Fear the licensed dead: A look at Walking Dead games
The Walking Dead shows no sign of slowing down. With the television series garnering the highest ratings in cable television history, the franchise has definitely flourished since the beginning of Robert Kirkman's zombie drama comic was published in 2003. Last week, the television series' spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead, made history as well by being the highest rated cable television première ever.
In addition to its resounding success in television and comics, the franchise has entered the realm of gaming as well. Whether based more on the comic or television series, each game deserves a look.
The Walking Dead: Assault (released November 2012 for iOS, Android)
The Walking Dead: Assault, released in 2012, is a top-down shooter based on the comic series. The game is episodic, beginning with Rick waking up alone in an Atlanta hospital similar to the comic and television show. As the game continues, the player will be able to add party members. These members include familiar characters from the comic series including Glenn, Andrea, and Dale.
The stark black-and-white, comic book inspired background environments of Atlanta contrast greatly with the bright, red blood stains left behind by zombie foes. For a mobile game, the comic book style is pleasing to the eye. Also, the game is very light on story, instead focusing on solely on shooting zombies and gathering supplies to build your team.
Verdict: If you're a fan of the comic series and top-down shooters, it wouldn't hurt to give this one a try. It's relatively cheap, only $1.99, and is about 2 hours in length. However, if you're expecting story, you might want to look elsewhere.
Walking Dead: Road to Survival (released May 2015 for iOS, Android)
Based on the comics, this game takes an RPG approach to its gameplay instead of the top-down shooter. You control different characters from the comic series as you mash on their character to icon to unleash attacks and special moves. Graphically, it does look good for a mobile game. The character designs and environments are reflective of the comic's style.
As this title touts itself as a "mature RPG", you can build up your characters up...at a price. Yes, this game suffers heavily from an emphasis on microtransactions. It's difficult to improve your characters at all without forking over your hard-earned cash. Honestly, I am not really a fan of mobile gaming, mainly for this reason.
Verdict: The gameplay can get seemingly dull due to the constant mashing. Also, the main drawback is that it is difficult to advance in the game without giving into microtransactions. Fans of mobile games might have a good time with this one, but it will more than likely be a short good time.
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct (released March 2013 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, & PC)
Popularity can be a good thing. However, with popularity, companies will often see this as an opportunity for a cheap cash-in. I cannot think of a better phrase to describe The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct than a cheap cash-in.
When Activision (red flag!) purchased the rights to make a game based The Walking Dead television show, gamers and fans of the show were doubtful of its success. Especially when compare to TellTale's Walking Dead games, the flaws of The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct are very apparent.
I hope you enjoy mindless slashing at a zombie with a hunting knife.
Although the game was released in 2013, it looks like a title for the PlayStation 2. The environments are incredibly bland, discouraging the player from exploring the already small world as everything looks muddy and ugly. However, the most flawed aspect of this game is easily its gameplay.
Developer Terminal Reality was obviously trying to make an intelligent first-person shooter. The game encourages the player to sneak around zombies instead of relying on weaponry and collecting supplies such as gas and food. The problem is: none of that really matters. It is easy to sprint past the zombies ignoring them completely, making survival not that difficult.
The major draw for fans of The Walking Dead is the lure of Daryl Dixon, everyone's favorite redneck, as the game's main protagonist. Merle Dixon, Daryl's racist brother, plays a part as well albeit a very minor one. The game centers around the events that took place before Daryl meets up with Rick's group in the television series. I guess that would be a fine angle to go with if it wasn't so stale. Nothing much happens with the game's story as it mainly consists of Daryl traveling to different places and doing fetch quests for NPCs. Thrilling. Even the voice acting, from actors Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker, is weak as its obvious to tell their performances were just phoned in.
Verdict: Maybe TellTale's The Walking Dead series set such a high standard for this franchise that The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct has been judged too harshly... No, not the case at all. It is clearly a rushed, messy, and flawed cash-grab. I really have nothing positive to say or anything to recommend about the game. Sorry, Daryl fan-girls.
The Walking Dead: Season One, 400 Days, & Season Two (released April 2012, July 2013, & December 2013, Everything!)
I adore TellTale's The Walking Dead series. All of their stories taking place in The Walking Dead comic universe are all significant and manage to say a lot about humanity without being preachy. It is an aspect that could be said of the comic and television series as well. Although the zombies are a threat, the true threat is humanity and how we rip each other apart. TellTale's cast of original characters, such as Lee and Clementine, are so well-written and performed that you can't help but to care for them.
With this in mind, TellTale's series relies on the ability to make choices. Who lives, who dies, and what relationships fall apart along the way are all up to the player. Although there are some instances in the series where certain choices feel somewhat railroaded in favor of the story, TellTale still does an excellent job of weaving an emotional narrative.
I could go into more detail about this series, but I know a lot of gamers have already played through it. Also, the numerous amount of critical acclaim and praise the series received speaks volume of its quality.
Verdict: Although some might argue as to which season is better, personally it is a tie for me. The series does an excellent job at telling an emotional and powerful story. Although sometimes the choices might seem forced, you still feel as if your decisions do matter. I highly recommend this series for not only Walking Dead fans and gamers, but to anyone who enjoys a great story.
With the franchise's popularity in full swing, new games are still on the horizon.
The Walking Dead: No Man's Land (iOS)
On the mobile games front, Next Games is developing The Walking Dead: No Man's Land for release in October 2015. Based on the television series, players control a group of survivors by managing their resources in order to keep them alive. Its like Oregon Trail on the go, but with zombies!
Oh, and this one has Daryl in it!
The Walking Dead (???)
There hasn't been much said about this game other than the developer Overkill Software, responsible for the Payday series, is developing a co-op first-person shooter game based on The Walking Dead. The title is slated to be released sometime in 2016, but as of right now all is quiet on this one.
Could this title redeem Walking Dead themed first person shooters?
TellTale's Walking Dead: Season 3 and Michonne mini-series (???)
TellTale is developing a mini-series based on the popular character, Michonne. Its interesting how TellTale is choosing to focus on a character originating from the comics as they tend to focus on their original characters. The mini-series is three episodes long and should release in fall 2015.
TellTale has also confirmed The Walking Dead season three. Details are sparse with no information on the plot or characters given at this time.
What's your favorite The Walking Dead game? Feel free to let me know in the comments below!