Review: The Walking Dead

Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead was one of the most important digital titles on 2013. Breaking new ground for the point-n’-click genre, episodic delivery and interactive storytelling as a whole, the series was deemed a success both critically and commercially. From that triumph comes this brand new retail edition, published in the UK by Avanquest Software, giving The Walking Dead the opportunity to reach gamers that may not have been fully aware of its digital release.

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Originally delivered as five separate episodes, the retail package of The Walking Dead includes all of this content and the options therein: players can continue their progress from one chapter to the next, rewind previous episodes or disregard the opportunity to play specific moments and simply skip ahead (with randomly generated decisions allocated). Furthermore, not only can you import any previous save data from the downloadable version of the videogame but it also appears that the many save issues have been made over: still not quite perfect, it’s now far less likely that your progress will be lost or that your load will fail.

Aside from the technical changes The Walking Dead remains the same experience via disc as it was with the original digital release. The player is a survivor in a zombie outbreak, fighting for your own neck as other drop like flies around you. Soon after the start of the videogame your neck is put on the line, and a little girl called Clementine is your only hope of survival. From this point on it’s the two of you against the undead world. You’ll make new friends as you journey through the five chapters as well as saying goodbye to old ones, but all the while you’ll have someone to look out for, and someone looking out for you.

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This is the crux of The Walking Dead’s adventure: human relationships. At many points during the adventure you’ll be faced with a decision to make, and your choices will be remembered by those affected. Bonds will be established and broken, friendships forged and enemies fought, and all of this will impact the way in which your story progression. Following the making of these decisions comes the consequences, and having to play with the lot you are given is the beauty of The Walking Dead. Some resulting actions may be small, some events may change your situation almost entirely, and all will mean that your The Walking Dead experience is very different to everyone else’s.

As a point-n’-click title The Walking Dead does feature many environmental puzzles, logic challenging and objects that can be collected and used for later challenges. In the same way that Resident Evil 4 modernised the series’ template while remaining true to the demands of a growing audience, so too does The Walking Dead renovate its genre’s traditional gameplay: The Walking Dead sets the pace for how things should be done from now, but that’s not to say there isn’t room for both.

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The visual quality of The Walking Dead is part of what makes it such an intense art style in what is most clearly an adult videogame is a contrast that soon proves to be beneficial rather than a hindrance. The characters are entirely believable and it’s those giveaway twitches and gestures that arguably would’ve have been possible with a more realistic interpretation that inform the player of the emotions they’re dealing with. And this is of course the greatest strength that The Walking Dead has: once you spend even just an hour with its cast you become so involved that it simply doesn’t matter whether they are real, look real, or are even just a few puppets on strings.

Score: 9

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