The Walking Dead Xbox Live
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The Walking Dead Product Details
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We normally associate zombie games with simply smashing up waves of the undead who want to chow down on our brain stems (hello, Dead Island!). But Telltale Games' zombie series (based on the superb comic book) has actual brains - plus fantastic characters and a gripping story.
Previously an episodic download release, all five award-winning episodes have now been brought together in one over-the-counter pack. Sounds perfect, right? Well, we do have to get some caveats out of the way first. If you're looking for a run-and-gun fest, then really, don't bother. And if you're hoping for the latest in graphic technology and silky smooth frame rates, run away screaming because from a technical point of view, The Walking Dead is no masterclass in Jon Carmack-style programming - it can even feel decidedly creaky at times.
But if you're looking for a game that thrusts you into a world with characters that you will care about, scenarios that will engross you and a setting that is harrowingly believable, The Walking Dead is a classic. Unlike this year's earlier shooter The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, its premise is not directly based on the hit AMC series; instead it's set in the same world but with a raft of new characters trying to survive the zombie apocalypse.
You play as Lee Everett who was being taken taken to prison for murdering his wife (did he though?...) but ends up fleeing from the zombie hordes instead and unexpectedly ends up charged with looking after an orphan, Clementine. With her, you'll join up with a ragtag group of survivors and go on a journey that will take you from... actually, we're not going to put any spoilers in here whatsoever - but be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster.
The gameplay itself is a stripped-back third-person graphic adventure that sees you exploring locales, solving intelligent, imaginative puzzles and indulging in Heavy Rain-like 'QTE' events. Plus many of your actions and decisions will be remembered by your companions - and will have serious ramifications for your character as opinions and alliances are formed... and enemies made.
For those of us who do enjoy burying a spade into the odd zombie's brain pan, fret not - there's plenty of those but used sparingly enough so that the undead remain unnerving through out instead of simply becoming pulseless trailer trash to plough through (hello again, Dead Island!).
It all adds up to a bona fide classic; one which shows that games can be so much more than mere adrenaline rushes. This is a series that illustrates games can engage you on an emotional, personal level and make you care about stuff like, you know, character and story. Without the need for the introduction of, say, flamethrowers as a major plot twist...
Ultimately, The Walking Dead offers an experience that is still in tragically short supply in videogames. In an age of IAPs, cover mechanics and an industry seemingly obsessed with gun fetishisation, gaming desperately needs titles like Telltale's to secure its position as a true creative force to be reckoned with.
Need we tell you then that The Walking Dead was one of our games of 2012? Obviously not - but without a doubt, it should be one of your games of 2013 if you haven't already played it.
Journey, the stunning ambient explore-em-up from designer Jenova Chen, swept the board at the annual DICE Awards. Voted for by the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, the awards are the closest thing the games industry has to the Oscars, although the ceremony inevitably involves less dance numbers.
Already a favourite with critics and a top selling game on SONY's PlayStation Network, Journey took home eight awards, including the big three: Game of the Year, Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction and Outstanding Innovation in Gaming.
No other game came close to Journey's haul, but several games came away with multiple awards. The brutally brilliant XCOM: Enemy Unknown took home prizes for best strategy/simulation game as well as Outstanding Achievement in Gameplay Engineering. Microsoft's Halo 4 also took home two gongs, for Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering and Outstanding Achievement in Connectivity.
Topping off a 2012 that was stuffed with superb titles across all genres, the exuberant Borderlands 2 was crowned Action Game of the Year, while Need for Speed: Most Wanted took the prize for best racing game and Mass Effect 3 was dubbed best role-playing game. Skylanders Giants beat Lego Batman 2 and Nintendo Land for Family Game of the Year, while PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale provided an upset in the fighting game category, as SONY's character crossover mash-up beat such genre mainstays as Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and Street Fighter X Tekken.
Telltale Games' gruelling episodic adventure series The Walking Dead, based on the hit comic, also won big. It was awarded Adventure Game of the Year, and also took home honours for story and voice acting.
Adventure specialist Telltale Games is still basking in the buttery warm glow of the praise lavished on its stunning episodic Walking Dead game, considered by many critics to be the best game of 2012 and one of the best interactive stories in the medium.
Unsurprisingly, Telltale is gearing up for a second series of emotionally gruelling zombie encounters, but what is surprising is the news that the developer is looking at ways players will be able to carry across their saved game from the first five episodes. "Right now we are just starting to form the concept for season two," Telltale boss Dan Connors told Red Bull's website. "This all remains to be seen but we are definitely figuring out how to carry the saves over."
The success of the game is largely due to its extensive use of irreversible decisions to drive its story, forcing players to make terrible choices and live with the aftermath, so it's great to see that will continue over into whatever follows.
Even more tantalising, having turned Back to the Future and Jurassic Park into games in the past few years, Connors discussed some of the other properties the studio would like to get its hands on. "Coming from LucasArts we always felt we could do a great Star Wars story game," he teased. "We also love the idea of building out a deeper story to a great game franchise, something like Half Life Stories or Halo Stories."
Halo: The Adventure Game? Consider us interested.
The Walking Dead is available now.
Best Downloads of 2012
It's been an astonishing year for downloads with a raft of low-priced, mainly indie games that have packed more punch than most triple-A titles. If for some reason you don't think that downloadables can match their boxed brethren, then check out what you've missed and start kicking yourself. Or make it easy on your foot and get downloading instead...
The Walking Dead (X360/PS3/PC/Mac/iOS)
Quick-time events, simple puzzles and a shonky games engine; they're hardly what you'd call marketing bullet points but this is the best TV/film/comic adaptation we've ever played - and a contender for 'game of the year' as well. Set in The Walking Dead universe but with its own characters and story, this five-part adventure sees you playing as Lee Everett charged with looking after an orphan in a world overcome by zombies. It features some simple but contextually-perfect puzzle-powered gameplay plus pitch-perfect characterisations and a storyline that can proudly stand decomposing shoulder-to-decomposing shoulder with the comic and TV series. Most importantly, it packs the kind of emotional wallop that big leaguers like Heavy Rain can only dream of...
Mark of the Ninja (X360/PC)
Lurking in the shadows behind its horribly generic name is this riveting stealth game. The premise is simple - take the key 3D stealth-combat ingredients of Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid and turn them into a 2D platformer. Sound like it shouldn't work? Think again - from the makers of the cult The Dishwasher series, MOTN sees you playing as, well, take a guess, hellbent on stopping the evil machinations of... oh never mind - we did warn you it sounded generic, right? The end result though is a masterclass in visceral stealth action as you creep down halls and corridors, crawl through air vents and leap across rooftops, planning and executing the enemy in ever more fiendish ways. Brilliant.
Tokyo Jungle (PS3)
As mad as bag of spanners, well, spaniels in this case, Tokyo Jungle is a highly original take on the jaded apocalypse theme that sees you taking to the mean streets of Tokyo that humankind has mysteriously vanished from. So what role do you play? A veritable zoo-full of critters, that's what! Starting off as a wee dog, it's your job to fight off all manner of species, forage for food and procreate to ensure your species survival - and the best bit? That you can try out being all manner of different animals, proving in the process that it's a dog-eats-dog-eats-crocodile-eats-cat-eats-hyena-eats-hippo-eats-velociraptor world out there. Funny, scary and vicious.
Fez for X360
A labour of love for its creator Rich Vreeland, this 8-bit-style marvel is astonishing to look at and play thanks to its clever use of dimensions, mind-mashing puzzles and oh-so-sweet old-skool 2D platforming action.
Journey for PS3
Sublime graphics marred to a haunting soundtrack sees you trekking across a desert landscape on a quest to reach the top of a distant mountain. With its innovative co-op and arresting sights that stay with you long after finishing, this is without doubt one of the PS3's finest hours.
Trials Evolution for X360/PC
Twitch gaming at its very best, negotiate ever more tortuous tracks on a motorbike. Simple but so dangerously addictive that perhaps the Mayans should have warned us about this instead...
TV stars set to return for The Walking Dead first-person shooter
Actors Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker will reprise their roles as Daryl and Merle Dixon from the hugely successful Walking Dead TV show when the series crosses over into a first-person survival action game next year.
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct will be published by Activision and is being developed by Terminal Reality, the studio that did a rather good job of recapturing the Ghostbusters magic for that film's belated 2009 game spin-off.
Players will control Daryl as he and his unhinged redneck brother make for the supposed safe area of Atlanta as the dead rise from the grave. Unlike the adventure game series developed by Telltale, Activision's game will be a prequel based on the TV show rather than the original comic book series.
Both actors have prior cult appeal, with Reedus listing The Boondock Saints and Blade 2 among his movie roles, while Michael Rooker found fame in the grisly Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. He's no stranger to gaming - you can hear him voicing one of the main characters in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 as well.
Editor's Choice: The Walking Dead - A… (16/05/2013)
This is a series that illustrates games can engage you on an emotional, personal level and make you care about stuff like, you know, character and story.…
SONY's Journey dominates DICE Awards (08/02/2013)
Journey swept the board at the annual DICE Awards, the closest thing the games industry has to the Oscars…
Telltale working on Walking Dead Seas… (07/01/2013)
Adventure specialist Telltale Games is still basking in the buttery warm glow of the praise lavished on its stunning episodic Walking Dead game…
Editor's Choice - Best Downloads Of 2012 (24/12/2012)
It's been an astonishing year for downloads with a raft of low-priced, mainly indie games that have packed more punch than most triple-A titles. If for some reason you don't think that downloadables c…
TV stars set to return for The Walkin… (03/12/2012)
Actors Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker will reprise their roles as Daryl and Merle Dixon from the hugely successful Walking Dead TV show when the series crosses over into a first-person survival acti…
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