WARNING: This article may contain spoilers for anyone who has not completed Season 1 of The Walking Dead Videogame series. It is heavily advised you click BACK on your browser now if you have any intention of doing so. Also if you need to pick it up, be sure to CLICK HERE to not only leave this page but to purchase The Walking Dead: Season 1 on Amazon. If you continue reading this, you were warned already.
Possibly the best Christmas gift I received this year came from Telltale Games when the first episode of their second “season” of The Walking Dead videogames was released. For those not in the know, those of you faux-nerds out there who think you’re badass because you watch the TV show but are too good to pick up a book or a videogame controller, The Walking Dead’s universe expanded in a big way when in 2012 Telltale Games came up with its own take on The Walking Dead with all-new characters and an original story. Some of you who grew up in my generation and had functioning brains might remember “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, and this is a similar concept. The game is less a “game” in the traditional sense and somewhat like a moving comic where the focus is on the decisions you make. The responses to what you say or the actions you take the game to a different course. Two people can play the game and have an entirely different experience. And it’s all very personal – what would YOU do in these situations. What would YOU say? The result was a hit. It certainly did better than the sub-par game based on the TV show. (That means stay away from Walking Dead: Survival Instinct unless you can get it on the cheap – like by clicking THIS link and picking it up on Amazon).
Anyway, “Season 1” of the games was a success. Available on the X-Box Live and PSN stores (also available for iOS and PC), the game was broken down into five “episodes” that came out throughout the year until the story was complete. You followed Lee Everett, a man who was on his way to prison for murder when the dead began to rise. Come to think of it, prison might have been more humane. Along the way Lee met a little girl named Clementine and rescued her from her zombified babysitter and against all logic and reason decided to help her maybe find out what became of her parents in Savannah, GA. If you’re here, chances are you played the first game and if you didn’t you should probably hit the BACK button and get the hell away from this article to avoid spoilers from season one (as I warned you earlier. That's two. You don't get a third warning).
Ultimately Lee Everett doesn’t make it – and Clementine is left to fend for herself. That’s where this title picks up (with a brief off-shoot episode that came in-between entitled “400 Days”). Everything you said and did in Season 1 carries over into this moment – into the beginning of Season 2. That’s the beauty of this first episode of the game. Clementine’s demeanor and attitude seems to be shaping based on the choices you made as Lee in the first game. Don’t worry if you for some reason never picked up Season 1 (what the hell is wrong with you for not playing that first?) because the game will randomize the previous events for you if you don’t have a save file to import.
Suddenly it makes sense why Telltale grouped you with a kid in the first game and let you play as the kid in the second title – you’re watching the influence of your previous character, Lee, unfold within Clementine. You’re watching how the zombie apocalypse mixed with your decisions and actions change her, not to mention that somehow Telltale manages to put a good year and a half’s worth of time between Season 1 and the meat of Season 2, allowing Clementine to grow up just enough to still be a kid but not be a completely helpless kid. It’s a very interesting experience and as you play this title you feel like you’re some kind of guardian angel guiding someone through. Once again you’re immersed, truly immersed in the universe of the Walking Dead – it’s not just like watching some TV show that’s a watered-down interpretation of the comic books. It’s personal. It’s emotional. It’s completely different and right away from the moment you pick up, your old alliances are tested, new ones are forged, and you already have the themes of betrayal, survival, and quick-on-your feet thinking to concern with.
You pick up where you left Clementine, and through a series of events you’ll find Clementine separated from the only remaining survivors of the events of the first game. Remember what you told Clementine about what to do to survive? As you encounter other new characters out here in the land of the dead, you’ll see the change from a scared young kid to a much more decisive young fighter who remembers the lessons she learned and has to do what she can to stay alive. You’ll have options of holding onto the past or letting it all go.
You’ll run into new characters and you’ll find testing your own character, either by making threats, or questioning whether you can be trusted. I found myself often taking the sassy, assertive route with Clementine where possible. It’s how I played Lee and I’m not ashamed to play Clementine that way. I play Clementine not as a sad little kid who needs that much help but as a kid who basically goes “I’ve seen some shit out there, people.”
Already I’ve met a pushover guy who gets berated by his wife constantly (and looks like my ex-probation officer oddly enough), an incompetent trigger-happy redneck, a Mexican doctor and his possibly-mentally retarded daughter, and hell, one character I ran into was a pregnant bitch-supreme and I’m already on the verge of telling her “Go to hell. There’s a pissed off adult that’s not going to tolerate your shit behind the controller” which gives me vibes not unlike our old friend Larry from Season 1 of the series – a guy so difficult to deal with that most players smashed his probably-very-much-still-alive head in with a salt-lick the minute they were able given the option of doing so.
That guy was SUCH a cunt. I’ve never felt so much glee from killing somebody in a videogame.
Since the first games were so story-focused, Season 2 picks up on the action a little bit with a few more quick-timer events, and also speeds up the pace. It feels like you have maybe half the time you did in the first title to react to things. Telltale Games figures by now you know how this is all supposed to work and makes you pick up the pace. I died quite a few more times in this title than I did in the previous season. Also adding to it is the fact that a lot of events rather than tell you what button to push now just show you the color of the button. Telltale is done holding your hand the same way Lee is done holding Clementine’s. It’s not really too difficult once you get the hang of it, but you’ll feel like you have to be much more alert and on your feet than ever before.
Already in this title you get a cameo from one dead body that was alive in the “400 Days” episode between the two seasons (that is easy to miss by the way), and a few surprise moments. And without spoiling too much the inclusion of a segment involving a needle, which really got to me. Let me explain: I have a phobia of needles – Telltale, you bastards. I can take blood, violence, zombification, headshots with guns, knives, bludgeoning, and all the other violence… but needles? God damn it. I felt myself wincing in pain at least two or three times during this introduction into the next season of the Walking Dead videogames. However, I will say that Season 2 Episode 1 felt quite a bit longer than “Season 1 Episode 1” and that’s a good thing because it’s more bang for your buck. And already you get hit with choices you just know will affect you going forward – not life-or-death choices because 100% there is death but who’s the one that’s going to end up dead?
Now for the bad part of this game…
…the fact I’m waiting for the next episode. That’s the bad part. The wait is killer when you have such perfectly developed storytelling. That’s legitimately the only bad thing I can even say about this title and some people have opted to just “wait” until all five episodes have been released to pick it up. But what’s the fun in that?
If you’re a fan of the Walking Dead series and haven’t picked up the games, you owe it to yourself. Trust me. I am not wrong. Even if you’re not particularly skilled at videogames you don’t have to be to play this one out and the story you’ll find behind it is just as good if not better than what you find in other forms of media regarding the Walking Dead. With all the twists, turns, surprises, and intense “crap your pants” moments this one offered in the first episode alone it’s going to be worth buying that season pass for. Don’t sleep on this title; it’s just what the doctor ordered for you to get your Walking Dead fix in between now and the return of the television series.