Having originally launched last year, Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead videogame series achieved significant critically acclaim- including from your very own Electronic Theatre – for being an inventive modernisation of the point-n’-click genre that presented emotional ties with it’s characters unlike anything previously seen in interactive entertainment. Now, Avanquest has seen fit to bring the series to retail in the UK, giving the opportunity to experience this unique adventure to a wider spectrum of gamers.
And thankfully so, as The Walking Dead remains as important now as it was a year ago. Offering a story that parallels Robert Kirkman’s own, The Walking Dead is an emotive, memorable experience. Playing as Lee, a convict who quickly chooses the right path upon finding the world has become prisoner to a zombie outbreak, The Walking Dead challenges the player to keep their cool as everything they know changes. There’s no real safety, trust is not earned easily and every meal is a fight that could be your last. That first decision was made for you – you are a survivor, and you’re going to make sure there are others around you too – but beyond this everything else is a fine line which you alone will walk.
The Walking Dead plays like a very modern renovation of the point-n’-click genre. You take direct control over Lee with the left analogue stick while scanning the area for interactive objects with the right. A four-entry cursor, relating to each of the face buttons on the control pad, denotes when objects have content attached to them and the familiar genre rules of collecting items to create new items comes into play. For example, a piece of rope and a plank of wood might be enough to make a swing, but you’ll need to locate a saw in order to combine them properly. Activities can be missed as the player continues to progress through The Walking Dead in their own fashion, which is the real beauty of the videogame.
Every single player will have a different experience. The five episodes may conclude in the same fashion and you might meet the same cast of characters along the way, but the many decisions you will make in the videogame series will at least alter your perception in some small way. The task of mending a swing mentioned above can be ignored entirely, and the slight change in the wind can have significant consequences down the line. Activities such as this, interactions with other characters and your perception of the environments can significantly alter your progression in ways not seen before in any videogame, and nor has it been since. Mass Effect may have been the videogame series that was first to truly establish the ideals of player choice and undeterminable eventualities, but The Walking Dead has proven what current-generation hardware is truly capable of with this tool.
The retail package is designed to be a perfect accompaniment to those who have dabbled but not yet finished the series as well as those looking to dip their toe for the first time. The data on the disc is loaded as if it were the five digital episodes on your harddisk drive (HDD) – with each simply listed on the menu as ‘installed’ even though they remain on the removable media – which then connects to any previous save data you may have on your console. This hard copy even has an update that allows for compatibility with the recently announced 400 Days downloadable content (DLC), meaning no one will be left behind when it launches later this summer.
Sadly, it’s not all good news. The loading times that require access to your save data are considerably longer than the downloadable version of the videogame, presumably due to an artificial bypass that was required to correct the file path of the connecting data to be loaded from the disc as opposed to the HDD. It’s only a small issue, but one that does deter quickly jumping between episodes, should you ever have reason to.
Despite being a year of masterful videogame releases, redefining genres and pushing the envelope of interactive design further than ever before, The Walking Dead hasn’t been surpassed since its release. It remains a hugely engrossing endeavour, one that treads new ground not just for the point-n’-click genre, but for videogames as a whole. Offering players not just choices, but consequences, and that in itself promises bold new things for the future of interactive entertainment.