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XBLA Review: The Walking Dead: Episode 1

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The Walking Dead are back and not just in an Occupy L.A.-May Day convergence exercise in downtown Los Angeles.  Interactive story game maker, Telltale Games has put together something new based off the popular comic book series.  The art is nearly identical to the comics, but The Walking Dead game doesn’t bother retelling the comic or the TV series.  The game lets you play as a convict named Lee Everett, who manages to escape custody as the epidemic breaks out.  This allows the game to run concurrent to the early part of the story fans already know.

The Walking Dead game borrows heavily from the last couple of generations of survival horror games and the classic point and click type adventure games on PC.  Luckily, Telltale is mostly successful at marrying the two genres.  Most of the cel-shaded scenes are presented with classic Resident Evil-type fixed camera angles although thankfully, there are no tank controls.  The camera is slightly adjustable with the right analog stick and Lee moves directly with the left analog stick.  When the shaded crosshairs come across an item or person Lee can interact with, icons pop onto the display with your choice of action.

More than just solving puzzles, The Walking Dead game uses relationships and dialogue as the puzzle.  Nearly everything you say figures into how the game plays out.  Most of the characters Lee meets are, of course, suspicious of him due to the circumstances and some even know who he is.  Your choices are really about who to ally with and how honest to be.  There are also some optional fetch quests that can influence the others in your group.  The meat of it though, is your relationship with the little girl you’ve chosen to take care of, Clementine.  If the choices weren’t difficult enough, many of them are timed.

Though the game does contain a lot of dialogue, there are zombies to kill.  Many of these combat sequences require quickly lining up the cross hairs on a target and selecting the appropriate action.  There isn’t any swinging of melee weapons or unloading copious amounts of ammo into “walkers.”  The combat is fairly rare which may dismay some potential players and result in the game being dismissed as an interactive comic like those found on smartphones.  While fairly short, there is certainly more to this game than just a lightly interactive television episode.

A couple of characters from the established franchise do make their way in The Walking Dead: Episode 1 game but in forms closer to the comics than the TV series.  The game is however, presented in a format similar to a television episode, with a coming soon sequence at the end.  Seeing where your choices put you will probably make you want to replay Episode 1 and even more so considering those choices will carry through continuing episodes.  What else will you do while waiting for the next one to be released?

Clocking in at between two and three hours, The Walking Dead: Episode 1 isn’t something that will suck up much time and once you’re satisfied with your choices, there isn’t much incentive for replay.  As the new episodes come out, that may, however, change.  The game is well executed for what it is but it’s not the next Resident Evil game.  That doesn’t mean it’s not a good value though.  At about the cost of a new DVD rental, this first episode on the Xbox Live Arcade is an enticing introduction.  Adventure game fans and zombie enthusiasts should definitely give it a shot.  Those looking for non-stop action and a never-ending bloodbath should probably look elsewhere.

 
The Walking Dead: Episode 1 is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Strong Language, Blood and Gore, Intense Violence. This game can also be found on: PC and PS3.

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About Lance Roth

Lance Roth has over 10 years experience in the video game industry. He has worked in a number of capacities within the industry and currently provides development and strategy consulting. He participated in all of the major console launches since the Dreamcast. This videogame resume goes all of the way back to when they were written in DOS. You can contact Lance at RPGameX.com or rpgamex@gmail.com.
  • http://www.handsoftime.com kit

    Zombie Banker Apocalypse -I’d buy it.