Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Walking Dead

It’s rare that any form of entertainment makes me cry. Sure, the obvious things do, like uplifting/heart breaking moments in Disney cartoons, but of course, that could apply to any one of us. Finding something that truly resonates with me, something that makes me feel and fear for the characters involved… well, it’s a tough stunt to pull off. Movies and TV shows often take a good punt at it, but their attempts too often come across as deliberate manipulation rather that any kind of earned emotional reaction. But at least they try. The same can so rarely be said about videogames, that it’s hardly worth mentioning the few that have tried. Even the successful examples would look foolish when put beside a show like Mad Men, Breaking Bad and their ilk. The few that saw the potential of gaming as a story telling device knew we’d have to wait for a long time and face many failures before games even approached that level. Then, out of nowhere, ‘The Walking Dead’ arrived.

‘The Walking Dead’ videogame continues the spread of Robert Kirkman’s cultural juggernaut as it (mostly) successfully invades every form of entertainment we know. After the TV show, comic, boardgame and pregnancy tests the next logical step was a videogame. It had no reason to be good, at all. A cash-in would have sold very well, I’m sure. What it is instead, is definitely the most important game of last year and may be the most important game in a decade. The impact it has made and will continue to make will echo through the industry for years. I know! I’m saying it’s good, by the way. Just in case I wasn’t clear.

The game introduces us to a group of characters new to the ‘Walking Dead’ universe, with the player controlling a man called Lee who was just innocently on his way to jail (for MURDER no less) when everything goes to hell. Stumbling from the wreck of a police car, you’re thrust into this grim new world in predictably violent fashion, setting you up for the nightmare ahead. But it’s only a few minutes later, when you meet a young girl called Clementine, that the story really begins. And it’s this story, and this relationship, that truly makes the game something special.

In fact, relationships really are the core of the game. A relationship-em-up, if you will. The characters and world that you soon realise you’ve walked into are stunningly well fleshed out, creating an environment where it feels like anything could happen.  Ironically, and in order to do this right, they’ve had to control and direct the game in quite a tight fashion. Indeed, any criticism comes from the fact that it’s a fairly linear story and that the start and the finish of this story is set in stone. Though what makes it work, is the journey you take to get to that ending and seeing how your decisions influence other characters and events in the story. Lives are put in your hands. Lives that you have only seconds to make decisions about. It’s harrowing, but in the very best sense of the word.

It’s a difficult game to talk about without spoiling it, but if you’re familiar with other ‘Walking Dead’ properties, you’ll probably know what’s in store. Except this time, you’ll be involved and often in some terrible, terrible way. And it’s this- the need to get your hands dirty and make tough decisions that makes the ‘Walking Dead’ rise above not just other games, but so many other books and films that have tried to get an emotional reaction out of you. It constantly makes you second guess your decisions and you’ll realise that, sometimes, you’ve made a dreadful mistake and your only choice is to move on and live with it. And finally, at the end of this traumatic ordeal, you’ll come to a point were all of these decisions brings your journey to it’s natural conclusion and you’ll cry (unless you’re some kind of inhuman monster) and you’ll realise that this is most certainly one of the best games you’ve ever played.

1 comment:

  1. We need more 'relationship-em-ups'. Even if it's just so I can use the term again.