Available on Xbox 360, PS3 (version tested), PC
Download from Xbox Live Arcade, PSN or Steam
While based on Robert Kirkman’s comic books rather than the Frank Darabont TV series they inspired, anyone coming to the first episode of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead adaptation from either won’t be too put out by what they find. This isn’t Resident Evil, Left4Dead or any other fast-paced zombie-blaster, but a deliberate, tense adventure game with the focus as much on character and human-to-human interactions as on the constant threat posed by hungry and worryingly active corpses. It’s a dark, sometimes brutal and strangely melancholy piece of work which operates so well on a dramatic level that you can easily gloss over whatever faults it has as a game.
Fans might be mildly disappointed by the absence of officer Rick Grimes and other stalwarts of the comic book and TV series, but the story Telltale has chosen to tell instead provides a new perspective on the zombie apocalypse while staying true to the spirit of The Walking Dead. In A New Day your protagonist is Lee Everett, a man on his way to prison for murder. When the car he’s travelling in is involved in an accident, Lee awakens to find himself alone in a hostile, dead-infested world.
The less you know about what follows the more you’ll enjoy it, but it involves fellow survivors, some sympathetic and some less so, a few dangerous situations and hordes of decomposing shambling horrors. Some key characters from the series and the comics put in an appearance, but it says a lot about A New Day that – so far – this story can stand up on its own.
Controls and Gameplay
On the console formats the game uses an elegant control system. The left stick moves Lee around in a third-person viewpoint while the right moves a cursor which can focus on characters or objects. Doing so brings up a selection of up to four options, mapped to the action buttons on the face. Using these you can engage other characters in conversation, use objects you’ve picked up on other objects or other people, or just take a closer look what you’re focussing on.
If you want to be reductive about it, the actual gameplay comes down to three things: talking to your fellow survivors, solving simple puzzles or fending off and fighting your more cadaverous chums. The puzzles hark back to classic adventure games, with the emphasis on finding the right object for the right situation, while conversations follow the same kind of pattern as in, say, a Mass Effect; you pick an opening gambit or response and the dialogue branches off from there. The difference with The Walking Dead is that, in many cases your responses or your actions have a time limit. Normally we might find this annoying, but the time limits aren’t impossible and it all adds to that all-important sense of tension, panic and fear.