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The Walking Dead: The Game-Episode 1: A New Day Review (XBLA) - 1187 WD3

The Walking Dead: The Game-Episode 1: A New Day Review (XBLA)

The franchise rises again…

The swift rise and spread of the zombie fad in recent years is somewhat beyond satire. As such, for every half decent homage to the roaming rotten, there’s 50 pieces of poorly made fan-fiction on Youtube that’s so low budget it’s clear one of the cast members has been brutally murdered and strung up like a puppet in an attempt to create their own shambling corpse. One series that doesn’t rot but glow is The Walking Dead, a tale that waves goodbye to a world full of pointless necessities and emphasises a more primal and important necessity in life; ‘Survival’. The gore-splattered TV series propelled the franchise to unparalleled levels of hype last year, but with fans waiting in the wings for Season 3 to rear its ugly head, its time for zombie hunting fans to delve into a new series of events in the undead infested universe and give them a reason to return to the comic-based origins in Telltale’s new five-episode epademic epic kicking of with Episode 1: A New Day. The Walking Dead: The Game-Episode 1: A New DayA New Day takes off during the beginning hours of the outbreak that devastates Atlanta, and so zombie survival veteran Rick Grimes is still lying comatose in hospital. Instead, potential murderer Lee Everett takes helm of the protagonist spotlight, and is dished out possibly the most backhanded ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card ever. En route to prison, the cop car he’s travelling in collides with a undead roamer and take a rather brutal detour. Badly injured and with nowhere to go in a world quickly falling into madness, he quickly finds a purpose in a new life gone to hell in the form of 8 year old Clementine, a girl who has lost her parents to the outbreak. With no one else to turn to, Lee attempts to rid his past image and redeem himself with the young girl, oblivious to the fact that he’s a rather memorable face to some of the survivors he’ll meet. Although the game is set in the comic book universe, there is no reason that fans of the TV series can’t delve into Lee’s journey. Some familiar faces turn up to ease you into the experiences, as well as the loveable if slightly nave Glenn. However, there is a much larger emphasis on the new cast you’ll be forced into befriending. Groups of the undead may be stalking you with every turn you make, but most of A New Day’s most tense moments take place in conversation. Lee’s calm demeanour and reluctance to emphasise his own past makes him a respectable character, but one that is easy to mould to the decisions you must make throughout the episode. Many discussions between characters come with multiple topics to talk about, but a dwindling time limit puts pressure on which to pick. This is okay if options consist of backstory, if you can’t pick anything to say in time you just look socially awkward (as well as inept at gaming), but it can be almost as daunting as facing up to one of the undead should you be stuck between a rock and a hard place. There are occasions where you will have to make very difficult decisions or sacrifice your dignity as leader. It’s not just a simple moral choice system, when you come to one of these evident milestones, they’re taunting in grey obscurity, with ‘Right’ and ‘Wrong’ seemingly launched to the moon on a five month vacation. Because each dire moment where you are forced into making difficult choices doesn’t give you much of a moral high ground, each social battle actually feels rather stressful, and as I care about what others will think of me should drama escalate, your loyalty in certain parties feels like it matters. Characters take note if you don’t side with them on certain matters, and on my first ‘What I would do in an actual zombie apocalypse’ playthrough, I found myself holding back on information in a bid to look like a paladin, with some occasionally damning results. Although events are still the same throughout the story, most can play out differently based on who has survived or what alliances have been formed. It creates plenty of ‘what-if’ scenarios that had me using up the several different save files on offer to see what different ways the death toll rises. With every decision from who you decide to save to who you decide to give a snack, being logged by the cast, it’ll be intriguing to see just how these factors will play out over the entire series.

Although Lee seems like a guy who has a good head on his shoulders, he certainly has a way of provoking suspicion from everyone, including yourself

As the hoards grow ever stronger, you’re never given an AK-47 to mow your way through the undead. Most of the time, you’ll literally be forced into head to head melee battles with the more ferocious zombies. Rather than test your skill, combat segments usually launch at you with no warning and serve to test how well you can handle your shaken nerves. Movement is governed by the left stick, whilst observations and actions are highlighted by a cursor controlled using the right stick. As any zombie fanatic will know, 98% of the time you’ll be aiming that cursor for the head should a corpse get too close for comfort, and timing your strikes perfectly to spill lobes. The system feels like a step up from QTE’s and has much better implementation than that of Jurassic Park: The Game, but it’s quite diverse enough to evolve in the near future. Its ability to play with your nerves and reactions fits rather well in knocking your ‘Zombie Slayer God’ ego down a few pegs, but if you enter The Walking Dead with the desire to massacre the undead, you will be very disappointed. Still, succeed in a battle, and you’ll usually get a gloriously gory death for your troubles, and lets face it, that’s what really brings the genocidal to the yard. The Walking Dead: The Game-Episode 1: A New DayTo get from beginning to end of the episode, you can be as brainless as one of the undead masses. There is a major lack of puzzles here, and when you’re not talking your way out of jams, you’re usually exploring areas in such rudimentary fashion that if it wasn’t for the branching options, everything would feel rather linear. Perhaps I should stop yearning for more point-‘n’-click based brain boggling, but one particular set piece relit my hopes for a baffling encounter. Lee is forced to stealthily gather rather unconventional corpse battering items in a bid to take out an entire group of roamers without being noticed and therefore gouged upon. It’s a rather simple puzzle once you get into the swing of it, however it shows clear promise in the set pieces the series can and will hopefully deliver. Even though I hate to admit it, many a Telltale game revolving around beloved franchises have been rather sketchy in the design department. Christopher Lloyd may have performed a fantastic revival of Doc Brown in Back To The Future: The Game, but some production bugs find a way of working their way in such as bad lip syncing that can slightly mar immersion and caused constant complaints. The Walking Dead: The Game however, is possibly the most daring, yet most technically tidy title they’ve ever released…despite all the blood. There is no weak link in the cast as of yet, and despite the events that surround him, Lee Everett is possibly the most level headed individual you’ll meet in an apocalypse (if a tad overly clumsy, slipping over every five seconds as an excuse
to raise dramatic tension). Even more impressive…is the fact that no one delivers a performance so bad that I want them killed…which could make for some harder decisions in the future. The most impressive aesthetic wonders come in the form of the artistic style the game sculpts. I may have had to turn my telly brightness up to appreciate them in darker scenarios, but the game strongly resembles the comic books marvellously, albeit it with a hell of a lot more colour for you spoilt brats. Reminiscent of cel-shading in its heyday, there’s clearly a more mature tone in character design, fitting in perfectly with the series’ graphic art direction. The Walking Dead: The Game-Episode 1: A New DayAfter two hours with the new rag tag group of survivors, A New Day certainly shows a lot of promise for the future of the series, and certainly sets up the season as the strongest Telltale have ever produced technically. I’m certainly a lot more embroiled in the narrative with its multiple branches than the actual gameplay, but there are still elements that show potential. No matter what way you play, alliances are forming that are inevitably going to blow up in someone’s face, there’s a real sense that the world is slowly going to hell and although Lee seems like a guy who has a good head on his shoulders, he certainly has a way of provoking suspicion from everyone, including yourself. The trademark ‘Next time…’ trailer that played out showed some of the impacts of the choices made, but also gives the impression that the game is already confident enough to venture out of the safety zone of comic familiarities and introduce us to some new locales and characters, a welcome chance to flesh out this story arc. This opening has shown that Telltale have the initiative to develop this new story in a familiar universe brilliantly. Just as well, as it looks like hopes will be just as high as the inevitably growing death count.

The Good: Wonderfully unique graphics, Slim combat actually mixes well with the series undertones, Fantastic narrative that has potential to change the entire series, Stealth based mind-bogglers are great…
The Bad: …when they finally have the confidence to show up, Lack of action will perhaps bore some zombie smashing veterans

The Walking Dead: The Game-Episode 1: A New Day The Walking Dead: The Game-Episode 1: A New Day The Walking Dead: The Game-Episode 1: A New Day The Walking Dead: The Game-Episode 1: A New Day The Walking Dead: The Game-Episode 1: A New Day 

Silver Y AwardSilver Y Award
4 4 / 5

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