The Walking Dead Episodes 1-4 Review

  • Platform: PS3, PC, Xbox 360, iOS, 
  • Developer: Telltale Games
  • Publisher: Telltale Games
  • Release Date: December 11, 2012
  • $29.99
  • Official: Telltale

“What will you do for Clementine?”

Those words may not mean much to you right now, but if you dive headfirst into what many have already deemed “Game of the Year”, then they have a lot of weight to them. Telltale is quite the unique studio, being one of the pioneers behind the “Adventure Game renaissance”, delivering solid games such as Sam and Max, Tales of Monkey Island and Back to the Future among many others. But they have also been pioneers of the digital format, Telltale started exploring the option of selling your titles through digital means long before the majority even knew it was an option. Each of the studios games have been sold through an episodic format, similar to television. Each episode is several hours in length, will only set you back a few bucks, and are released every couple of months. If you want to continue playing and see how the story plays out, you buy the newest episode, if you don’t like the game, you only invested a few dollars, and can easily stop. With the high popularity of zombies over the years, and the explosion caused by AMC’s The Walking Dead, a game was inevitable, but luckily Telltale Games acquired the rights to the original Walking Dead comic series, and with their commitment to solid story telling, and the episodic format they do so well; Telltale Games The Walking Dead has become one of the best gaming experiences in years. Well worth those Game of the Year nods from fans and critics alike. Oh, and it will also make you ask yourself, “What will I do for Clementine?”

Stories in games have been evolving for some time now, Bioware did a great job with a trilogy with Mass Effect, Naughty Dog has achieved some of the most believable characters in gaming with their Uncharted series; and now Telltale has managed to create a truly emotional and gut punching experience with The Walking Dead. Don’t let the fact that this is a game fool you, the story being told within this series is one of the most adult tales ever put in front of gamers. The story begins with the player being given control of a man named Lee Everett, you are in the back of a police cruiser, you don’t know the events that have led to you being incarcerated, but before you can begin to wonder; the officer driving you to prison begins to speak.

And the story begins, you are now given four responses to choose for the driver, and subsequently to each character you will interact with on your journey through the undead nightmare. You can answer the officers questions however you like, or even opt to not answer at all, a rare act in games, and through your selections you may receive further back story into Lee, and what brought him to being arrested, or not find much at all. Lee Everett is your protagonist to discover and shape, and he is truly one of the finest characters of this generation. It is not long before you find yourself injured and running from the shambling hoards of the undead, confused and alone in a world that has gotten dark rather quickly. But then you stumble across Clementine; a scared young girl who has lost her parents, and you have found the heart of the story.

Telltale Games has found a way to blend their adventure game mechanics with the occasional action set piece perfectly, don’t think this is your average action game, the majority of your time with The Walking Dead will be conversing with other survivors and dealing with the stresses and horrors of the zombie apocalypse, you won’t be slaying hundreds of zombies like a mad man; one will give you enough trouble. But the slower pace, and the interactions with survivors is done so remarkably well, you will become instantly engrossed in the events on your screen. The relationship that forms between Lee and Clementine is one of pure genius. The growing trust and reliance on each other is so natural you may not even notice its happening. You will begin to make decisions that benefit Clem, you will start to look at other survivors with a fathers mistrust, and you will feel your heart break when she cries. And that is a fact.

The first episode introduces you to the plague, and your first small group of survivors, with one being Glenn from the comics, before he made the trip to Atlanta. One of the greatest things Telltale has achieved with this series is that choice really matters. Your choices within the first episode, will alter the experience for the second, and third, and so on. My group of survivors in episode three, may be different than your group in that same episode. Not only are lives affected by your choices, so too are relationships. The way in which you interact with your group will either positively or negatively affect their perception of Lee. Consistently make decisions that favor one survivor over another and the latter may just bail on you when your life is in danger. The story is told in such an incredibly organic way, that you will feel it was tailor made for you alone.

With such a large portion of the game being social interactions, it is imperative that the voice cast nail their lines, and they do. The vocal talent on display here is impressive, each character is brought to life perfectly, the anger, the sorrow, the terror, each is audible brilliance. The graphical style too, is great. The game is brought to life with a cell shaded look and art that captures the spirit of the graphic novels perfectly. The characters have an exaggerated look that is both realistic and cartoonish, and although the game may be cell shaded, it does not hold back on the gore. Similar to the show, Telltale is not afraid to get up close and personal to some truly horrific adult moments of brutality that will make you squirm.

With an incredible story, great pacing, and solid audio and visual work, The Walking Dead seems perfect, right? Well, it almost is, but some technical missteps act as straggling zombies do when you let your guard down; they surprise and punish you. The episodic formats time crunch unfortunately causes some problems for each episode. Throughout each chapter you will notice some framerate hiccups, odd pauses after making a dramatic choice (the game loading your scene) or some issues with lip syncing on some characters, all of these are small blemishes, but they are often times very noticeable, and have on occasion taken me out of some very dramatic events. If Telltale had a little extra time to work out these kinks, it would improve the experience so much so, that it would probably be the perfect game.

I have avoided detailing the story and the various gameplay experiences the game provides for a reason; you deserve to play it new. Avoid any spoilers as much as possible, because the journey Telltale Games has crafted is simply brilliant. The Walking Dead is a strong contender for my Game of the Year just as much as it is many others. (Journey is close second) Now this review is for Episodes 1-4 of this series, Telltale Games is set to release the final episode before the end of the month, and now is the absolute perfect time to catch up on this remarkable game. I am both extremely excited and utterly terrified to see how the story of Lee Everett concludes. This is the only game that has forced my jaw to the floor, my adrenaline to pump, my anger to boil over, and my heart to break. This game is an emotional roller coaster that is full of surprises, and if it weren’t for some technical failings, would be my first perfect rating.
-Chuck

The Rundown

  • + An astounding story that will haunt you
  • + A barrage of constant heartbreaking choices
  • + Great voice work and visuals
  • + Large replay factor
  • – The occasional technical problems can ruin a great scene

Final Score

9.5 / 10

‘Incredible”

6 thoughts on “The Walking Dead Episodes 1-4 Review

  1. I was really hoping episode 5 would be released either today, or tomorrow; but they have simply said “Very soon” I want it now! And thanks again James for the reblog.

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