October 22, 2013 1 Comment
There will be so many spoilers here that it will cause a national spoiler shortage, causing an epidemic of cars lifting off the ground as they accelerate. Do not read under any circumstance if you don’t want the rest of Walking Dead to be spoiled.
I begrudgingly give the entire Walking Dead: Season One game (sans the horrible DLC, called 400 Days because “70 Dull Minutes” was frowned upon by marketing) my Seal of Approval. My rule is, if I enjoy an experience with a game more than I don’t, it gets the Seal, and that certainly applies to Walking Dead. Having said that, I would like to paraphrase the great Bill Simmons and ask the following publications to shove their own heads up their own asses.
The Official Xbox Magazine (granted, Xbox didn’t have Journey in 2012, but still..)
I’m only asking because you already shoved your head up your ass once and I want to see you do it again. Thanks Bill.
All these publications and many more declared Walking Dead to be 2012′s Game of the Year. This is apparently part of a larger conspiracy by Human-Emu hybrids to rid video games of actual gameplay. Plus, Walking Dead was riddled with technical problems, at least on PlayStation 3. Often, making a decision would result in the game freezing up while it loaded the next dialog tree. The audio would play but the image would be locked. Then the animation would be out of synch with the audio until it caught up. This happened quite a lot, and it broke the immersion. When a game is 98% story and 2% actual gameplay, immersion is all you have. If you don’t have that, you don’t have shit, and Walking Dead often didn’t have shit.
Beyond that, the only real game play complaints I have are minor, which is what happens when a game isn’t really a game in the strictest sense. The button mashing stuff has got to go, or Telltale has to include a free visit to a carpal tunnel specialist or a controller with autofire with every purchase. Whichever is cheaper. And finally, if a stage requires a lot of backtracking with nothing between point A and point B that you haven’t seen, I wouldn’t be bothered too much with some kind of auto-get-there option. In one scene, you’re trying to raid a medicine cabinet. In order to do this, you have to get the combination to the safe. You’re going to get it by watching a video tape of a doctor performing an abortion. Ooooh, edgy and mature. But the problem is, the doctor is a zombie now, and one that was already beaten to a bloody pulp. He’s far away from where you’re at, and it’s fucking boring to get there. Yea, we should be able to skip to him. Really, Walking Dead doesn’t need as much actual walking, yet there’s a lot of it present. And it’s especially annoying because the walking animation isn’t exactly life-like. When you get pinned up against an invisible wall, it’s almost like a reverse-moonwalk. Which.. yea I guess that’s actually known as just walking, but it looks really weird.
But nobody cares because the story is a cut above your average video game, so let’s talk about that.
Yes, I enjoyed the writing in Walking Dead. I mean, when it wasn’t awful. The battery bit in chapter one was so very bad. It’s almost obnoxious when the game gets self-depreciating about how bad it was in chapters two and three. If they were going to acknowledge it, they could have come up with a better way of doing it than making fun of it, especially since the game is almost entirely devoid of humor. I don’t know how. Perhaps they could have done something really heavy-handed, like an elaborate back story involving Carley’s baby brother choking to death on a Duracell when she was supposed to be babysitting him but instead she was listening to the radio.
But otherwise, wow. There were times when my jaw dropped. There were times when I shook my head in disbelief. I even teared up at the end when I had Clem cap Lee before he turned into a zombie. Though I was kind of puzzled as to why they didn’t have Lee tell Clem he loved her, or even give the option for it. Some people have argued with me that it didn’t need to be said. Fuck that, says I. Some things need to be said. And the dynamic between Lee and Clem was one of the most moving I’ve ever experienced between two characters in a game-like experience. I kind of wanted to hear one or the other say it.
Once I soaked in the end credits and the final scene where Clem strolled through Ico land before spotting him and Yorda up on the hill (hey, that’s what it looked like), I sat back to ponder what I had just done. It’s been a year since I played chapter one. I hated chapter two (yes yes, I know that’s everyone’s favorite chapter. I guess you guys like your stories predictable and your twists visible by Stevie Fucking Wonder) and figured I was done with the series. Then I was left wanting more by Wolf Among Us, and having no other alternative, I decided to finish Walking Dead. Although I’m very glad I did, it was shortly after I finished the game that I realized what a load of bullshit it is.
The whole moral choice thing is a farce. If I had real choice in the outcome of the game, I would have shot Kenny, used his wife as zombie bait, and eaten Duck the first time I encountered them. I actually DID try to kill Duck in the first chapter by letting the zombie at the farm eat him, but it didn’t take. Oh no. I had to wait two more chapters to achieve that, and I wasn’t directly involved in his demise. I mean, I got to shoot him, but he was dying anyway and it took the zest out of it. Even more sadly, Kenny had the nerve to keep on living instead of owning up to his failure as a father, husband, and Tony Clifton look-alike and killing himself like any honorable person would do in the same situation. Again, if I had any actual control over the game, I would have murdered him at the start of chapter 3, when it was just us alone in the city, when nobody would have known. Because who has time to deal with a brain-dead redneck whose short temper endangers the entire group in the middle of the Apocalypse? I would have been totally justified, damn it.
Other than my Kenny and clan hatred, I generally played the game straight, keeping Lee as a good man looking for redemption. I put up with Larry’s bullshit, tried to be the level-headed one in every conversation, and stayed out of any argument I figured I couldn’t win. Maybe this is why I found Lee so boring. Also, it turned out that most players did exactly what I did. Over the course of the five chapters, there are twenty-five decisions you can make (five per chapter) that are ranked against the choices of every other player in the world. Of those twenty-five, I went against the majority exactly twice: once when I tried to kill Duck and once when I left Lilly on the side of the road. Then you realize that not one single decision you make ultimately matters because the game will still end one of two ways: with Clem alone and you dead or Clem alone and you as a zombie. To put in perspective how inconsequential your choices are, I was as shitty as humanly possible to Kenny. I shouted him down in every argument. I made every choice possible that I hoped would result in either his death or the death in someone in his family. If it had given me the option to call his wife a hoe at one point I would have taken it. BUT, when the time came to convince members of the group that were still alive to follow me as I tried to rescue Clem, it took a single fucking line of dialog chosen correctly to convince him to come along. And I only did it because I figured he was more likely to get eaten with me than without.
I haven’t checked, but I’m not even sure it’s possible to have Kenny not follow you. I mean, he’s vital to a later sequence where he saves a character he was previously butt hurt against. There’s no way that sequence gets cut, I’m guessing. Then he’s all self-sacrificial and the zombies get to finish him instead of me. I watched in horror while this happened. “Oh my God. After all that hard work, the zombies killed Kenny. You bastards.”
And finally, I hated the whole sequence in the hotel room where you have to face the consequences of the choices you made. I mean, I was pretty fucking cool for the most part, so this sequence made no sense. I didn’t steal the dude’s food, yet the guy was extremely bent at me over it. A lot of people raved to me about this spot, but the problem is, the whole sequence only really would have fit in if you played the game like a dickhead, which myself and most of the players apparently did not. Maybe Telltale just assumed every fan of Walking Dead was an asshole and would play accordingly. They didn’t, and thus the big finale made about as much sense as a blood-solvent tampon.
I only complain loudly about those parts because I generally enjoyed everything else Walking Dead had to offer. At least in terms of story. or until I downloaded the bonus chapter, 400 Days. Here you get micro-sized back stories for the characters that Season Two will center around. So boring were all these twats, with one exception, that any interest I had in season two dropped down to around nil. Two boring pot heads in a car. One boring black kid getting picked up by an obnoxious redneck. A bunch of boring people in a diner. A boring former drug addict teasing a fling with a boring old rich dude and his boring wife. The only person mildly interesting was the convict who escapes from custody.. as the outbreak.. hey wait a second.
Not that it matters. Season Two will sweep Game of the Year awards from people who haven’t played a game since Zaxxon was a thing and get critical acclaim as long as Clem and her creepy yellow eyes looks all adorable as she brandishes a gun and shoots the occasional human. God damn it, yes, I liked the Walking Dead. But its success is a bad thing for games. It represents such a titanic step backwards in game play. Remember game play? When you had actual control over your character and you did things and things mattered and it felt interactive instead of like you’re just taking inventory on shit to do while you wait for the next cut-scene to unfold? You know, the reason why you spend hundreds, or possibly thousands, of dollars towards equipment just to play the fucking things? Walking Dead or Wolf Among Us might be an evolution of sorts in story telling, but games should do a lot more than what Walking Dead does. It’s okay to enjoy it. It’s okay if it becomes a best seller. But let’s not let gaming devolve into a series of interactive novels. That would be a downgrade. Not to mention it would make Madden really fucking weird.
$19.99 (season pass) and $4.99 (400 Days) noted that there actually was a horrible interactive novel type of Madden already called NFL Head Coach that was the worst thing of all time in the making of this review. Plus it had Bill Cowher on the cover. Shudder.
The Walking Dead is Chick Approved, but not Leaderboard Eligible (non-indie). And if I had fucking waited until today I would have saved $2.45 on the DLC. (head-desk) Oh and you can get the whole season for $2.99 right now if you have PlayStation Plus.
I swear, I’m back to XBLIG next.