the main reason why the characters will feel there is still hope, and so will you.

During the moments of relative peace, you will have the chance to explore the place around you. Aside from some small puzzles to keep going through the story, you also have the opportunity to get to know the other characters. Perhaps a strong consequence will not come out from these small chats in the story, but it will definitely affect what you think about them, since it’s hard not to feel compassions about the others. Out of that, the gameplay will always follow the same formula- explore a little and continue with the main campaign.

Although most of The Walking Dead is done brilliantly, every game has its own flaws and the technical aspect is where this one has its ups and downs. There’s nothing wrong with the cel-shaded graphics, they look wonderful. Neither is the outstanding voice acting in every character (especially the sweet voice of Clem). The problem comes with some unexpected bugs in some of the sequences of a scene. Some lag, a relatively long loading sequence from scene to scene and a weird, awkward freeze of Lee while the action went on sadly represents a component that makes you wake up from a wonderful dream to the reality that it is just a game. Nonetheless, it’s not that it happens all the time, not at all. It happens once in a while, but it is still noticeable.

Everything that is integrated in The Walking Dead: The Game makes it feel it is a different game. The fresh choice-consequence mechanic is something that gamers will totally be grateful for, since finally there will a real proof that your character and everything around you will answer to your decision. And this is accomplished in a very big way thanks to the emotional connection the player will feel throughout the game due to the always optimistic Clementine that makes hope live one more day. Yes, the game is not exactly designed for the gameplay. I thought I would get bored really fast due to that but the truth is I haven’t been that constantly immersed in a game for a very (and I mean it) long time. Telltale created one of the (probably) most emotional experiences in the gaming industry and it definitely left everybody with the desire to try season two when it comes out. Let’s hope it allows the gamer feel part of the narrative as much as season one did.

Rating: 9.5 – Outstanding experience

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