The Walking Dead: Episode 1 Review (XBLA)

Posted by Jim Cook, Apr 30, 2012 23:27

Regarding Spoilers: This review is written to avoid overly specific spoilers, since Walking Dead is very heavy on plot. Nonetheless, general story tones, vague references to events that demonstrate important game mechanics, and so on must be discussed since the game’s primary selling point is its narrative.

The Walking Dead is somewhat of a departure from Telltale’s usual fare. It’s an adventure game, but has minor action segments and ways for the player to lose. Even the theme of a zombie outbreak is played very straight, showing how people might react to social collapse. The emphasis is on a serious, grim story rather than their usual penchant for comedy, and having to make decisions quickly. Like most adventures, you’ll be spending your time talking to people and solving puzzles in order to progress the story; a very good story that is well worth enjoying, though some control issues may hold you back.

The Walking Dead Episode 1 (Xbox 360)

Players take on the role of Lee, a man being driven to prison after his felony conviction. Did he do the crime? That seems to be at least partially up to you, as even during this journey you’re asked several questions and get to pick your response. You don’t have time to ’optimize’ your replies, since most questions will go with a default answer if you take too long to pick one; the apparent idea is to pick what you think Lee would say as a character. This focus on roleplaying over perfect decisions is carried over to many other events in the game, often ones with far more important consequences than just idle chatter.

This would be a really short game if Lee were locked up, so circumstances align to free him. What starts as escape quickly gives way to a bigger problem; just who or what are those people with rotting skin and an all-consuming obsession to attack others? How did they overwhelm so much of the metropolitan area? Lee knows he can’t face dozens or hundreds of these ’walkers’ alone, and bands together with other travelers for safety.

It’s once Lee has joined with other survivors that you see the game’s true focus. Where you were previously just doing survival quick-time events to get away from zombies or solving simple adventure puzzles (use X on Y to solve Z), you now have those things plus social interaction. Many of Lee’s peers have different opinions on what the group should do, and a large part of this episode involves having Lee quickly decide who is most right and who to support.

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Our Rating for The Walking Dead: Episode 1 Review (XBLA)
6.5 Replay
While the general flow of the adventure is linear, certain parts of the story can turn out very differently depending on how you play Lee; this could be enough to justify another run through it.
7.0 Graphics
Though these are not the most sophisticated visuals on the market, they definitely evoke a semi-realistic comic book style.
7.5 Sound
Excellent voice acting and sound effects set a haunting mood. The music is also good, though is often very subdued and hard to notice unless you consciously listen for it.
8.5 Gameplay
A top-notch story with interesting characters are easily enough to compensate for the genre’s typically weak game mechanics. The bits that don’t work mostly stand out for being out of place when the rest of the material is great.
0.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
N/A; this is a single-player game. Online decision tracking does compare your choices to that of other players for those curious.
7.5 Overall
Favoring character development over raw action in a zombie apocalypse proves to be a good choice. Surprisingly engaging, this is worth playing even if you don’t follow the franchise it’s based on. Check out the demo prior to purchase though, to see if the lack of inverted controls will be a problem for you.

Rating: 4.0, votes: 1

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