The Walking Dead is the story of Lee Everett, a seemingly regular guy who’s found himself in a bad situation. The once prestigious university professor sits quietly in the back of a police car as he travels down a long open road towards a life of incarceration. It’s unclear whether or not he actually committed murder, but it doesn’t really matter now. The police officer quickly becomes distracted by Lee’s silence. This should be the moment where he proclaims innocence, and yet he doesn’t have much to say for himself. Curious, the officer attempts to provoke some small talk, not noticing the person about to walk in front of the vehicle. Lee tries to call out to warn him to watch the road, but it’s too late; there’s an immediate collision, forcing the car from the road. Our protagnoist awakes within the wreckage, handcuffed and trapped. This is where your experience will begin.
The Walking Dead is a narrative-driven experience that will not hesitate to force the player into uncomfortable situations. There are long-term consequences attached to every choice, which means quick decision making is essential. In order to survive, it will be essential to form allegiances with other survivors. However, each of these relationships will need to be managed very carefully as the player is also faced with safeguarding Clementine, an exceptionally competent eight-year-old girl, and Lee’s only redeeming hope. At this point, it needs to be made clear that lots people are going to die throughout the game, and your choices will have a direct impact on who lives and who doesn’t. This is going to add a severe amount of emotional impact behind each choice, which is only amplified with a time limit emphasising the urgency of each decision. Players will need to be prepared to think quickly.
The gameplay featured in The Walking Dead is reminiscent of an old-style point-and-click adventure game but quickly takes the tired genre in new and intriguing directions. The game introduces an effective control scheme across all platforms, which makes exploring the environment and interacting with other characters relatively straightforward. The character movement can sometimes feel a little clunky, but this will rarely interfere with your ability to play the game. To clarify, Lee’s movement can be controlled using the left analogue stick, and an interactive cursor with the right analogue stick. The controls will vary slightly for each platform, but for the most part, it’s really just refinement of what’s come before. It’s accessible to new players and works reasonably well.
Visually inspired by the Graphic Novels written by Robert Kirkman, the game is presented in a similar fashion. It’s not incredible, graphically speaking, but it does establish a unique charm with its appearance. It may take a little time to adjust at first, but the locations, landscapes and characters are all detailed and well designed. The characters are complicated and intelligently designed, so be prepared to invest large amounts of emotions in each of the characters you meet. These are people you will come to care about, and it can become troubling when you are forced to take sides. The game is also accompanied by an inspirational music score which is constructed in a way that can manipulate your emotions and perception while drawing you even deeper into the experience.
Throughout the course of 2012, The Walking Dead series was delivered as episodic downloadable content, until it was finally released in a complete bundle/retail package. On average, each episode in the series generally takes around 2-3 hours to complete and could be purchased individually for $4.99. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, this game is only available on Steam and iOS in Australia due to our strict classification laws. However, we are expecting changes to the current rating system early next year. This means Australian fans should anticipate a retail release of The Walking Dead in 2013. [UPDATE: Australia passed the revised R18+ classification laws in early 2013, and The Walking Dead was subsequently released across all platforms.]
The Walking Dead is a type of game that only comes around so often. It will force you to the edge of your seat and stir emotions you never thought you could feel while playing a game. You are Lee Everett, and there are no right decisions, just choices. The world is bleak, and only you can decide where this story will take you. With only a few minor quirks with the controls and presentation, this is a title I can recommend to absolutely anyone who can stomach the mature nature of its narrative. The characters are deep and provocative, the story is exciting, and it’s not an experience you will quickly forget once the final curtain draws. It’s simply an outstanding breath of fresh air as we come to the close of a generation, and, in my opinion, the best release of 2012.