Review: The Walking Dead: Episode 1 Is a Must Play (Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network)

And to think, we’re just getting started.

I love The Walking Dead TV series.  What’s not to love?  Even with the drastic changes that have taken place with season 2 (mostly with the departure of producer Frank Darabont), it’s retained all the awesome intensity and scares of the comic book series.  With that, Telltale Games has followed suit with the first of its five-part Walking Dead game saga, one that deviates from events in the show, opting instead to tell its own scary tale.  And you know what?  It’s a damn good one.

The game tells the story of convicted felon Lee Everett, who gets in a nasty car accident on his way to jail, one that leaves him with a leg injury and a zombie cop to worry about.  After quickly dispatching of him, he runs for it while the undead pursue him, forcing him to find cover in a nearby house.  It’s here he meets Clementine, a scared little girl who just wants to be reunited with her parents, who are in another city.  Seeing this as a possible chance at redemption – and not really given much choice in the matter – Lee offers to look after her.  Over the course of the two-something hours that the game lasts, you’ll run into other characters, some friendly and others tense and untrusting, with the zombie apocalypse and all.

One excellent factor about The Walking Dead: Episode 1 is how your choices affect your relationships with others.  Making the wrong conversation choice or even moral decision (save a bratty kid or the young guy who provided you a place to stay?) can affect what others think of you, drastically changing the course of the game.  How you play the game is up to you, whether you want to be a jerk or a kind, concerned citizen.  Watching these results play off is a terrific thing, and may even prompt you to play through the chapter again, just to see how things turn out.

Aside from decision making, the action in The Walking Dead relies on quick push-button events, as well as using button prompts to execute moves, like killing a zombie with a projectile (like a shotgun or a spark plug) or using an item in the environment.  You must react quickly, or you or one of your party members could easily die, forcing you to restart from a previous point.  It’s never to the point of being unfair, however.  And no matter what decisions you make, you will face hardships, a solid point to the game.