468 views 21 comments

Review: Walking Dead – Episodes 1 & 2

by on January 8, 2013
Details
 
Editor Rating
 
Graphics
10

 
Gameplay
10

 
Sound
10

 
Story
10

Total Score
10

Hover To Rate
User Rating
 
Graphics

 
Gameplay

 
Sound

 
Story

User Score

You have rated this

 

Before I begin what may end up being a controversial review for many people, let be first say that what you’re about to read is based off of preference. The following review and score is determined only by how I felt after playing the game for a few hours. If you disapprove that is your prerogative, and I’d love to hear why in the comments. But you have to understand that a preference isn’t a fact, it’s an opinion, and therefore mine, just like yours, isn’t wrong. Moving on.

The Walking Dead isn’t a game.

Yes, you heard me right. The Walking Dead isn’t a video game in the same sense that the work of David Lynch aren’t movies. Once you depart from the norm, once you leave what is considered to be the expected basis for a game, then you find yourself in a position of having to be redefined as something else.

twdep1-600x300

But what is The Walking Dead?

The Walking Dead is a series of episodic stories told in the form of interactive media. In the series you play as Lee, a prisoner of unknown origin. As you are being transported to prison the zombie apocalypse ensues, and what-do-ya-know, your character escapes from imprisonment and sets out to survive in a rough, violent world.

The game has no “gameplay” as it were, there are small sections where you control the character, but these are barely more than slow treks from one predesignated corner of a linear map to another. You don’t have the freedom of movement you’d expect from any conventional game, and the camera can get very clunky in this perspective, sometimes outright bad.

Most of the game takes the form of dialogue, and this thankfully is well handled. This is a combination of regular questions and answers passed between you and the many characters you come across, and timed events and answers, all of which have a profound impact on the story. Most of the time this impact is on the way characters interact with you, and it’s this impact that redeems The Walking Dead’s lack of “gameness”.

There are a few moments where the game pits you in high stakes QuickTime events. One of these takes place in a convenience store, wherein a zombie grabs a child. If you react quickly enough (Mashing the SPACE key) you kill the zombie and the child respects you more afterward, however, if you don’t, another character will kill the zombie and the child won’t trust you. Later on these events become even more significant to the plot, many determine whether characters live or die. I have a few problems with this; mainly I’m annoyed by the arbitrary nature of quick time events. Unlike in a game, where your skill determines your success, in The Walking Dead your success is determined solely by button mashing, one of the most frustratingly stupid inventions in games ever.

the-walking-dead-clementine-gun-600x300

I don’t outright hate The Walking Dead. I enjoyed the first two episodes I played, and might go back to finish the rest of the five part series. There’s plenty to enjoy in this sort of interactive experience, but, as I’ve said, The Walking Dead isn’t a video game, and the fact that it isn’t a game is a big problem the quality of the experience given.

A video game is a virtual experience that presents you with three things: An environment, a set of limitations and mechanics, and an objective. The Walking Dead has many elements of the first some of the second. Even in the confines of the interactive story you have mechanics to deal with, such as facing timed answers to questions, and there’s obviously an environment, even if it is barely more than a backdrop to the story, but objectives? Not so much.

In Skyrim your objective is to progress your character and discover the world. In Mass Effect your objective is to destroy The Reapers, progress your character, or fly your big shiny ship around the galaxy. The Walking Dead doesn’t give you any real objectives, at least no more than a movie or TV show will. The walking dead tells a story, and a pretty decent one at that. But it’s not a game, if you were to call The Walking Dead a game then you’d have to call its TV show iteration a game too, because in truth it does the same thing. It gives you a linear story, one in which actions take place, but all in the confines of the “plot progression.” In other words The Walking dead rolls you forward on a treadmill, rather than let you run at your own pace.

This style of storytelling has many setbacks associated with it. First and foremost there’s a problem with freedom. The Walking Dead prides itself on the wide range of dialogue options and story paths available, but in honesty the whole illusion is broken by the fact that the game is always in complete control. Unlike other games, where you can leave a main mission area and go back; you will never be able to go to a location that isn’t exactly where you’re supposed to be, for instance. It goes a long way to making the player feel like they aren’t playing at all.

TheWalkingDeadGame-600x300

A couple of other things should be addressed. The first is the game has a very creative art style. It has this semi-shaded look that reminds me of a comic book and has enough interesting locations to almost make the lack of freedom within those locations negligible. Sound quality is run of the mill, the voice acting is decent enough, but I feel like the story would’ve benefited from a little more work put into VA talent. Every now and then dialogue begins to sound bland, even monotonous at times. Replayability is obviously very high, given the numerous different story branches available.

The only important consideration any consumer should make with this title is this: Are you going to be satisfied with what the game is, and will you enjoy the experience? Many people will, they’ll find the story engrossing enough to forgive the lack of gameplay, and many won’t, they’ll hate playing this game solely because the experience isn’t a free one, the mountains in the distance can’t be climbed, previous locations can’t be returned to, and enemies can’t be shot outside of quick time events. Some, like me, will say “meh,” and still find the experience to be enjoyable, if not a little forgettable too.

(Note about the score: The score is determined on the basis of “How good is this Video Game?” As a video game The Walking Dead scores low, because, as said in the review, it’s not truly a game. If you were to ask me to score The Walking Dead as say an “Interactive Story” I would give it a B+, 85 Percent.)

comments
 
Leave a reply »

 
  • Daniel Flatt
    January 8, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    I have to disagree with the totality of this for a few different reasons.

    First and foremost this is not a review. This is an impression of the game and shouldn’t be given any sort of game at all. Seeing as the full experience is strongly reliant on story not playing through to the end and weighing in on the game is borderline criminal.

    The not a game comments are completely incorrect as well. No it’s not a hack-n-slash game, not a RPG and not a first person shooter, but it’s a game as much as any other. True there are moments you move your guy from one plot point ot the next, but that’s not the case for the rest of the game. There are entire segments where you have to find items and apply them in the correct application to solve a problem. Puzzles are easily solved here, mostly because they seem so sensible, but I’ve had people spend much longer in the same segments stuck so there you go.

    See this is a adventure game. I don’t blame you if you’ve never had an experience with one before, they are quite the niche area of gaming. In adventure gaming the story is king with gameplay often being not as interactive as we might normally expect from an action game. Either way it’s definitely still a game.

    Finally this game was one of the most poignant story wise I’ve ever played. Characters live, breathe and die in front of you and by the end of the game you are utterly invested in it like no game you’ve played previously. I’ve played through hundreds of hours of Mass Effect and cared less about what happened to my squad than I did Clementine. Honestly, it’s the only gaming experience that has ever made me cry and that’s powerful enough by itself.

    You did the game a great disservice here, but like you said it’s your opinion. I just wish you had taken the time to experience more before weighing in. This is an impression piece and shouldn’t be labeled as a review.


    • January 8, 2013 at 7:18 pm

      Edited the title to reflect the episodes that were played rather than implying it was the entire suite of games.

      I do agree with his point though that it’s more interactive storytelling than a game. The same can be said about Dragon’s Lair or even titles like Heavy Rain, that rely on the same type of gameplay mechanics.


      • Daniel Flatt
        January 8, 2013 at 8:28 pm

        Ah, that is much better. My apologies, I didn’t know he was reviewing individual episodes.

        Either way, it’s certainly a more cinematic way of playing games, but no more so than say King’s Quest, Maniac’s Mansion and others. It certainly is still a game though as I’ve never played a movie that makes you smash the X button or figure out how to start a train.


    • Chris Pearson
      January 10, 2013 at 11:16 am

      I’m gonna try to reply to every point Daniel, bear with me :)
      First off, you can’t say that something isn’t a review just because it hasn’t covered the complete experience of the title. How many game journalists do you think finish games before reviewing them these days? I agree that it’s important to get a excellent feel for the game before making a judgement, you shouldn’t review something before seeing everything it has to offer, and any game that can be beat in under six hours probably should, but once you’ve seen what you need to see, that’s really that. Let me ask you, do you think any of my conclusions or opinions would change on this title after I completed all the episodes? You don’t need to have a complete experience to have a complete understanding.
      I think we have differing views of what constitutes a “game.” To me a game has to have an element or real challenge to it, there’s no skill in playing The Walking Dead, even in the QTE’s, and that to me makes it not a “game” in the way I define what a game should be.
      In the end I can see your point Daniel, and I thank you for expressing it. I gave my review of The Walking Dead with the knowledge that what I expected from the game wasn’t what others expected from it. In that we’re both right, and entitled to our conclusions on it. I can’t blame you for enjoying a experience like The Walking Dead, it’s just not an experience that I can appreciate. Thanks for replying!


      • Daniel Flatt
        January 10, 2013 at 3:18 pm

        I think it really depends on the game and what you are playing as to whether you finish the entire title. For me I’ve finished every title I’ve played and reviewed here except for two, one of which I went on to finish and amended my review.

        Especially in a short game like Walking Dead that is so much about narrative hanging on till the end is probably needed because there is so much there. Really the first and second episodes are the worst of the lot and from 3 to 5 it simply sky rockets in quality and story telling. Because of this I feel you missed a fair chunk of the game itself.

        I certainly understand and respect your opinion about not enjoying the game itself, but the game is very clear in what it is. Honestly, it seems like you just don’t like that sort of game, and again fair enough. But in that instance, when you go into something knowing you don’t like that type of game, then you are predisposed to already giving it a bad score. Sometimes (I found this after getting bashed plenty on my reviews) you have to take a step back and see it not just from your perspective, which any good review is of course, but also see it from other’s and the appeal that might lie there.

        I see another post below addressing the whole not a game thing so I’ll respond there instead on that.

        Either way I really don’t take issue with the score, I myself wouldn’t rate above a high 8 because of some technical issues, I took issue with the reason. Either way intelligently written and well done as a whole.


        • Chris Pearson
          January 12, 2013 at 12:06 pm

          any review has the reviewers bias, and that is never a bad thing. Roger Ebert is quoted somewhere as saying “The Movies I like and don’t like are the movies that have an affect on me, not just as a critic, but as a moviegoer. I may like or not like a movie for personal reasons, but those reasons are as real as any objective standpoint, or something.
          And I’ve now completed all five episodes of the walking dead. Does the story get better? Yes, sure. Is it a better game later on? No, because it still isn’t a game.
          And my score hasn’t changed.


  • Taylor Parolini
    January 9, 2013 at 1:52 am

    Press X to save Jas—Clementine.


  • January 9, 2013 at 3:19 am

    I’m sorry, but you can’t review it until you’ve played the whole series.

    To say that gaming can’t be an interactive story ,that it doesn’t count as a game, means games like Journey aren’t really games.

    After all, you press one action button and one jump button… there are tiny puzzles, and exploration.

    But we all agree, Journey is a game. Walking dead is just more story based, with gaming elements sprinkled in.

    We know it’s not a book, we know it’s not a movie, and it’s not a traditional game, but it’s still an interactive story with gaming elements. That is enough for it to be called a Game, in my opinion anyways.

    Heavy Rain, which some people gave Game of the Year, is also an interactive story.

    Also you said as a story by itself, you give it a B+ which shocked me. I think this was because you haven’t actually finished the story.

    Overall I’m very disappointed with this review. If you want to mash buttons mindlessly, play Dynasty Warriors. If you want an enjoyable Interactive story, Play Walking dead. I don’t know how you could give this game anything less than an 80%. For me it’s a 95.


  • Taylor Parolini
    January 9, 2013 at 10:54 am

    I defend Chris’ Review so far. Is The Walking Dead a game? Technically yes, but it’s definitely in a genre of interactive storytelling that has very little actual gameplay or tests of skill. That’s fine, but I can see why he came to the conclusion he did.

    Secondly, a lot of people here are bashing him for his opinions based on the first 2 episodes of the series, but are doing so based on a foreknowledge that primarily comes from the later episodes. It’s really unfair to say the least. I’m sure he plans to continue and get to that point, but jumping all over him for it is pretty silly.


    • Daniel Flatt
      January 9, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      I think the problem is that he reviewed just a few episodes, when the game should really be taken as whole at this point since it’s entirely out. I don’t feel anyone was bashing, but Chris leaves himself open to critcism with the way he words things including putting in the negative side (and the only thing there) Not A Game Not A Game Not A Game.

      Personally I feel the game should get high 80’s or low 90’s of course that’s my opinion. It’s not the score I take issue with, hell I’ve been through my share of scathing comments about my review scores and wouldn’t do that to someone else. It was that the only negative thing he listed was something that was factually incorrect.

      If I were to list negatives I would focus on some of the loading issues and the stuttering during the earlier episodes that detract from the game itself (especially in the second episode for some reason). Simply pounding on the game because it’s not what you consider a game, which was basically the entirety of the review, really opens itself up to criticism.


      • January 9, 2013 at 4:00 pm

        Review’s are still opinions. So if he saw that as a negative then it is. I’m on Taylor with this one.


      • January 9, 2013 at 4:04 pm

        Also, each game is stand-alone so it is totally up to the the writer/readers to make a judgement on how they should format their review.


        • Daniel Flatt
          January 9, 2013 at 5:39 pm

          In this case though the game ISN’T standalone. It’s more akin to watching like 2 episodes of a show and then saying the whole season sucked.

          Sure you could buy and just play one episode, but what would be the point? The idea is that you were wanting to play all the rest of it.

          While I agree reviews are opinion to a large degree saying it isn’t a game point blank is wrong in a factual sense. It is very much a game and has all the earmarks of one. In fact it sits very comfortable in the adventure game genre that is definitely a type of video game. You wouldn’t call Heavy Rain, not a game. Having direct influence on what’s going on with the screen is a game whether you personally like the genre or not.

          I hate sports games. All you do is press buttons and choose plays. Heck the whole thing will play itself if you want. It’s still a video game. Just because you don’t like something doesn’t make it not that thing. So factually, and at it’s very base, this idea is flawed.

          Is it as interactive as say Dynasty Warriors or Mario? Nope. Does that make it any less of a game? Not really. No more than anything else. You are interacting with an electronic game via your TV set through a console via pressing buttons and issuing commands. You control your protagonist throughout the experience and choose who he is, how he responds, how you solve things. You can completely skip entire segments and get as much or as little information about the environment as you want.

          It’s a game and there isn’t much room for argument there. We can argue all day about interactivity and story, but you can’t argue with the factual statement that it is a video game.


          • Chris Pearson
            January 10, 2013 at 11:25 am

            Here’s my detailed argument on why The Walking Dead isn’t a game Daniel:
            A game has objectives, right? What are the true objectives in The Walking Dead? There are really only two: 1: Do I succeed or need to restart and 2: What do I want my interactive movie to look like next?
            There’s no gameplay in that? Would you call “The Hobbit: An unexpected journey” a game if in the theatre everyone was given an xbox controller, and during the intense fight scenes patrons needed to mash A to save Bilbo from the goblins, or make Gandalf fight the Orcs? The Movie would play normally if A was mashed enough, but restarted at the start of the scene if it wasn’t? Maybe every now and then a scene has a choice “Press up to make Bilbo kill Gollumm, Down if you want Gollum to live!” Would that be a game to you?
            Again i’m not saying that The Walking Dead is bad, all I’m saying is it’s nothing more than the illusion of a game.


          • Daniel Flatt
            January 10, 2013 at 3:39 pm

            I understand what you mean, but I think you are approaching it from the wrong mind set.

            Technically, if we really want to boil it down to the essentials, what you’ve just stated covers pretty much every game ever. From Skyrim to Mario it’s all about jamming on some buttons to affect something on a screen.

            See a movie, it’ll never change. It doesn’t matter how many times you watch The Hobbit it’s going to play out exactly the same each and every time. You are a passive observer and can have no input for the experience. Bilbo is going to act in whatever way the director decided no matter what. If you give everyone a controller and have them jam a button to make someone get away is it a game? Not really, but it’s also no longer a movie. It’s some sort of new form of interactive entertainment and within the context of the situation obviously wouldn’t work.

            In the Walking Dead though it’s unfair to say that the only input you have is smacking a button or walking from one side of the screen to the other. The real game is in the strategy of how you play, how you respond to people and the relationships you build with each character and indeed the way you portray your character. He may be a set individual, he will always be a convict and the end result of the game will generally be the same, but the journey on the way there is different in substantial ways because of how YOU choose to interact with the world in it’s entirety.

            It’s your choice whether the protagonist is a take no prisoners survivor that cares little for hope and only for staying alive another day. He can be a mostly quiet loner who doesn’t want to contribute or he can be a hopeful individual who strives to lead and guide others.

            If I choose one person to die over the other does it change the way the game essentially ends? No, but it changes a bevy of different dialogue choices and narratives and information you are exposed to. There are puzzles and ways you can interact with individuals that change entire areas of the game. In one instance I got in a life or death fight and killed a man in another we never even threw a punch.

            You can’t make those choices in a movie or a book (unless it’s some kind of choose your own ending and even then you are more constricted). Instead you are on a journey, but one in which you have no ability to change the twists and turns.

            If on the other hand if you were watching The Hobbit and Bilbo could decide to leave Thorin to his fate to die and it would remove all his further interactions with Thorin and change the overall course of the film because he is no longer in it, than yes. You would have a game in the genre of adventure game, especially if you threw some puzzles in there.

            Just because you don’t have a set number of lives, a gun in your hand or a sword at your side and every button press leads to an action doesn’t mean it isn’t a game. The objective of the game is to immerse yourself in a story, that has always been the point of adventure games.

            JRPG’s in the past have typically been a very linear experience. You may have a battle system and all that nonsesne, but at the end of the day what used to differentiate them is that they were filled with a interesting story. Your reward for moving forward was completing that story: it was the entire point. Was it more interactive than Walking Dead? In a gameplay sense yes. But you were still walking from point A to point B with no delinieation in between. In your argument than Final Fantasy from 4 on couldn’t be a game. Yet they are.

            Again, just because you don’t like a genre, doesn’t mean it’s less of a game. I get the sense you are more of an action gamer all about the combos and the shooting and whatever and maybe even the type of person who presses start to skip past the story portions. Perhaps not. Either way that’s just fine, it’s your preference. But that doesn’t make it any less of a game.


          • Chris Pearson
            January 12, 2013 at 12:13 pm

            I think your starting to make some judgement about my character Daniel:

            “I get the sense you are more of an action gamer all about the combos and the shooting and whatever and maybe even the type of person who presses start to skip past the story portions.”

            What part of my review leads you to this incorrect conclusion? I focused my critique on the title itself, not a comparison of “actiony” types. I didn’t give this title a C because it wasn’t Halo or Call of Duty, I gave it a C because it was a Movie. Please try to keep attacks on character out of this discussion.
            Furthermore, there are a few points that you avoided in your earlier post. You gave a counterexample, but failed to explain how a “game” can have no “gameplay.”


          • January 10, 2013 at 5:03 pm

            The game is a series of episodes. Each of them are standalone titles. So yes, they can be reviewed separately. This is not an uncommon practice :)


          • Daniel Flatt
            January 10, 2013 at 5:53 pm

            Ok. I get that. Yes, IGN and Gamespot reviewed the game in chunks as it came out.

            However, the whole game is out now. So it now can be viewed as a cohesive whole, because whether or not you can download them seperately on their own they are completely pointless. That’s like reading 2 chapters of a book with no intention of reading the rest.

            It’s kind of like if they released each planet of Mass Effect one at a time with an overarching plot that ties it together. Of course you could review each planet as they come out, but once all of them are out if you haven’t reviewed it would make more sense to review the game as a whole. Because honestly anyone invested enough to care would probably not just stop at one.

            Essentially I feel like it’s reviewing a demo. The first episode is out for free on Live so that’s pretty much what it is.

            When Walking Dead won GOTY on VGA Episode 1, 2, 3,4 or 5 didn’t win. The whole game won viewed as a complete thing. When people reference it they don’t say Episode 1 or 2 just The Walking Dead. The writer himself admitted he will never play the rest.

            We don’t review individual levels on other games so this format makes little to no sense to me.


  • Daniel Flatt
    January 10, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    I just noticed you can rate the title, thats a neat little thing. Here is my brief review summary (not full length or what we would standardly do mind you)

    Walking Dead is one of the best stories I’ve experienced in video games in years. The characters are well voiced with real motivations and by the end of the game you are entirely invested in the experience. Never before have I cried during a video game, but I say this with much shame: I certainly did during Walking Dead. As a father there were some scenes that struck me profoundly and I find myself still thinking about them.

    Within the breadth of the game you make dialogue choices, building your protagonist out in a way that suits your story. You make choices who lives and dies, the relationships you build with each character and hit has a direct effect on the body of the story. The game play elements themselves (outside of dialogue trees and narrative choices) are more akin to adventure games with light puzzles, quick time events, and even a few segments where you snipe zombies (admittedly the controls aren’t the greatest suited for this, but the change of scenery was nice).

    Ultimately what drags the score down though is a bevy of technical issues through the first two episodes, with the second being the worst. Typically it’s just distracting stuttering in loading that occurs, but when some cinematic scenes plays it pretty much completely detracts from the experience. The worst I experienced was within the second episode and because of a loading issue and voice sync issue I wasn’t able to make a choice and it altered my decision.

    In the end though I’ve found few characters I’ve cared about more and few stories, in video games or otherwise, that have left an impression on me. If your a fan of Walking Dead show you must play this game, but the same could be said of anyone who enjoys a great story with top notch voice acting throughout.


  • Charles Kheng
    January 11, 2013 at 1:23 am

    I also have to disagree with the part saying that the Walking Dead series isn’t a game. It is a game, a point-and-click adventure game.

    Like Heavy Rain, the focus of Walking Dead isn’t it’s gameplay but rather, it is the story that is best conveyed to audiences through it’s gameplay.


  • January 11, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    Heavy Rain is a game, a game some outlets gave Game of the year.

    Heavy rain is essentially the walking dead. Quantic dreams, an amazingly profitable game studio makes interactive story games, that are still games. They even hired Ellen Page, a professional Actress to star in their next game, you may know her from moves like Hard Candy, Juno, Xmen, and Inception.

    Interactive story-telling games are still games. Hell Journey, is barely a game too, and Taylor gave it game of the year. Journey just uses a few buttons to jump and touch things and roam around aimlessly, with no objective defined.

    As Daniel said, you can’t review a game until you’ve finished it or atleast are close to the ending. He wasn’t even halfway there.

    Even if you reviewed the game based on the first two episodes, those were enough to get me to buy the game outright. That was the point i felt this game was worth the 15 dollars they were charging me.

    This review simply breaks a lot of rules reviewers hold sacred. The first is insulting a game by not calling it one. The second is not finishing the game. The third is giving it a horrendously low score compared to the consensus of the gamers right now.

    A review is an opinion, but give skyrim a 1 out of 10, and you’ll get flamed; for a good reason.

    Similarly anything less than 80% is a slap in the face, and unwarranted. You simply can’t give this game that low a score.

    Even the value score, was an 85 out of 100. Walking dead privdies 10-15 hours of gameplay for 12-25 bucks depending on when you bought it. That’s almost a dollar an hour… A dollar an hour and the game has replayability as well.

    Some great 60 dollar games only provide 5-10 hours worth of gameplay. The Value for Walking Dead is THROUGH THE CHARTS. Why isn’t that 100? Why is the sound score so low at 75?

    I’m just saying, this is your review, but it has a lot of points that are very very very easy to criticize. I just played 3 hours of Farcry 3, maybe I should go review it?


You must log in to post a comment