Video Game Review: The Walking Dead [Xbox 360]

The Walking Dead: The Game

The Walking Dead
System: Xbox 360 (also on PS3, PC, Mac OS X, iOS)
Genre: Point-and-click adventure
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: Throughout 2012

The last time I cried was at my father’s funeral five years ago.

There have been times since then where I would get choked up, particularly after some painstakingly depressing films (i.e. Grave of the Fireflies), but nothing has made the tears really start flowing. I don’t like crying, and I have a tendency to fight it even when it feels like a natural reaction. After completing The Walking Dead, once again I found myself holding back tears, albeit less successfully this time. No video game has ever come close to evoking this type of emotion in me.

It’s funny, I shouldn’t even like The Walking Dead. I tried watching the AMC TV show of the same name, and found it embarrassingly amateur. I gave up after the first season. I’m also burnt out on the whole “zombie” fad, as it reached the point of over-saturation long ago. Yet I found myself drawn to Telltale’s episodic video game series. It grabbed a hold of me and refused to let go.

The Walking Dead [Xbox 360]

My initial plan was to review each of The Walking Dead‘s five episodes individually — I wrote about numbers one and two last year — but it began to grow tedious. How could I possibly write about each episode without using spoilers? There are groundbreaking revelations within each episode, with characters coming and going at a breakneck pace.

At its core, however, two characters remain constant: Lee and Clementine.

Lee is the player-controlled protagonist who essentially “adopts” Clementine, the eight-year-old he finds alone in a treehouse during the first episode. With her parents missing, Lee becomes something of a father figure to the young girl (later episodes even give the option of introducing her as his daughter). The relationship between these two grows with every moment, and I found myself doing everything I could to protect her.

Every episode forces Lee to make crucial decisions, most of which offer two choices that essentially equate to “bad” and “worse.” After my playing sessions, I found myself questioning some of my choices. Should I have saved a different character’s life? Should I have really stolen food from that car? I tried to do everything in the interest of Clementine — in a world that has gone to hell, the only important thing was to help this little girl survive.

The Walking Dead [Xbox 360]

In reality, that’s what The Walking Dead is about: survival. It’s near impossible to trust anyone else because that is ultimately their goal as well. Everyone is looking out for their own interests, as well as their families. Relationships are often forged but remain shaky as tensions flare up.

I was emotionally drained by the end of the game. This series really puts you through the ringer, never letting up at all. It’s fantastic storytelling, and it’s unlike any other found in a video game so far. The writing is excellent, the voice acting top notch, and the characters unforgettable.

I had never felt the way I did upon completing The Walking Dead. I wasn’t sure that video games as a medium could evoke that type of reaction out of me — hell, very few movies have, and I have seen a lot of ’em. For this alone, The Walking Dead is one of the most important games to come out in 2012, and I have absolutely no reservations about calling this the Game of the Year.


29 thoughts on “Video Game Review: The Walking Dead [Xbox 360]

  1. The Heretic says:

    I actually feel the same way about the show and have been feeling the zombie burnout as well (along with vampires). But…I just downloaded the the first chapter of this game after seeing a lot of praise for it. I actually cannot wait to download the other three chapters and play it towards the end. So far, I think it definitely (from only playing the first chapter) has a better story than the show. I am still trying to get used to the pace of the gameplay a bit.

    Great review! Now I want to play the rest of the chapters even more.

    Side-note: I also own “Grave of the Fireflies”, it is definitely one of Isao Takahata’s finest.

  2. jlo2000 says:

    What an insightful and personal review – thanks so much for that.

    I still find anything Zombie related compelling, I really liked the show – I’ll be sure to get this game. Sounds the complete opposite of an FPS which is what I would have expected.

    • Eric says:

      Thank you so much. Yeah, I’m so glad that they didn’t go the FPS route with this game (though apparently there is one on the way later this year). The point-and-click adventure gameplay really translates well to the Walking Dead universe, forcing it to rely heavily on the writing and character development. Since those are the two strengths of the series, it works out quite well.

  3. Chuck says:

    I named it my GOTY for 2012 and its also one of my favorite games of all time. The story and the conclusion are just so epic…I loved every second of this series.

  4. Spikor says:

    Loved this game. Mass Effect 3’s “Deal with the Genophage” level evoked similarly strong feelings from me, as well as the moments with Anderson just before the Great Glass Elevator comes and ruins everything.

    The difference here is that this game has a tone, and no matter what choices you make, you feel like you’re a) writing your own amazing story… and b) completely fucked.

    Can’t wait for “Season 2”.

    • Eric says:

      Haha, well said. ME3 had some strong, emotional scenes, but nowhere near as many as TWD. It seemed like every episode had multiple moments where shit just hit the fan, forcing you to make really tough decisions. I still feel bad about some of my choices, and dammit this is just a video game… 😀

  5. The Focused Filmographer says:

    Thanks for this review man. I played the demo on xbox live and wasn’t sold on the “best game of the year” praise it had been getting. but I realize that was just a demo. reading your review makes me want to give it a shot.

    • Eric says:

      I’m not sure what the demo entails exactly, but this is a game that builds momentum the more you play it. It’s all about building character relationships and doing everything you can to survive, even if that includes making decisions that cost the lives of others. It can get pretty brutal, man, but it is masterful storytelling.

  6. Gary Smith says:

    Great review, but I played the first two episodes when they were on PS+ and totally did not care for it at all. Not my style of game; I was actually bored by the end of the second episode.

    Maybe if the other three episodes ever get released for free for PS+ members I’ll complete it, but my time with the first two episodes left me with no desire to play the rest (at least not paying for it).

    • Eric says:

      Ah, bummer to hear you couldn’t get into it, man. The first two episodes give a pretty good idea of what to expect, though the decisions get increasingly brutal after that (especially episode three). At least you gave it a fair shot.

  7. Alex Thomas says:

    Oh man, I love the TV show. I don’t play many games but perhaps I’ll have to buy this one and settle down for a week playing it, looks perfect!

    How many hours did it take for you to clock it? I’m a bit of a completist so won’t stop till it’s done, I’m hoping you say <20 hours hahaha

  8. Anders says:

    Wonderful to read a review that contain such emotions and that it was a game that “caused” them is even greater to hear. As you know I’ve always been looking for games that trigger emotions and this seem to be a great one then. I have to check it out soon; it’ll go straight on the should-play-soon list. Thanx for the great review!

  9. Dave says:

    Great review Eric, I’m in complete agreement. A standout achievement that I’m sure we’ll look back on as a landmark moment for video-game stories and characterisation. For Clementine!

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