How many games have really stirred your emotions? I don't mean simply that you felt bad that something happened to a character or disliked one of them. When was the last time that you really felt connected to a character? The Walking Dead is a game that presents you with impossible choices, and yet you have to make them. This game will make you laugh, it will make you mad, and it'll likely you may cry.
Back in the late 80's and early 90's, developer Telltale games as well as a few others crafted what are now hailed as some of the greatest and most inventive games to have existed. You may recognize names such as Sam & Max, Grim Fentango, or Monkey Island. All of these games are part of the adventure genre. In these games, the player had no direct control over their character unless they pointed the mouse and clicked where they should walk to. The Walking Dead puts a modern twist on this dying genre. You can control your character, Lee, directly but also point and click to interact and examine things. Even on consoles it feels perfectly natural, and I hope this game gives the dying genre and swift kick so it won't be the last of its kind.
The Walking Dead using a cell-shaded art style and thick black lines to make it look similar to the comic it is based around. It doesn't look terrible, but the graphics shine more in dark, grimy environments than in the daylight. Certain characters' hair in particular looks terribly rendered and the game has its share of graphical glitches on occasion. That's not to say it is ugly - the comic book aesthetic fits great. "Walkers" as zombies are commonly referred to in the game are still menacing despite the cartoon graphics.
You will assume the role of Lee Everett - a Georgia boy sentenced to prison for murdering the man his now ex-wife was having an affair with. After a nice conversation with the rather understanding police officer escorting, you are in an unexpected car accident that sends the patrol car deep into the woods. You wake up, presumably hours later, trapped in the car and still cuffed. After a bit of thinking you escape to find the officer dead. Shortly after grabbing his keys and freeing yourself, the officer rises, not alive but not dead. He's an abomination. You don't know why, but he wants to kill you. You scurry on the ground back to the care and grab the officer's shotgun. There's no ammo. You find a buckshot on the ground and frantically load it, but in your fumbling state, you drop it! You grab it again and load it just in time to nail whatever the hell this thing is square in the face just before it makes you its lunch. That's just the opening sequence.
A lot of time in The Walking Dead is spent not only solving problems and trying to get yourself out of trouble, but also socializing. All of the characters have very real personalities, and over the coarse of the game you will legitimately start to care for, or even hate some of them. Characters change depending on how you treat them. If you do something to something in chapter 1, and they are still alive in chapter 5, you better believe they'll give you hell for it. Some things in the game cannot be altered due to the plot, but for the most part your decisions, actions and words have a major impact on how the game plays out.
One character in particular stands out from the rest. Clementine is an 8 year old girl who you stumble upon very early in the game. She says that her parents have gone to Savannah for a trip. Her parents are quite obviously munching on the flesh of others at this point, but you likely don't have the heart to tell her that. You take her with you and promise to take care of her, but as your relationship evolves she becomes just like your daughter. Notice I am saying "you" and not "Lee". You don't feel like you're just filling someone elses shoes in this game, you feel like you are Lee and Lee is you, and Clementine is your daughter and you'll be damned if anyone is going to hurt her. This is where the game shines most, and frankly, Clementine is one of the most adorable video game characters to have ever existed. If more 8 year olds were like her, I wouldn't hate kids so much.
The Walking Dead is a must play for fans of older style adventure games as well as anyone who just loves a good story. The game isn't going to appeal to everyone, especially younger gamers who are unfamiliar with the point and click style, but even they may want to give it a whirl. It's a deeply moving work of art and despite its dated system and questionable graphics on occasion, I consider it a masterpiece. It can be downloadable episodically on steam, xbox live and playstation network for a total of $25 or purchase retail for $30. If you have a 360, I recommend going the digital route and the retail has a few annoying glitches. They didn't stop me from enjoying the game, but it would have been a much better experience without them. Regardless of what system you play on, you're in for a treat.