Taking cues from George Romero, The Walking Dead series has always called into question who the real monsters of the zombie apocalypse would be. Telltale game's series is no different, setting the player down a path of dubious moral certainty, in which there are no right choices, only increasingly hopeless ones.
Broken into 5 episodes, each segment tells a relatively self-contained narrative, presenting the player with a new set of obstacles and locations in an adventure game format, similar to what Telltale has done with other franchises for the last few years. No other game so acutely challenges players to survive in a bleak atmosphere as The Walking Dead, as you and your companions must get progressively more savage in order to survive. At times the game is reminiscent of the survivor horror genre popularized by Resident Evil.
It'd be odd to complain about the numerous interactive cutscenes or quick time events, in a game that is almost nothing but. And yet rather than see these limitations as an obstacle, the game takes advantage of the format to build genuine suspense. The various scenarios are synonymous with the zombie genre, played out in a brilliant execution. Several characters and plot developments are weaved cleverly into the narrative straight out of the original comics.
At the heart of the narrative is the moving relationship between a man and Clementine, an 8 year-old girl who comes to be his only family. The bond they develop is extremely well done, as Lee must protect Clem's innocence just as he prepares her to deal with the harshest of environments. The writing deserves tremendous acclaim for bringing across realistic humans pushed to their limit, delivering motivation and personality to the narrative, while never diminishing the role of basic empathy in surviving the pandemic.
This isn't another AAA-shooter or something built on pure flash, but rather a thoughtful, considered narrative propelled along by the actions of the player. Nonetheless, the graphics make an elegant use of comic book like cel-shading and uses excellent facial animations to portray the humanity of the various characters. The series may very well be the goriest entry in the adventure game genre, keeping the visual style in check with the original comic visuals by Tony Moore and AMC's The Walking Dead. The music is sparse and appropriately atmospheric.
The Walking Dead is a thrilling, dynamic experience filled with horrible obstacles to survive. It is a totally self-contained interactive narrative unlike most others, with added replay value due to the various choices the player must make. Ultimately, it is the game of the year for valuing the player as an active participant and for it's gripping discussion of violence and humanity at its best and worst.