Zombies. The things of nightmares. They are literally a representation of our worst fear coming back to torment us. Humanity’s fear of death rising up from the ground and mercilessly, unflinchingly, unrelentingly stalking us. Ever since George A. Romero all but invented the zombie genre in 1968’s “Night of the Living Dead”, zombies have staggered across popular culture. And not just zombies. Vampires, werewolves, ghosts and demons have all made their way into pop culture. This has been a great renaissance period for horror buffs, however, when the things that go bump in the night start going bump in primetime, the market begins to get over saturated. Let’s take vampires for example. The vampire is a heartless, soulless monster that lives off of the blood of the living to stay alive forever. The best and the worst thing that has happened to the entire vampire genre was Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was the first time that vampires were truly shown as creatures of romance that teenage girls should love and care for as opposed to JABBING A STAKE INTO THEIR HEARTS! From Buffy, you can draw a line of degradation all the way to Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. By the time the Cullen family shows up on the scene, vampires sparkle in the sunlight rather than bursting into flames. Werewolves aren’t werewolves at all, but merely a shapeshifting Indian tribe that only wear cut off jean shorts…AND THAT’S ALL! The path of the zombie was beginning to edge toward that very same chasm of cliché. Then, they were saved! On Halloween night of 2010, Frank Darabont premiered the brand new AMC series based off of Robert Kirkman’s graphic novel. The Walking Dead shocked viewers with its realistic makeup and even more realistic portrayal of the decisions made by the human survivors. These felt like actual people. What would they do in this horrible situation? The problem with the show is that, in the second season, the characters began to fall into the same stupid patterns of thousands of zombie apocalypse survivors before them. Because of this, I felt skeptical going into playing Episode 1 of The Walking Dead video game for the Xbox 360. The game, however, returns not only the series but the genre as a whole to its terrifying roots.
The Walking Dead video game is unlike any zombie game that has come out in recent years. Resident Evil, the Godfather of zombie games, has become much more shoot ‘em up oriented than it was in its earlier iterations. The Left 4 Dead (THE TANK IS SELF AWARE!!!) series (as well as recent let down Dead Island) is just a first person shooter (I really just wanted to use ALL the parenthesis!!). TWD is more about the emotional ramifications of your character’s decisions throughout the course of the story. Decisions that you make in the first episode will impact each subsequent episode. The people that you choose to help are allowed to stick around. The poor unfortunate souls that you let die are just GONE. The story follows a brand new character to the story. You are Lee Everett, a convicted felon on his way to prison when the zombie outbreak begins. After a conversation with the police officer transporting you to prison, DISASTER STRIKES!!!! It took me a few moments to learn the games mechanics, due to it being such a departure from the norm. And by “took me a few moments”, I mean “I got my face eaten off by a zombie”. Once I put the pieces together, I started blowing zombies brains out and beating babysitters with hammers. After a few twists and turns, you find your way to Hershel’s farm from season two of the television series LONG before Rick and his merry band of survivors arrive. From the farm, you join your very own merry band (among the band is series original and perpetual zombie bait, Glenn) in a drug store in Macon, GA. While in Macon, one of your missions is to clear out a local motel. Unlike the aforementioned Left 4 Dead series, this mission is more Splinter Cell than Call of Duty. Stealth and silence is paramount in The Walking Dead. The slightest noise will draw attention to your party, and in the zombie apocalypse, attention = DEATH!
One of the cooler features of The Walking Dead game is that it will compare the decisions that you have made against those of the rest of the Xbox Live Community. Did they tell the truth about their past? Did they save one person over another? Did they show compassion or mercy to particular characters? Some of the statistics may actually surprise you. I know that I was shocked at the 50/50 split on saving a particular character’s life.
I really loved the game, and there are moments when it genuinely made me anxious and frightened. The game is split into five separate episodes to be released in the coming months. Each episode will run you 400 points in the Xbox Live Marketplace (roughly $5). I, for one, am very intrigued as to where the story may head after the events of the first episode. The Walking Dead game, like the television series, is a breath of fresh air into a genre that has become repetitive and stagnant. However, like the television series, I worry that the subsequent episodes may begin to deteriorate in quality. I give The Walking Dead 4 out of 5 stars (with the option to give or take away a star as the series continues).