I’m a sucker for games that make me want to cry

My Walking Dead game review from Blogomatic 3000:

The Walking Dead is a game unlike most others, largely because it does what every single other ‘interactive story’ I’ve played has failed to accomplish: it strikes a perfect balance between the interactive and the story, and focuses chiefly  on giving the player an emotionally engaging experience.

You play as Lee Everett, a likeable former university professor recently convicted for the murder of his wife and her lover (Shawshank, anyone?) and the first episode starts as Lee is being taken to a prison near Atlanta, Georgia, the area where much of the comic and show takes place. As the conversation between Lee and his escort continues you are given speech options designed to affect the flow and tone of the chat, from making Lee amiable to apathetic to downright belligerent (interestingly, most conversations include the option to remain silent, eliciting a different effect entirely).

After the inevitable car crash that leaves the car upturned in the woods, Lee awakes injured and confused, but that’s only the start of his troubles; the officer escorting him is now deceased, and the scramble to find a weapon defend yourself with really gets the blood pumping. Added moments of reality – such as Lee picking up a shotgun and shells only to drop them in a panic – make encounters with danger incredibly tense and involving.

And danger there is, both from the dead and the living, as is introduced in the first episode and chillingly expanded upon in the second. Fair warning: this isn’t going to be a story where everybody keeps their chins up and waves a big morality flag at the player. Not everyone’s going to fight the good fight, and you’ve got a big hand in deciding whether Lee will either.

Soon enough the cast of characters expands in true Walking Dead fashion, with Lee finding a ward in newly-orphaned little girl Clementine. Other supporting characters show up, with some buying the farm sooner than others (and in each episode there comes a critical moment that significantly affects the other characters’ lives), but Clementine is your rock as you are her protector, and even when I was making tough and often cold decisions, Clementine always seemed to bring me down to earth and remind me what was important.

It’s this intimate connection to the game’s characters and world that’s the crux of The Walking Dead, something that’s lacking in both the TV show and the comics. There are similar locales and even some of the main cast turn up at certain points, but the fact that you can actually affect them – even in the smallest ways – is enormously powerful and gives weight to the stunningly effective set-pieces that occur. Every encouter with a walker is a tense, gruesome experience and the game makes you feel the thud of every hammer to a rotting head and the heart-dropping fear of a bony hand closing around your ankle.

Make no mistake, I’m a big fan of the comic and show. But those are both stories about other people that I don’t know, so it’s more entertaining and less scary because it doesn’t affect me.

The Walking Dead game, on the other hand, is entirely about you. It’s your friends that are dying, and your soul’s on the line. And if you don’t protect that little girl and make sure she gets out of this okay, it’ll be just the worst feeling in the world.

The Walking Dead Episodes 1 & 2 is available for download on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC now, with Episode 3 scheduled for mid-August.

If it didn’t come through in the review, I think you should all buy this game and cry like babies. It makes you hurt inside. But a good hurt.

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