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    2014-05-21

    The Walking Dead: Season 1 Review


        As I write this, Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead just released issue 127 of the comic series. With reprints, trade paperback, and even a television show, the zombie craze has allowed The Walking Dead name to be recognized by a much larger audience than just comic fans. It was only a matter of time before someone would make a game of the increasingly popular franchise. When it was Telltale that stepped forward with the announcement that they would be  handling the game, there were all around mixed views. Their previous game, Back to the Future, got lukewarm  reception, while Jurassic Park did not fair as well. The game was released in 2012 for various platforms including the PS3, Xbox360, and ios devices with great reviews. It later found it's way to the PS Vita, and in my opinion, it's one of the best platforms to experience it on. Grab some headphones, turn off the lights, power up your Vita and get ready to experience one of the most thrilling adventures the system has to offer.



    Gameplay- 9/10 The Walking Dead game is what you would call a graphic adventure. There are a lot of QTE like situations, decision making, and exploring different environments, it's kind of a new age point and click/choose your own adventure game. The choices you make actually matter in this game(well, most of them), determining what will happen next, and at times,even who lives and dies. How you treat people will determine who will be there to help you in the time of need, and who won't be so quick to respond. Some choices have immediate results, and certain decisions even carry over to later episodes, making them all the more important. You aren't given much time to make them either, so you have to think quick, sometimes under great pressure. It's something that I really enjoyed about this game, the feeling of almost freezing up at times with all that is happening around you, cause it can get hectic. Walking around environments, which can either be done by touch screen or use of the analog, allows you to click on items and people to investigate or speak. All of those actions, including the choices made in conversations, are mapped to the Vita's touch controls, and it works wonderfully. This game was, for the most part, made for a touch interface, and I feel it's what makes this version better than the console ones. I actually began playing this game on a PS3, all the way up to episode 3. As much as I loved it, the controls just never felt comfortable, resulting in "game over" more than a few times. It all just feels much more responsive on the Vita, though there were a few instances where I swear I did the correct swipe, or was certain I tapped the screen at the correct time, yet I died, but these easily could have been my fault, and the checkpoint system is pretty generous, so it didn't matter too much. One thing that did bother me though, was that second analog just sitting there being unused. Camera control or "looking around" is done by touch screen. While it does work, being able to adjust your view using that second analog stick everybody begged for, would have been real nice. Still, the game is very playable as is, that's just me being picky.



    Story-10/10 This game is based on the world from the comicbook and not the television series. It is separated into five episodes all taking about two to a little over three hours to complete, depending on how you play. You play as Lee Everett, a man recently convicted of murder. While being transported to prison, the outbreak is just beginning, and a related accident sets the story into motion. You soon meet up with Clementine, a young girl who has found herself all alone during this horrific event. Not having the heart to tell her that her parents probably will not be coming home again, Lee sees it as his responsibility to look after her for the time being. Lee and Clementine set out to escape this nightmare and seek safety, beginning your adventure in The Walking Dead. Throughout your journey you will meet new friends, come across and even make enemies, witness death first hand, and experience some unspeakable events, both from the undead and the survivors. When all is said and done, The Walking Dead's story is what will keep you playing to see how all of it will end, and while I won't spoil anything, I will say it is one memorable ending. There is also a sixth stand-alone episode included in season 1, titled 400 Days. It follows the story of 5 different characters, all at different times during the breakout. Each of these stories are fairly short and can be completed in any order, with a wrap up story to tie it together. It's included in your purchase on the Vita, and is just as enjoyable. I'm a fan of the comic, and I feel one of the main reasons The Walking Dead has lasted so long is because of it's story, and this game was written with much respect to that fact. The undead are quite a problem, obviously, but this series has always done an outstanding job at focusing on the more intelligent threat. That being what becomes of the human psyche after such a catastrophic event. Cannibalism, rape, murder, twisted new world orders, some of the worst, most unspeakable acts that mankind is capable of, this series has never shied away from confronting these subjects and more. The translation into a game is no different, they didn't hold back. While most zombie games are just shooters that happen to have zombies in them, this game is so much more. There are times when I had to pause and set the Vita down, just to fully take in everything that just occurred. The story will have you actually disliking certain people, but more importantly, caring about others. It will affect you as people die, and not in the cheap videogame way of forcing you to take notice and develop feelings for certain characters only. It's all your choice whether to build better friendships or not, who you will get attached to, or who you will act negative upon. Each character has their own way of dealing with what is happening, and some of them you just won't agree with. Nobody is perfect, even Lee himself isn't your typical "hero" character. 
        The idea of zombies, themselves, isn't really that scary. In fact, they always seem kind of like a joke, especially when not in large numbers. It's the feeling the threat can invoke though, and a great zombie story knows that. It's the thought of your little brother, your wife of 20 years, the people you care about getting bitten, knowing what is going to happen. It's the horror of watching your mother or father being eaten alive, it triggers an emotion, something unthinkable, unimaginable. Nothing in this game portrays that better than the feelings you will develop for young Clementine. She is, perhaps, the best done child to ever grace a videogame in my opinion. I have no kids, but the feeling I had to protect this child was unreal. Hearing her scream, cry out in fear, stopped me dead in my tracks, quickly scrambling to figure out how to rescue her. It is something I have never felt in a game before. Something as little as responding to her in a way that made her feel uneasy or frightened made you feel bad, wishing you could make that last choice over. Simply put, outside of RPG's, games rarely contain a story this thought out and well written. There are times when it could be considered slow, but it works well with the game, feeling more like a time to relax a bit before the next heart pounding, game changing event.
        While all of this doesn't hold true as much in 400 Days, you will still find yourself feeling a bit of all of these emotions, just not as deep. With each of the 5 stories being very short, you won't have the time to connect with the characters presented to you like you were able to in the main game. You still have the choices that you must make quickly, and those choices do still have consequences, but without the time to develop any real affection towards anybody, those consequences just don't have the same weight. It's all just as enjoyable to experience, and I liked 400 Days very much. It was a different feeling though, being tossed in situations without much back story, it made your choices uncertain, not really knowing any of the characters around you. From survivors holding up in a diner, to ex-convicts, you are forced to just kind of "wing it" and hope for the best. It's a more instinctive type of game, will you agree with that person because she is attractive, maybe side with an elderly person because he reminds you of your grandpa, it's a separate experience that feels different and holds it's own.   


    Replay- 7/10 Whether or not you care to see the various outcomes of making different choices throughout the game ultimately determines the replay factor, at least the immediate one. I, myself, played through the game twice and enjoyed it both times. There are many different choices and outcomes depending on them, if you care to see them all. Other than that, there isn't much reason to play it again, besides the experience. The trophies are all unlocked as you play through the chapters(easy platinum) and there aren't any hidden or bonus trophies in the main game. 400 Days does have a few you might not get the first time through, but the problem with this is you have to keep the entire game on the Vita just to play it. With memory cards being so pricey, and space being a valuable thing on the system, it's a fairly large game to keep on it just to play one part. That being said, I did find it much easier to replay 400 Days, with the stories being shorter and a bit more self containing. The great part is, you can play, or replay, the episodes in any order, picking and choosing as you like. So if you just wanted to experience a certain part of the game again, you can freely do just that. It should be noted though, you can not skip anything. Cutscenes, dialog, even the beginning recap of the previous episode, everything must be played out, there is no way to skip through them. If not right away, this is definitely one of those games you will wake up someday in the future and want to play again, and that makes it a keeper.



    Graphics/Sound- 8/10
    The game has that Telltale look, a bit cartoony, hand drawn graphics. That doesn't mean they shied away from blood and gore though, by the end of the game, main character Lee looks like he just stepped out of a Die Hard movie. The zombies come across as creepy, and they will be tearing various people to pieces, this is definitely a mature title. The game is all really well drawn, with the characters noticeably loosing weight, and looking quite a bit unclean as the game progresses. The various environments are all gorgeous, whether it be a destroyed town or a abandoned mansion. Everything just looks right, like something definitely happen. There are plenty of times you will walk into someplace and just think, "whoa, I do not want to know what happened here." Things like flies buzzing around, blood stains and trails, and scattered trash and debris all add that all important detail needed in a game like this. There are some parts where the animation becomes choppy, with the game itself kind of clipping, but I also found this to happen in the PS3 version. This game in no way pushes the Vita graphically, but what is here is all done beautifully. The sound is also just as impressive, with every line of dialog being spoken, and the cast did a spectacular job. There are no outlandish or overly done stereotypes, even the most annoying of characters are well voiced. All the sound effects are appropriate(I was going to say, dead on) and the soundtrack is outstanding. Moments of tense action, scenes of heroic sacrifice or losing someone you came to know as a friend are all made even more emotional by the chilling score supporting the scenes.



        One of the main flaws of this game is not even the game's fault, and is why I didn't mention it in any of the previous scoring sections. It's the fact that the Vita's screen dims so quickly when there is no "activity". This happens in any game with longer dialog or cutscenes. You will find yourself continually tapping the analog, or gently touching the screen during conversations and movie type events just to keep the screen lit. It's not game breaking, but it is annoying, and I wish Sony would address this problem. Again, this is not the game's fault and it shouldn't, in any way, be held against it, but I do feel it is worth mentioning because of the number of times it will occur. The Walking Dead is simply a must have game. I found it very difficult to find much flaw in the experience of playing through it. The few times it could be considered slow, actually adds to the game. Like I mentioned previously, it feels like a much needed down time, like a roller coaster ride. After going through five death drops and four 360 degree loops, it's nice to have a slow period for a bit before the next heart pounding climb. The few instances of choppiness is found in other versions as well, and can't be counted against this one alone. The amount of gameplay and the time it will take to complete, not to mention the curiosity of "what else could have happened if I made a different choice", to inspire at least a second replay at sometime, all make this well worth the price. The added 400 Days story is just icing on this sweet cake. I cannot recommend this game enough. With season 2 just being released, you will have quite a story to experience, one of the best, well written stories a gamer could ask for. It's a zombie game that's about more than mindless shooting, covering the aspect of what it might be like to survive in an event like this. It's a nice change too, besides this, State of Decay, and a few others, there aren't many zombie games willing to explore more than blasting heads off.  I am not a fan of these QTE, clicking around the screen type games usually, but I am so glad I gave this one a shot, it offered me an experience that very few games are capable of giving. With the touch controls, everything just felt smooth, as I would have never finished it on the PS3. This is the perfect game for the PS Vita, and should be in everybody's library. Walking Dead fan or not, I highly recommend picking this game up.


    Gameplay- 9/10
    Story- 10/10
    Replay- 7/10
    Graphics/Sound- 8/10
    Overall- 9/10

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    Item Reviewed: The Walking Dead: Season 1 Review Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Gabriel Watkins
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