Review: The Walking Dead Episode 1: A New Day
By: Jeff Rivera
Telltale Games in the past few years has been at the forefront of the Adventure game genre revival. Titles like Puzzle Agent, Sam and Max, and Back to the Future have all been received warmly by the gaming press and gamers everywhere. In a sit down meeting with Telltale staff at E3 2011, I got a sneak peek at The Walking Dead, and you could feel their excitement about the project and for how they were looking to evolve on of gaming's most formulaic genres.
The Walking Dead opens up with a prisoner, Lee Everett, being transported to in the back of a patrol car. While making small talk with the police officer, things get thrown out of whack immediately when the car crashes and rolls off the road. After coming to his senses in the crashed car, Lee emerges from the wreck only to find that the officer died in the crash and that zombies, or Walkers as they're called, are on the loose.
As you wander around, trying to find some explanation as to what is going on, you pair up with an unlikely companion, a young girl named Clementine whose parents are missing and most likely have died in the outbreak. Lee takes it upon himself to look after Clementine while trying to find answers about what is going on in the world. As you meet new people, your interactions with them has a significant impact on the overall plot. If you choose to be deceitful, you'll find it harder to win Clementine's trust as she witnesses you lying or cheating. Several times you're forced to take sides in arguments where you'd rather stay neutral; and it's even up to you at times to decide who will live and who will get dragged down by the walkers.
The most refreshing thing about The Walking Dead lies in its choice system. Far too often choice in games boils down to a light/dark system, but things are different here. Your choices impact relationships with the other survivors, but often they have no discernable "better" choice when it comes to moral weight. Rather than a set of right or wrong choices, Telltale has presented choices that are just different, and it's entirely up to you what direction you prefer.
It's hard to talk specifics without spoiling anything, so I'll sidestep that problem by merely stating that in all the games where you are presented with choice out there, there really isn't anything that makes you feel so worried about your choices as The Walking Dead. At the end of the episode, you get to see how your choices measured up with everybody else, and the percentages are often surprising when they go against what you felt was the smarter direction to take.
The Walking Dead: Episode 1: A New Day is a must for any fan of the genre or for those looking to find a great example of meaningful storytelling in video games. The art style, the music, the dialog, and the choice system are all fantastic and will definitely cause waves in how other developers look at implementing choice systems in their own projects.
5 Stars out of 5