Review: The Walking Dead Episode 1: A New Day (PSN)
Title: The Walking Dead Episode 1: A New Day
Format: PlayStation Network Download (474 MB)
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Original MSRP: $4.99/Episode or $19.99/Season Pass (for all 5 episodes as they release)
ESRB Rating: M
See coverage of the other episodes here:
Review: The Walking Dead Episode 2: Starved For Help (PSN)
Review: The Walking Dead Episode 3: Long Road Ahead
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 267 of the podcast.
Choice, it’s all about choice. Telltale Games, working in conjunction with Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead comic series, has brought a little more than the standard point and click adventure that they’ve been known for in the past. Taking a series like The Walking Dead and turning into a compelling video game night seem easy enough, but how do you create the tension and the moments of sheer terror with point and click?
You play as Lee Everett a man in the back of a police car at the beginning of the game on his way to prison. As you get a feel for your surroundings, the story starts to unfold through the dialogue from the cop driving the car and the responses you choose. When you need to respond to someone, you’ll be given up to four choices, arranged in a pattern like the Triangle Square, Circle and Cross on you DualShock 3. Below that, a white bar appears, shrinking from either side as a timer for you to pick an answer. The bar will move faster or slower depending on the urgency of the situation sometimes forcing you to make a choice without thinking.
Those choices are critical as the game keeps track of everything you say and other characters will react accordingly. The game can unfold very differently depending on the choices you make, encouraging multiple playthroughs. You’ll need to be quick on your toes and live with the consequences of your actions. It’s a great way to draw the player deeper into the experience than they’d normally be. When your very survival is at stake, you’ll start to care much more about how people view you.
Adding to the urgency and drama of the game is your companion, Clementine. Early on you’ll stumble into her house looking for help and learn that her parents, who were on a weekend trip are most likely dead. You’ll then take her with you on your journey, protecting her and, at times using her depending on the choices you make.
Combat works in a similar way to the dialogue as you may have to react quickly to an attack. At times, you’ll be dazed with a fuzzy view of your surroundings and you’ll quickly have to find the threat and hit the appropriate button to fight it off. It adds a wonderful sense of urgency and fear putting you right in the thick of the action.
Those familiar with the source material, either through the comic or the television show, will be rewarded with familiar characters and sights as your storyline tangentially crosses paths with characters and settings seen in those other mediums. You’ll run across several characters in this first episode a while before Sheriff Rick Grimes ever meets them. It all fits together well though as you’re just another part of the story moving along a different path.
When you reach the end of the episode, you’ll be given a breakdown of your choices and the choices other people made by percentage. It’s fun to see how other people are playing the game and even more fun to go back through and try a different path while you wait for Episode 2 to come out.
The Walking Dead is a gorgeous, hand drawn, moody experience befitting its lineage. A comic come to life in a presentation that’s unique and compelling, keeping you engaged at all times. You’ll move from bright, sunny days to gloomy twilight and dark interiors each adding to the atmosphere of the game.
Character models are varied and distinct including the dead, who can look downright nasty at times. The visceral feel of jabbing a screwdriver into the head of one of the dead made me shiver with its creepiness. When you’re dazed and covered in blood, your vision is blurry and the edges of the screen fill with a reddish color making it difficult to focus, adding to the terror and intensity of the moment. You’re able to understand other characters reactions to your dialogue by their body language alone. This is a really good looking game and it fits the story perfectly.
The voice acting is really well done with each character showing a range of emotion that suits the moment to moment action of the game. Ambient noise will keep you on your toes as you’ll often hear the walkers before you see them.
The sounds of heads being cracked open, bodies being ripped apart and brains being squashed have a wonderfully disgusting feel. The music is somber and foreboding keeping you grounded in the reality of your situation. Everything in the audio department is excellent.
This game is single player only. If you play while connected to the PlayStation Network, you’ll be given graphs showing your choices vs. the choices made by other players in the game.
As part one of a five part series, A New Day is a great start and really helps build the excitement for what’s to come. At the end of the game, you’ll get a “Coming Attractions” reel which will directly reference several of the choices you made during the game. It sets things up wonderfully and leaves you wanting more.
Given the current popularity of both the comic and the television series, expectations were high across the board for this game. Thankfully, Telltale Games has delivered an exciting adventure set along the edges of The Walking Dead universe and it leaves the player wanting more.