The Walking Dead – “A New Day” (Episode One)
Having had a great time with Telltale’s “Back to the Future: The Game”, I took the plunge and purchased “The Walking Dead” during Steam’s summer sale. Like Back to the Future, this is a five episode series that is released in parts…usually one episode every month. I’ll be reviewing all five episodes of this game as they are released, though please be advised that (at the time of writing) not all of the episodes have been released yet. There may be a month delay in between reviews, unlike the recent episode reviews of Back to the Future that I wrote.
You can read more about that particular series here:
I’ll start this off by saying that I’ve never watched the television series nor read the books or comics. I plan to rectify that soon, once I have the chance.
This game is relatively new, so I’ve decided to do things a little differently. I will first write a general review that is relatively spoiler free, and then go into the plot summary which will be spoiler heavy. Those who only want to read about the game and its features should only read the first section and stop reading when they get to the plot summary. Since the game’s features will more than likely remain the same across all five episodes, I’ll only include the general review in this article and not include it in future episode reviews.
The Semi-Spoiler Free Review
My first impression of this episode (and the game itself) was that the graphics resembled Borderlands a bit in that everything seemed cell-shaded. I was honestly fine with that and the game still looked relatively pretty. What really grabbed me however was how drawn in I was to the characters. Each character, including the one I was controlling (Lee, a history teacher arrested for allegedly killing a state senator), felt lifelike and had their own personality. I cared about each character I met and was saddened when I had to choose between two of them.
Speaking of choosing, I found myself having to pick one of two characters to save when we were being attacking by zombies. I haven’t played the other episodes yet so I do not know the extent of how far the story branches out, but from what I can tell, some of those decisions WILL effect who appears in the later episodes. There also appears to be a hidden loyalty system in place, but I have yet to determine if it actually affects the outcome of events or not. At the very least, it will affect the dialogue of the characters as they interact with you, that much I have seen.
This isn’t like Left 4 Dead or a zombie run-and-gun-esque kind of game. More emphasis is placed on the characters than anything else. I haven’t come across in-depth puzzles or anything of that sort and only had to interact with the environment during a lull or when being attacked. The player will be using the WASD keys (sometimes more) in conjunction with the mouse to fend off attacks in a real-time sequence, much like in Jurassic Park (though not as bad). There were maybe only two or three moments in the game where I had to sit and think about what I had to do next.
There are dialogue choices that you can make that affect how people respond to you. There were some cases where what I chose didn’t seem to matter, but I was too engrossed in the story to really care. In many cases, you’re given the option to just not say anything, which is what will happen if the timer runs out when prompted to pick a response.
This game is not for kids. There is swearing and the game can be extremely gory at times. You can raise your kids how you want, but for those parents cautious about what their kids play…this game would not be for them.
You’ll have a few settings options…you can turn on and off help in two different areas. You can choose to display the prompts that would normally appear on-screen or you can choose to keep them hidden. You’ll be moving the mouse around the screen a lot more with this feature off, probing to find the item that you need to interact with. That wouldn’t be a problem except that the environment is picky about what you hover your mouse over. To interact with handcuffs, for example, it’s not good enough to simply click anywhere on the handcuffs. There’s one spot you have to find in order to bring up the interact menu. The other option you can have turned on is assistance with dialogue choices, warning you of the possible consequences if you choose the wrong thing. I kept the former on and the latter off, but this is just a matter of preference.
After completing the episode, you are shown a statistical graph of how many people chose the same decisions as you. That was a nice touch, in my opinion.
Overall, I enjoyed the first episode and the game itself. In fact, I’m anxious to play the second episode right now but held off to bring you this review. I have to say, that was extremely nice on my part and you should like, click the donate button on the right hand side of my page…or something. Just sayin. Anyway…if you’re a fan of zombie games and like a good story with intriguing characters, then by all means…gobble this game up.
If you don’t want this episode spoiled, do NOT read any further.
Episode One Plot Summary (HEAVY SPOILERS)
The game started off in an unexpected way. I was in the back of a police vehicle, under arrest for allegedly killing a state senator that I caught sleeping with my wife. I’m treated to some dialogue choices with the cop driving the car, but he eventually hits a “person” and the car crashes off the road. Before blacking out, I hear the sounds of screaming and all that fun stuff.
Right away, I could tell that I would not be bored by the game. The game gave us a likable character and killed him off right away, indicating to me that anything can happen. I got the impression that the game wasn’t scared of a little blood or killing people off to suit the plot…which I was fine with. I knew that Marty was going to be safe (to keep with canon) in BTTF, but was unsure how my character would turn out in “The Walking Dead.”
After climbing out of the police vehicle, I came across my first zombie. Completing the quick time sequences while the zombie was crawling towards me really added a suspense factor. I also like how the makers of the game made it seem more real with small details like Lee fumbling with the shotgun ammo that he was trying to get into the gun. A narrow escape led me to a house where I met a young girl by the name of Clementine…I had a feeling I’d be by her side for a while. The answering machine inside of the house that I stumbled upon was eerie…but I loved every minute of it.
We met more people and ended up at a farm, where I was grilled by this older gentleman (Hershel) while he was dressing my wound. I was presented with the option of lying, but I ended up telling the truth anyway. It’s always been difficult for me to take the “evil” path on those kinds of choices. I also met the old man’s son, Wayne, and a family of three…Kenny, Katjaa, and “Duck” as they call him. As Wayne and “Duck” were shoring up the fence, a zombie attack made me choose between the two of them. My instincts told me to save the child, which I did, but Wayne bought it. I guess as a parent, the decision to save the child was natural. Hershel asked us to leave, but Kenny was kind enough to let us ride with his family to Macon, Georgia.
I was really shocked by this turn of events. The game was proving to be unpredictable and engaging, a dangerous combination. I was hooked.
We learn here that Lee had family in Macon and that the pharmacy we end up sheltered in was actually owned by his parents. We meet new people and each of them had their own quirks. The reporter claimed to know who I really was, and Clementine asked about my past. I chose to lie to her about it, seeing as how she was only a kid and didn’t need to be frightened anymore than she already was. There’s a few easy puzzles involving finding batteries to a radio and getting pills for some blowhard that I really dislike.
While on the quest to get into the pharmacy’s stock, we get a message via walkie from one of our group claiming that he’s trapped by a motel. We arrive and we easily find him, but the sequence that followed here was interesting, mainly because it involved systematically killing every zombie so that we could rescue yet another person trapped in a motel room. I found myself bouncing from hiding spot to hiding spot, trying to figure out how best to complete the puzzle. This was probably the area that I spent the most time at, though in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t long at all.
We rescue the woman trapped in the motel room only to discover that she had been bitten, and she asks for our gun so that she can commit suicide. I’m presented with the option of helping her or refusing, in which I do the latter. She ends up wrestling the gun from one of our group and commits suicide anyway.
The last parts of the episode involved us getting into the pharmacy via a pair of keys we retrieved from Lee’s undead brother and escaping after an alarm sounded. I was again faced with saving either the reporter (Carley) or the guy she was with (Doug). I chose Carley…well, because she was the sharpshooter and had the gun. I thought maybe by saving her, she could shoot the other zombies and save Doug…but no dice. It was painful to watch the consequences of my decisions, video game or not.
The group end up back at the same motel we were previously at, and the decision is made to fortify the area and hold out for as long as possible. We get to talk to each character one last time, just to see where they stand with us. Larry, the blowhard, spouts out that he knows who I am as well and sets conditions to keep the information secret. I was again amazed by the story telling…there were characters I clearly liked and didn’t like.
I realize that I didn’t cover all of the episode in detail, but I’m not here to re-write the episode word for word. What I hope that you gathered from it was that I enjoyed the story, the characters, and the episode overall for what it set out to do. This was an excellent episode, though I wish it had been longer. I finished the episode in about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. The hardest part is going to be waiting for episodes three, four, and five once I finish with two. I prefered its style over BTTF…that is…more story, less puzzles.
Final Verdict: 9/10
Anyway, stay tuned for more episode reviews of “The Walking Dead”…hopefully coming soon!