The Walking Dead: Episode One: A New Day review
The Good:

Tense survival-driven story; compelling cast of characters; appealing graphic novel art style; well written dialogue with great voice acting; player decisions have tangible effects on the story.

The Bad:

Technical hiccups with cutscenes and audio quality; a few weak and misplaced puzzles; very short, even by episodic standards.

Our Verdict:

The Walking Dead may have more gore than puzzles, but by striking out in a new direction that focuses on atmospheric storytelling, Telltale delivers one their most compelling and enjoyable titles to date.

Telltale's adaptations of popular entertainment franchises have met with mixed results so far, and the decision to make a series based on Robert Kirkman's zombie comics met with more than its fair share of scepticism.  Fortunately, those doubts have been proven unfounded in an emphatic way. While it's certainly not a traditional adventure by any means, The Walking Dead is Telltale in top form, delivering what I’d consider their greatest success to date. Off to a short but fantastic start with a compelling script, a strong cast of characters with engaging personalities and a sense of survival that leaves you wondering what’s around every corner, the debut episode, A New Day, manages to build up enough curiosity and anticipation that you'll be left eagerly awaiting the next instalment.

Though based in the same world as Kirkman's books, the game tells an entirely new story with mostly new survivors. Players control a very unconventional protagonist in Lee Everett, a former college professor recently convicted of murder, who initially finds himself being escorted to prison outside of Atlanta in a police car. With no further backstory to go on, you engage in conversation with the officer driving, getting a demonstration of the multi-choice dialogue options that direct every discussion you’ll have. You can choose to ignore the officer’s idle chat by staring out of the window or you can pry a little further into Lee’s history. Notifications will pop up (which can be disabled in the options) that indicate when a dialogue decision has impacted a character's opinion of you, which may affect their interaction with you later.

From huge to small, decisions you make alter the experience, ranging from gaining trust and building friendships (or increasing hostility and suspicion) to simply discovering more information about people – including Lee, whose shady past may not be quite as cut-and-dry as circumstances may appear. In extreme cases, your choices will ultimately impact the lives of others, requiring decisions to be made within seconds. Whilst it’s a formula that’s been done many times before, particularly in RPGs, this action-consequence approach feels refreshingly tangible in The Walking Dead, aided by the grave backdrop of fighting for survival.  Telltale even claims that decisions made now will matter in future episodes, creating a real sense of an evolving, personalised story dependent on your actions. 

In the midst of Lee's conversation with the policeman, one such split-second choice involves screaming in various ways to draw attention to a person standing in the middle of the motorway.  But you're too late, and moments later the car is careening off the road, rolling down the bank. Having blacked out from the crash, Lee regains consciousness to find that he’s still trapped in the back of the car. A short distance away, at the other end of a smeared blood trail, lays the officer with his shotgun nearby. Dazed and confused, Lee must free himself from the car and his handcuffs. Soon after, all hell breaks loose.

Movement is controlled using the WASD keys or joypad analogue stick to guide Lee around freely, while the other stick or mouse is used to look around.  Simple clicks or button-presses are used to interact with relevant elements in the environment denoted by a hotspot. Unfortunately, these hotspots are often quite fiddly due to a misalignment with the actual objects they represent. It’s not intuitive to look for a hotspot to the right of a character's head when trying to talk to them, although this aggravation can be somewhat alleviated by enabling the hotspots to always show via the game’s options.

Injured from the crash, Lee hobbles over to the seemingly dead officer sprawled on the ground, which is when he finally discovers what we already expect. Not so dead after all, the officer is actually amongst the undead, lunging at Lee and knocking him to the ground, resulting in a frantic backpedal to his nearby shotgun. It's either you or him at that point, one of whom will come to a gruesome, grisly end.  Make no mistake: this isn’t the family-friendly Telltale adventure we’re accustomed to. There are scenes of intense gore and violence, very often in graphic, screwdriver-through-the-eye-socket detail.

Close encounters with zombies are often presented in the form of a Quick Time Event, typically requiring you to press a single key or click an interactive spot before time runs out. It’s possible to die upon failing such an event, but these sequences never feel overly challenging or demand quick reflexes to succeed, instead simply functioning to add tension and suspense at critical moments, and doing so effectively. Those concerned with the addition of QTEs in general can rest assured that their appearances are sparse, with typically large gaps between them, at least in the first episode.

While seeking shelter in a nearby house, Lee encounters a young girl named Clementine, left at home with a babysitter by parents gone on vacation.  Choosing to accompany you, Clementine plays a pivotal role in the story, introducing several choices that will impact the story ahead. Do you tell her of the unlikeliness of her family returning? Do you admit you're a convicted killer when she inquires about your history? All such questions will affect the way she perceives you in future conversations.  There are no right or wrong answers, only options, each with its own consequences that you can't necessarily predict ahead of time.  Although the main storyline will play out the same way, anyone wishing to revisit the game will find plenty of replay value in choosing different dialogue options and making alternate critical decisions.

Continued on the next page...



AD The Walking Dead: Episode One - A New Day can be purchased at:
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Game Info

The Walking Dead: Episode One - A New Day

Platform:
Android, iPad, iPhone/iPod Touch, Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, Playstation 4, Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Genre:
Drama, Horror

Developer:
Telltale Games


Game Page »

Digital April 23 2012 Telltale Games

Where To Buy

The Walking Dead: Episode One - A New Day

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User Score

Average based on 33 ratings

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User Reviews

Posted by jannar85 on Jun 11, 2012

Love it!

It's like playing the comic / tv show, refreshing take on the license!... Read the review »

Posted by Lucien21 on May 27, 2012

Too short and too easy

I'm a big fan of the comic book series, it's one of the best ongoing comics in recent years and it is known for it's shock value and nobody... Read the review »



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About the Author
Reece Warrender
Staff Writer

Comments

Jake
May 1, 2012

An update was put out to the PC versions of the game late last week to try and address some of the voice quality issues. I’m not sure if it will correct anything called out in the review, but players with voice quality issues may want to re-download the game from Telltale’s site (Steam customers’ copies automatically updated through Steam).

inm8#2 inm8#2
May 1, 2012

I have a hard time getting a sense of how this game plays. Is it similar to a railed shooter that takes you from one location to the next? Is it like Heavy Rain?

Jackal Jackal
May 1, 2012

Definitely more like Heavy Rain. It’s not at all like a rail shooter. You control your character directly most of the time. Only at key moments are you limited to some QTE button presses or a choice of actions.

Hoagie
May 1, 2012

I heartily endorse this review. Also, for im8#2, there are some Heavy Rain style fight scenes but they are entirely appropriate considering that they occur after being surprised or overwhelmed by zombies. More often than not, the game plays like a traditional adventure although somewhat simplified for mass appeal - in particular, the large motel puzzle is really great fun. If you have a PS3, I highly recommend dipping in with the Episode 1 download which is only 4 pounds - although I of course am in for the whole shebang. Bring on Starved For Help!

TrevorNZ
May 1, 2012

Great review and I agree….. once I understood how the controls work Smile

Peter254 Peter254
May 2, 2012

This game is better than it really needed to be. Very solid design decisions paired with a surprisingly dramatic presentation. It’s great to see Telltale bouncing back up after the letdown of Jurassic Park.

DustyShinigami DustyShinigami
May 2, 2012

Intriguing… I’ll check out the game when they all become available. Grin

adipocere adipocere
May 2, 2012

Before I say anything, I’m only writing here to comment on the review. I personally have no interest in this game, just the word zombie is enough to make me groan inwardly, but I would mention that I faithfully read all the reviews on this site, regardless of the title and feel a bit compelled to write this. First of all, I enjoyed the reviewers in-depth review of the game experience, I like the personal perspective.. (which is sometimes what reviews need more of), and as such think this is a good review for fans of zombie genera who would probably buy this game anyway and chance it. It is also well written and I do get a sense of the more subtle but very valuable aspects of the game, where frequently the impression of “fun” is not covered. But otherwise it seems heavily biased by personal and obvious enthusiasm on the reviewers part, and there is too much emphasis on the developer, TellTale and comparisons to that companies other titles. It also appears that the unusually high score is based on a comparison of the publishers other titles. I usually find reviews to be sometimes overly critical on aspects of some games and the same problem is all but ignored in other titles, and it usually depends on how much the reviewer enjoys the particular genera or theme. Based on the review for this game, the only impression I have is that TellTale did not mangle it, and that the reviewer is a big fan of character-driven zombie apocalypse themes. I will be interested to find out how well this game goes over in the end and if it can successfully cross over the demographic niche it’s targeted towards and actually succeed as an decent adventure game and stand out among others on it’s own merit or if it’s just a junkfood for zombie fans.

Jackal Jackal
May 2, 2012

Adipocere, the game really isn’t about zombies (and the review seems pretty clear on that), but about people trying to survive in horrible circumstances and the personal trials that involves. You could just as easily swap out zombies for aliens or werewolves or an army of Sam clones in underwear and the result would be the same. The comparison to Telltale’s other games is very useful for people expecting a certain sort of game based on the company’s track record. And there is indeed a more “personal perspective” to this review because the game is based around personal decisions that impact the experience.

MoonBird MoonBird
May 2, 2012

Too many turn offs… I hate zombies, I hate telltale and I hate direct controlled games. I don’t know what is going on, but more I hate the game, the greater score it gets in these reviews - (4 - 4½ stars). And if I really like some game, it’s probably 1½ to 2½ stars.

Insanity911
May 3, 2012

I just finished playing this wonderful, intense game!!! Telltale games did a fantastic job of pulling you into this world, and really caring about what decisions, and course of action to take…I am a fan of the horror genre, and a fan of the Walking Dead tv series, and for once this video game interactive story is better than any of the tv episodes stories!!...hands down. The great added bonus is the stories are penned by orignal author of all the Walking Dead graphic novels. What separates the Walking Dead from all other zombies stories, is its more about the human element, and consequences than the zombies..Bravo to you Telltale!!!! Can’t wait for episode#2.

TrevorNZ
May 10, 2012

I just wondered…..is it possible to save games in The Walking Dead? I also found the part with Lee’s brother rather yucky, I couldn’t watch Smile

adipocere adipocere
May 12, 2012

Telltale did a good job using the graphic novel style art to hide the low-quality graphics. It’s a backhanded compliment of course, but I am serious. The heavy lines make the art look stylish without sacrificing all of the realism. It’s obvious for this game, but its a pretty simple trick too, especially for a low-budget production with an quixotic goal…ie hit/miss adventure developer targeting the wsad masses.

adventuregamesrock
May 12, 2012

I really was confused with the controls at first. This coming from the PC version of course. But after I figured it out, it was very enjoyable. I love the Walking Dead tv show, so that definitely helped in my decision to get it. That being said, the voice acting was well done and while there wasn’t really any puzzles, so far it’s been a great story. Very intense and I’m looking forward to episode 2. Telltale has a history of coming out with some fun adventure games. IMO they knocked it out of the park once again. The reviews have been very positive for many sites I’ve visited. Personally I agree. It’s at least a 4/5.

Iznogood Iznogood
Jun 9, 2012

I dont get what people see in this!
Yes there are zombies, so what?
Yes you have choises to make, and it has a good atmosphere and some good voice acting, but that is also it, there really isn’t anything more!

What it lacks is some actual gaming, as i see it this is yet another interactive movie from Telltale, just like Jurasic Park, though slightly better.

TopoGigio TopoGigio
Sep 20, 2012

... another comic movie for little kids of 6 years old.  Going this route the genre of adventure games will be dead really, not “walking dead”

Jackal Jackal
Sep 20, 2012

That statement couldn’t be more wrong, in every conceivable way.

Bogi
Sep 8, 2013

Interactive (even this arguably) cartoon for kids under 15 years old, with laughable “moral choices”.
It’s sad that the broad audience will now look at adventure genre through the prism of this cartoon.



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