I just finished the 5th and final episode of The Walking Dead (Telltale Games) the other night, and I just had to write about it.
This game has got to be one of the best written and most emotional game experiences I have ever had. Those who are unfamiliar with gaming as a medium will automatically dismiss it as irrelevant (because how could video games ever be art or be a commentary on the human condition?), but they would be missing a great story. In fact, I think it is better than many movies out there – I certainly would pay to watch this in the theatre!
The game is essentially an interactive story, and tells the tale (get it, Telltale) of a history professor name Lee Everett who is convicted of killing a man who slept with his wife. Whilst on his way to the prison, the police officer driving the cruiser accidentally hits ‘someone’ on the road and the car crashes. It turns out that ‘someone’ is actually a zombie (or a ‘walker’). Lee escapes from the car, and, after the police officer is killed by another Walker, Lee strikes out on his own in a hostile world. To my memory, there was never a explanation as to what precipitated this zombie invasion (perhaps next season?).
Injured and without supplies, Lee staggers into the backyard of a little girl named Clementine (‘Clem’) who was left alone by her parents. Initially apprehensive, Clem eventually warms up to Lee and she soon discovers a true friend and guardian in him. The Father-Daughter relationship that Lee and Clementine form is the lynchpin of the entire story and really brings the human element to an otherwise nonhuman story.
On their journey to find Clem’s parents and escape the zombie horde, the two meet a variety of interesting characters who they interact with (for better or for worse). As the game says in the opening, the game is tailored to how you play and the specific decisions you make. What makes the game interesting and heart-wrenching is the kind of life or death decisions you have to make: leaving people behind, cutting off limbs, shooting someone who may ‘turn’ into a walker etc.
The game really does a great job of making you feel attached to the characters and this in turn makes for some agonizing decisions. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but let’s just say it is a tear-jerker.
I never played an episodic game like this before, but if the second season of The Walking Dead is anything like this one, sign me up.