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Available on

Xbox Live Arcade!

 

Platform

Xbox 360

Genre

Adventure

Publisher

TellTale Games

Developer

TellTale Games

ESRB

M (Mature)

Released

April 27, 2012

 

 

- Gameplay choices (and many are gut-wrenchingly hard to decide) really matter as far as how each individual gamer’s story progresses
- Has some “item seek & find” lulls, but when there’s a walker attack, the adrenaline gets flowing and the heart starts pumping quickly
- Combat controls are well designed
- Extremely well-written script, although the voice-acting is just average

 

 

- The “search & find” gameplay elements can get a bit annoying, particularly when gamers would rather be engaged in the more entertaining walker fighting action

 

 

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The Walking Dead Episode 1: A New Day

Score: 9.0 / 10

 

walking dead episode 1           walking dead episode 1

 

The Walking Dead has reinvigorated the zombie genre with the extremely popular comic book and television series. Now, Robert Kirkman’s amazing zombie-filled (or as Kirkman prefers them to be known as, walkers) apocalyptic universe has ventured its way into videogame form (on the Xbox 360) with the release of The Walking Dead series from the developers of high-quality episodic adventure gaming, Telltale Games. A five-part episode release, the first one, A New Day, introduces gamers to Kirkman’s depressingly deadly and full of despair world, right at the very first “new day” of mankind: one where the walking dead have risen and

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the living left behind trying to find any means possible to avoid joining those undead ranks.

The story doesn’t follow that of The Walking Dead’s most famous character, Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes. Instead, gamers get introduced to convicted criminal Lee Everett, an African-American University of Georgia professor from Macon, Georgia, who at the

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outset of the episode is being escorted from Atlanta, newly convicted for murder (catching your wife in bed with a senator can kind of drive a man to commit extremely deadly bodily harm) and on his way to prison in the backseat of a police car. As Everett and his police escort have a conversation about what happened, discussing that and other innocuous chit-chat, more and more police vehicles are zooming full-sirens-wailing back into Atlanta, foreboding something terribly wrong. That manifests itself just a few minutes later when the squad car flies full speed off the highway and down an embankment after smashing full-speed dead-on into a walker on the roadway. And then that’s when the realization for both Everett and gamers becomes crystal clear that hell-on-earth has been unleashed with first the now-dead policeman driver resuscitating back to life and other walkers in the woodlands trying to attack the injured Everett, who narrowly escapes into a backyard of an Atlanta neighborhood.

Entering the seemingly abandoned house, and after another harrowing encounter with yet another walker, gamers are introduced to another main character, Clementine. She’s a young girl who has survived on her own in her treehouse, waiting for her now-presumably-dead parents to return to rescue her (the answering machine message Everett plays pretty much leaves no doubt they’re not coming back in any other form besides walker).

From there, gamers get introduced to a host of characters, including a few from comic/TV show fame, including Hershel and Glenn. Everett, looking to find his parents and brother, does eventually find his way back to Macon, unfortunately to discover the horrible reality that he had not wanted to find: no one in his family survived. Holed up in his parent’s drugstore with other survivors, Everett, like those around him, must find his way to safety, which in this case is a motel on the outskirts of town, in the new hellish reality of living undead.

Only one episode into the videogame series, gamers will be impressed with how incredibly well written and detailed A New Day’s script is, just as expertly and first-rate scribed as the comic and TV show (although the voice acting is just average). What’s even more first-rate is the gameplay feature that has the choices gamers’ make throughout the game affect how later encounters with characters and walkers, particularly the many gut-wrenching choices that literally have Everett deciding between who lives and who dies. Characters remember Everett’s dialogue interactions/gameplay choices and react to him in later interactions (not only in this episode, but across the spectrum of all five) accordingly to those choices. This makes each individual gamers’ experience with The Walking Dead somewhat unique to only them.

 

walking dead episode 1            walking dead episode 1

 

But don’t expect much time to make those choices, especially under duress of walker attack. Gamers have just precious few seconds to make a decision, and oftentimes that decision is going to cost someone dearly while saving another. Tension fills a lot of the short-lived gameplay. It only takes about three hours to get through the episode, but that’s usual for Telltale Games titles, as if all five episodes should bring the total gameplay time in the 15-hour range.

A mixture of “search & find” gameplay with intense walker combat is deftly combined in the first episode. A New Day definitely has some “item seek & find” lulls, but when there’s a walker attack, the adrenaline gets flowing and the heart starts pumping quickly. The “search & find” gameplay elements can get a bit annoying (some items are very hard to find), particularly when gamers would rather be engrossed in the more entertaining walker fighting action.

For combat, gamers will need to move the cursor over a walker and interact quickly and more importantly, have the cursor in the right place within a small window of opportunity. If the first well-designed combat interaction doesn’t hit the “sweet spot” for walker killing, there’s a high chance that a gamer will soon be walker food. A few other interactions require rapid button-mashing to avoid a similar fate.

Just as impressive as the script and combat is, the graphics are even better. Taking inspiration right from the pages of the comic book itself, A New Day is visually striking, and the animated movement of Everett is fluidly good.

A New Day brings a new entry into the line-up of quality Telltale Games episodic gaming releases. Fans of both The Walking Dead comic book and TV series will be impressed with the great story and gameplay that is another excellent extension of the walker lore. And the scintillating second the episode ends, gamers will be anxiously awaiting the second episode, which if the teaser trailer at the end of the first one is any indication, will be even more tension-filled and exciting.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(May 12, 2012)

 

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