The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – A New Day

The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – A New Day arrives as the first of what will be five monthly instalments of Telltale Games’ interpretation of Robert Kirkman’s acclaimed graphic novel series, each one coming in at 400 Microsoft Points (or the equivalent value on PS3 and PC). The graphic novels were recently propelled into the mainstream by a high-profile television series adaptation which, as with its source material, is particularly notable for its use of gratuitous violence and its propensity for shocking the audience by killing off characters with grisly abandon and apparent glee. Wisely, this videogame adaptation doesn’t shirk at using the very same tools to convey a pervasive sense of extreme threat, and as such the decisions it forces on the player are laced with the required risk to make this a compelling survival horror experience.

You play as Lee, who is essentially a likeable everyman thrown into the same situation that seemingly every video game character must face at some point – zombie apocalypse. I will go into no more detail than that – the slow reveal of Lee’s back-story is a highlight of the game, and should not be spoiled. Much of the plot differs from that of the graphic novels, but some characters and situations have made it into the game, which is generally said to run closer to the source material in tone than the Frank Darabont-steered television series.

What Telltale are serving up here bears strong similarities to their recent Jurassic Park adaptation, but is a far more well-judged and refined experience. While Jurassic Park: The Game constantly forced quicktime events on the player, even when performing ostensibly simple or trivial tasks, The Walking Dead flings those hurdles into the player’s path more sparingly. Wrapped around them are short-lived exploratory sections and Lee’s pensive encounters with other survivors.

Those encounters form the basis for the most memorable aspect of the game. On a handful of occasions during the narrative, you will be forced to make difficult choices. Decisions are the most important component to a survival horror experience, and The Walking Dead throws up some humdingers. It also strongly implies that these decisions will help shape the narrative in later episodes – it remains to be seen to just what extent that will be the case, but the prospect is intriguing. Regardless, taken in isolation a couple of the calls the player is forced to make in this first episode alone are shocks to the system, and will probably be most welcome to gamers who are becoming a little fatigued by the black and white morality of series like Mass Effect and Fable.

The Walking Dead doesn’t just deal in grey through its challenges to the player’s morality – it is also the prevailing graphical impression. The art assets feature thick black outlines; a clear effort has been made to capture the literal look and feel of the graphic novels. The game has evidently been produced on a tight budget, but intelligent use of lighting, strong voice-acting and efficient pacing come together to leave little sense of cheapness. Expect your first playthrough to take between two and three hours. You may find further value in a second playthrough to see how alternative choices play out.


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One response to “The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – A New Day”

  1. Lauren avatar
    Lauren

    I very much enjoyed the first episode and cant wait for the next! I love making choices in video games and making quick ones keeps you on your toes and can sometimes make you doubt them!

    I really like Lee, I cant hate him. The characters have all been created well and arent 2D, their all have different personalities and views.

    I just wish it went on for longer, but then again its fun to replay.

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