- Format: PC (version reviewed), Mac, XBLA, PSN
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Telltale Games
- Developer: Telltale Games
- Players: 1
- Site: http://www.telltalegames.com/walkingdead/age_gate
[Plot points of the first episode will be vaguely mentioned in this review and should be considered minor spoilers.]
It’s been a longer wait than Telltale originally planned, but here we are. When we last saw Lee Everett, he and his makeshift band of survivors had escaped a zombie infested town and sought shelter in a defensible roadside motel. With the exception of having no electricity everything seemed like it was going to be okay, but that isn’t the way The Walking Dead works.
Episode two opens with three months passing by largely uneventfully, meaning that the global zombie epidemic has escalated. Despite that, Lee’s group has taken on some new members and they have been relatively safe from what they call the Walkers. The sole problem facing the group is the lack of food and that is the focus of this episode, entitled Starved for Help. When two strangers from a dairy farm protected by a powerful electric fence appear at the motel asking to trade fuel for food, Lee his little choice but to agree.
Episode two hits the player with a bang, forcing life or death decisions within the first few minutes of gameplay – helpfully reminding people that big decisions get thrown your way often. There are still quiet moments to break up intense action scenes too, but these remain emotionally powerful – such as being tasked with handing out a day’s worth of food rations to the survivors, which means picking four out of ten people who get to eat for the day. Over the course of this two hour adventure the plot flow works as well as any TV episode you’d care to mention and expertly gets the player to react quickly and honestly to situations.
A fault that we discovered with the first episode of The Walking Dead was that, through repeat playthroughs to test alternate outcomes, very little changed in the terms of plot. The same can be said for this episode. The ‘big’ decisions which are graded when the episode is over still happen regardless of what you do. You can be friendly with a character but, if the plot has decided they’ll stab you in the back later, it will still happen no matter what.
This doesn’t matter on a first playthrough, but the more you play the same episode the less shiny the veneer of player choice will appear to be. Given that for one purchase you get all five episodes and each will roughly be two hours long, we would actively encourage you not to re-play an episode until significant time has passed and you’ve played all five. Testing how differently you can alter the story now will lead to disappointment.
Despite thoroughly enjoying the second episode, we ran into some technical issues with it. At times the game seemed to lag or get stuck despite the PC we played on being far, far above the recommended settings. There was also one moment during an intense scene where the game allowed an additional mouse click which then triggered two sets of the same animations and speech overlapping each other, ruining the moment.
On a non-technical side we also had one choice from our episode one file fail to carry over properly which led to undeserved animosity from one character. At first we assumed this was simply an error, but upon thinking about it we started to suspect it was a bit of retroactive continuity altering for the sake of what appeared to be the main ‘goal’ of this episode. We believe it was Telltale’s intention, in keeping with the theme of the source material that people are the real danger and not the zombies, to lead the player to begin to dislike a character previously seen as being ‘good’ and begin to feel sorry for one who had previously been seen as being ‘bad’, perhaps just to provoke thoughts or to foreshadow upcoming events in future episodes. Whether this is the case or not is open to debate, but it is how it comes across to us and isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
As we mentioned – you can make a one time purchase to gain access to all five episodes of The Walking Dead with roughly one releasing per month or you can buy episodes separately on consoles. Fans of the comics or TV series should definitely play these games without a second thought. Those not as familiar with the source material but are familiar with the likes of Heavy Rain or point and click games by Telltale should also go out of their way to play as you will not be disappointed; despite the hiccups we mentioned, we eagerly await the third episode.