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The Walking Dead Episode 1 (Xbox 360) Review

/ Jul 28th, 2012 9 Comments

Zombies in Episode 1

The Walking Dead Game

The Walking Dead Game

The Walking Dead Episode 1: A New Day is the first installment in a five-part adventure game based on the popular graphic novels by Robert Kirkman. It was developed by the guys at Telltale Games, who are known for episodic adventure titles like Back to the Future and Jurassic Park.

In Episode 1, you play as Lee Everett, a convicted criminal who is being hauled off to jail right before the onset of the zombie apocalypse. As the world gets turned upside down by the living dead, Lee is given a second chance at life and crosses paths with an orphaned girl named Clementine. As Lee, you watch over the child while meeting other survivors and making difficult decisions to survive. Telltale Games, who worked with Kirkman himself, decided to deliver a story that runs in parallel with the one you see in the comics and TV show. As Lee (and not Rick Grimes), you witness how other survivors in Georgia react to “walkers” and each another at the start of the zombie apocalypse. It’s a fresh perspective that expands on the Walking Dead universe by lightly tying into the Rick storyline. That is to say, expect to see some familiar faces in Episode 1 and learn about where they were before they joined Rick’s group.

As a role playing adventure game, The Walking Dead is mostly about interacting with other characters, making quick decisions, and solving relatively simple puzzles. Decisions actually affect the storyline, and you’ll find that even the most seemingly trivial choices in your own dialogue affect how others perceive you. There’s a time limit for most choices to be made, and to make the game more reminiscent of the comics, you’ll find yourself having to choose who to save (and who to let die) a couple of times in Episode 1. Some of the choices are harder than others, because certain characters are far more interesting (though all of them seem to serve their own role in the group). Ultimately there are a lot of different versions of Episode 1 that can be experienced depending on how you play. Telltale even encourages gamers to replay the storyline differently by including three save slots.

Lee and Clementine from The Walking Dead Ep 1

Lee and Clementine from The Walking Dead Ep 1

Dialogue and decision making aside, there’s no shortage of killing zombies in EP 1. Controls in The Walking Dead involve walking with the left thumbstick and moving an on-screen cursor with the right thumbstick. Actions are performed by highlighting objects and characters with the cursor and hitting X,A,Y, or B on the Xbox 360 controller. It’s a little clunky at first, but it gets the job done surprisingly well. Since controls are so direct, a lot of the actual killing is done with quick time events. For example, a zombie will attack you and you’ll have to rapidly tap B to keep it away until you can finish it off by hitting X. Occasionally, attacking a walker will also require you to use the cursor on the screen to highlight where to bludgeon, kick, punch, etc. the menace.

Visually, the game adopts an art style that takes you right to the comics. There’s blood and gore, and characters and environments are rendered in cell-shading, with textures that include the bold pen contours seen in the graphic novels. Graphically, it’s no technical milestone, but it still looks great. The music is also a character in the game, doing it’s part to add more tension as you make pivotal decisions in the storyline. Voice acting is wholly engaging, particularly amongst Lee and Clementine.

Overall, Episode 1 has a lot of things working for it. For one, it’s not just a video game copy of the comic books or television show. It introduces new characters and new story lines without completely isolating them from those characters we already know. The game also offers a lot of replay value because of a variety of pivotal decisions that affect the narrative. Timed decision making is tense, and sometimes you don’t always make the right choice, which feels completely appropriate for this game. The visuals, music, and consistently realistic voice acting are also great. Finally, the price tag (400 Microsoft Points) is certainly fair for the 2-3 hours of gameplay and should attract more casual gamers.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are a few problems with Episode 1. For one thing, some of the characters (like Kenny, for instance) don’t feel as refined as others. Hopefully this is just an issue with time, and they become more engaging with future episodes. On a more technical level, the game also has a few hiccups where video or audio lags and takes a few seconds to play (I had 3-4 of these on my first play through). Nothing incredibly annoying, but worth noting. Invisible walls and camera angles that obstruct your view of the rest of an area are bothersome as well, especially as you try to soak in the pretty environments. Finally, I would have liked to have seen more puzzles in the storyline (perhaps this again was an issue with all of the necessary exposition).

Zombies in Episode 1

Zombies in Episode 1

To sum it up, then, Episode 1 of The Walking Dead game is a great experience depending on what kind of gamer you are. If you want a fast-paced, hack n’ slash, zombie game that throws you into the action with no story, then this probably isn’t the game for you. But if you’re a fan of choose-your-own adventure games and Kirkman’s take on the zombie apocalypse, then give Episode 1 a buy. It’s a great casual title that’s almost entirely driven by good story and great characters, and after playing it through you’ll most likely want to dive back in with Episode 2.

The Walking Dead Episodes 1 and 2 are out now for download on the Xbox Live Marketplace. The games are also available for PS3, PC, and MAC. Episode 3 releases mid-August.

Overall Ratings – The Walking Dead Episode 1 (Xbox 360)











Romtin Erfani

Romtin Erfani

Romtin Erfani is just another kid in college whose been playing video games as long as he can remember. FPS games are his favorite, but he's been known to dabble in a little of everything.
Romtin Erfani

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