“The Walking Dead: A New Day” Review
The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – “A New Day”
Andrew Smith and Chris Hayes
The Walking Dead is a new episodic game from Telltale Games based on the comic book by Robert Kirkman. Episode 1 of the five part series is available now and the next four episodes will release monthly from May through August. This leaves us with an important question. Is The Walking Dead a series worth keeping, or should it go to an early grave?
The best feature of this game is absolutely the story. The depth and richness of the story in such a short game is truly impressive. The game opens on convicted murderer Lee Everett as he is being driven to jail by a talkative officer. As is typical with zombie apocalypse games, things go downhill from there. Without spoiling the plot, a few key events occur and the story follows Lee as he attempts to survive this world-shattering infestation. You play the character Lee as he meets other survivors. You walk alongside him as he undergoes an emotional transformation from confusion, to hope, to despair. Most zombie games are either spoofs or horror games that give players a fear-based adrenaline rush. The Walking Dead is neither. Telltale has taken the concept of a zombie apocalypse and treated it with complete seriousness. This game isn’t an action title or a horror game; it’s a drama.
There isn’t much “standard” gameplay to be found in The Walking Dead. In fact, many gamers may not even see it as a game at all. The game features comic-book-like cinematographic camera angles, which place it squarely into the category of an artistic third-person game. There is a little bit of walking around and there are a few quick time events but the bulk of the gameplay comes from interacting with other characters – a fact that should not detract from the game in any way.
One of the things that really stands out about the story is your ability to impact it. Lee is his own character with his own back story, fears, concerns, and challenges. He does not, however, have his own morals. There are certain key points in the plot line where Lee is torn between two choices. Sometimes there is a moral high ground. Other times he has to choose between the lesser of two evils. This is where you come in. You make the choices. Lee will be as moral, amoral, or immoral as you want him to be. Two members of the group are in trouble and need help. Who do you save? Do you try to save both? Do you do nothing? It’s your choice. Even doing nothing is a valid choice here. There are several occasions both in conversation and action where you can choose to do nothing.
This is where the game really shines. As the player engages the characters through Lee you start to find friends and enemies. As you make decisions, some characters will trust you more and others will trust you less. It all depends on the decisions you make. You also have to be careful – if your answers aren’t consistent with themselves you can be caught in a lie. Some characters know about Lee’s shady past and are deeply mistrustful of him. Others are oblivious to his criminal history and are quicker to make friends if you treat them right. It really is all up to you.
From an art style perspective, The Walking Dead looks like a cartoony, farcical zombie apocalypse game. Everything looks like it was ripped out of a comic book and converted to 3D. Given that the game is based on a comic book, the look is very apropos. The cel-shading is spectacular and gives excellent depth to the characters.
A Christian Perspective
The content in The Walking Dead is what may cost it a few sales within Hardcore Christian Gamer. It’s a zombie game, so gratuitous violence is involved, which may or may not bother you. The characters don’t kill unless they have to, and even then some are hesitant – the morality of the characters is pervasive, this isn’t a dudebro game.
There is also quite a bit of strong language. Some characters are stressed, others are angry, and more are scared. Often when these emotions run high, many of the characters will utter a few more colorful expletives (Lee included). The purpose of the language is clear and doesn’t seem excessive within the context of the story. It may or may not be a problem for you, but there is a valid reason why it’s there.
Lastly there are some themes of concern. The game may look like a farcical jaunt through zombieland at first blush but nothing could be further from the truth. The Walking Dead is a serious look at the human condition. What happens to people when structured society goes out the window overnight? How do they behave? What kind of decisions do they make? Is survival more important than morality? What do you do when there is no right choice? These are all questions the players will face. These are decisions that Ethics students consider in undergrad programs. This is not a game for children or most teenagers for that matter. It is a game for adults.
All in all, The Walking Dead: A New Day is terrific. It’s more than just a game. It’s an interactive narrative, a “Digital Novel” if you will. The game draws you into a fantastic narrative that really gets you to care about the characters involved. It’s too bad the game features so much strong language. Many may complain about the minimalistic controls and lack of traditional gameplay, but frankly, that might be the game’s best feature.
Telltale Games provided Hardcore Christian Gamer with a review copy of The Walking Dead for PC and X-Box 360 for review.
|Title:||The Walking Dead: A New Day|
|Genre:||Action, Adventure, Role Playing|
|ESRB Rating:||M (Blood and Gore, Violence, Strong Language)|
|Platform:||X-Box Live Arcade, Sony Entertainment Network, Steam, Telltale Digital Download|
|Price:||400 Microsoft Points ($5), Available as a Season Pass (all 5 episodes) on PC for $24.99|