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Critical Reception: Telltale Games' The Walking Dead: Episode 1

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to the first episode in Telltale Games' new adventure game series The Walking Dead, which reviews describe as "Telltale's best work yet."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to the first episode in Telltale Games' new adventure game series The Walking Dead, which reviews describe as "Telltale's best work yet." The Walking Dead currently earns a score of 80 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Corey Cohen at Official Xbox Magazine scores The Walking Dead at 9 out of 10. "Much like the comic book it's based on," he explains, "the Walking Dead game stresses intense character drama over bloody action, and to our delight, its first episode mines this plot-driven approach for pure gold." Cohen continues: "Made by Telltale Games, The Walking Dead works like a mix of the studio's point-and-click adventures and its cinematic, button-prompt-based Jurassic Park game. Much of this episode is conversation, where you have one of four dialogue options; other times, you're searching for items (radio batteries, a key) or clicking buttons to fight off zombies." Cohen feels that the series is off to a strong start. "The dialogue and story are engrossing in their own right, but what makes all of your interactions even more compelling is just how much your choices affect the game," he writes. "You have key decision points like choosing whether to travel during day or night (which affects who you meet in subsequent scenes) or picking which of two characters to save. "These life-or-death decisions have particularly big ripples, as they determine not only who befriends you in this episode but even who will accompany you after that, as the games' decisions span all five of Walking Dead's episodes." "This mass of branching paths gives you an amazing feeling of control in such a short (two- to three-hour) game," Cohen praises. "But even without it, this episode dazzled us. [...] Unlike so many zombie games, its story is human instead of hokey, and it helps make The Walking Dead, Episode 1 slam-bang entertainment." GameSpot's Brett Todd rates The Walking Dead at 8 out of 10. "This is not your average Telltale Games adventure," he begins. "A New Day is chock-full of all the bursting brains, eaten entrails, and sudden deaths of leading characters that feature prominently in both Robert Kirkman's award-winning comic series and the freewheeling TV show adaptation." "What makes A New Day so compelling is its attention to appearance, plot, and character development," Todd notes. "All of the characters are very well written and voiced as individuals (none of the TV actors reprise their roles here, though), which makes you care about whether or not they get munched on by ravenous corpses." Todd found the game engrossing despite its short length. "It's difficult to get up from the game, so expect to finish it in a two- or three-hour single sitting," he warns. "Granted, there are some cliches. Lee is a stereotypical man of mystery, with a sinister past that may involve his killing the US senator messing around with his wife. His kid sidekick, Clementine, while lovable and tough in her own right, is obviously a plot device to help tragic Lee find his way again." "Telltale's Walking Dead series is off to a great start with A New Day," Todd summarizes. "This is more story than game, so there's little challenge in the hours you spend fleeing and fighting and talking about the zombie hordes. But that approach works here, allowing the game to build upon the cruel, character-driven comic series and stand apart from more mayhem-oriented zombie games like Left 4 Dead and Dead Island." Dustin Chadwell at Gaming Age gives The Walking Dead a B grade. "While The Walking Dead has surged in popularity thanks to the hit T.V. series that just recently wrapped up its second season, the video game is instead based on the workings of the comics that spawned the T.V. show," he explains. "The game features a cast that's mostly all new for the comics, but there's definitely a couple cameos tossed in." Chadwell continues: "[The main character's] story picks up right at the on-set of the zombie apocalypse, which is nice considering both the show and comics start from Rick Grimes perspective, which is months after the initial outbreak occurred. This gives fans a glimpse at how everything started, and the first episode contains a couple characters that'll be instantly familiar to fans of both the show and comic, which helps to grab your initial interest in what's going on." The game suffers from occasional technical issues, however. "The Walking Dead isn't without some technical hiccups, which I feel like we've all come to expect from Telltale Games at this point," Chadwell notes. "It's a shame that this continues to be a thing, but there's a fair amount of stuttering that occurs at various points, which certainly pulls you out of the world, and some tense situations." "While this first episode is a bit light on the adventure game tropes you might be familiar with, and certainly doesn't require much head scratching in the puzzle department, I think it still serves as an entertaining introduction to what could possibly be Telltale's best work yet," Chadwell concludes. "Of course I'm also a pretty big fan of both the comic and T.V. show, but I think it's saying something that the game manages to really nail the feel of both, and I think it's something that long-time fans of the comic will definitely enjoy."

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