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Genre: Adventure & RPG
Min OS X: 10.6


The Walking Dead
January 16, 2013 | Franklin Pride
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We Are Doomed

Requirements:

Mac OS X: 10.6 | CPU: 2 GHz Intel | RAM: 4 GB | HD Space: 4 GB | Graphics: 512 MB

Review:

In this age of zombie games, it's very uncommon to see one that isn't all about shooting zombie heads off. Telltale's The Walking Dead has plenty of that, you don't need to worry, but it's a game that's mainly about the managing of characters and relationships. Based on your choices during the many talking and action scenes in the game, you may end up with a different set of people in the end game, different conversations and results, and a slightly-different final act. It's just a bit disappointing that the ending and plot always goes the same way regardless of your choices.

To illustrate, let's call one character in the game "Bob." Bob is a family man and loves his children. At one point in the game, Bob's son is being grabbed by a zombie and another man's son is also being grabbed nearby. No matter which you choose to try and save, Bob's son will always die and the other son will always live. This basically leads to a very minor change in dialogue and nothing else, despite the fact that it could've been a vastly different game if you were allowed to save Bob's son and had the other son die. It's understandable that the developers want to keep things tight and high-quality (more plot possibilities means more art and voice acting), but it just would've been nice to have a meaningful impact on the story beyond a few additional sentences of dialogue.

On the game side, the non-action parts of The Walking Dead are quite like a traditional adventure game. You wander around the areas you can move in, talk to people, and finish quests. These quests tend to be things like finding keys, distributing food, and checking a fence perimeter. One main difference, however, is that you can be thrown into an action sequence at any time. You may be doing something as simple as chatting with people at a farm, but end up fighting back a few zombies as they try to climb over a wall. In some cases, the action sequences will even interrupt conversations in the middle of you picking what to say.

Each of these sequences require you to hit a button really fast, aim a gun or melee weapon at a zombie, click on the right prompt on screen, or move to get away from the slavering hordes that are charging you. The required input almost always makes sense and the sequences end up quite engaging as a result. However, in some cases you simply can't do anything to succeed and the action sequence will always end up with someone dead. Those cases are frustrating, as there are quite a few characters who you'll want to keep alive but they always die anyway.

Which leads to the main complaint against The Walking Dead. Despite the fact that it gives you loads of choices in how you approach each interaction, the overall results of the story are hard-coded in. You can't get on one character's good side and prevent him dying of stress, you can't talk a character down when they want to shoot someone, you can't really do anything to change the overall events. Your only real decisions are who to take along to inevitably die later. It's just unsatisfying when you want an ending that's upbeat, but you can't get anything but an overall failure regardless of how you play the game.

On the plus side, the voice acting, zombie growls, and sound effects are all quite good. It makes it really easy to get immersed in The Walking Dead for hours, just continuing the story along to see what happens. Each interaction tends to be very well-written, and the dialogue is read with about the same quality you'd expect from a television show. The voice for the little girl you encounter can get a little annoying sometimes, but she does her part reasonably well in the end. The music also does a good job at setting the mood with quite a few tunes to keep you on edge while evading the zombies around every corner.

The Walking Dead also looks really good. The style of the game is like an animated comic page, with hand-drawn lines and outlines around every character. The world is also quite lush and full of detail. The best example of this would be the parts of the story that take place in Savannah. Each building, street, bush, tree, and pile of festering corpses is quite detailed and make sense in overall organization. You can't get a close look at most of it due to the invisible walls everywhere, but what you can see looks great. One note, however, is that you may be forced to play it in windowed mode. Certain computers have sluggish or unresponsive cursors in-game in fullscreen mode.

So, with all that said, should you buy The Walking Dead? That depends on whether you like zombies, adventure games, and want a pyrrhic ending. If you're not a fan of following a linear story to its conclusion and/or want the ability to have a happy ending, this is definitely not the game for you. It's an excellent adventure game in its own right, but there's no running-and-gunning or strategy involved. The characters will do what they will, and you can do little to stop them. Should you make it to the end of the game without dying, that is your only claim to victory. It will at least allow you to choose your final fate as one of the living or one of The Walking Dead.

Pros:

• Compelling characters
• Slightly-shifting story based on your choices
• Great overall presentation

Cons:

• No ability to change the story

Franklin Pride is a game development graduate and professional programmer/consultant for the Unity development engine. He has recently launched a Kickstarter for his upcoming game "Chainsaw Ninja In Space." It will be developed whether or not the Kickstarter succeeds.



The Walking Dead (add to watch list)
Developer: Telltale Games (add to watch list)
Buy The Walking Dead now at MacGameStore.com


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