There is a reason Telltale Games, the makers of The Walking Dead video game, doesn't release preview videos or trailers with much footage of the newest season. It's because it can't show anything without giving some big, scary moments away. That's how action-packed and emotionally charged Season Two begins.
After being locked away in the back of a nearly empty warehouse in NYC late Friday night and left alone on a couch to play Episode 1, I alternated between morose laughter, holding my head in my hands repeating “no, no, no” and only later when asked what all the yelling was about did I realized my uncontrollable cries of grief where aloud.
For those unfamiliar with the series, The Walking Dead video game is based on the world of Robert Kirkman's graphic novel by the same name, also the basis of the critically successful TV series on AMC. While fans of those series will recognized some cross-pollination of characters and themes, the story in the video game version tend to be more deeply personal. While survivor group dynamics is always a theme the emotional roller coaster of the video game results from getting to know your characters closest friends only to watch them die in the most grotesque ways imaginable.
In Season One of The Walking Dead players take on the roll of Lee, a former professor who's been convicted of killing his wife's lover on his way to jail when the zombie apocalypse strikes. Later he discovers a small girl, Clementine, who players then spend the rest of the game desperately trying to protect from zombies, the elements and an increasingly desperate and morally debased human population.
For those who've played Season One of The Walking Dead I'm not going to give anything away that already hasn't been said. Players start the game off very differently than in Season One, taking control of the little girl Clementine accompanied by a few survivors who are struggling their way across a ravaged world. While the style of play will be familiar to those of the series there are some changes, Clementine can't muscle her way out of situations like big Lee was able to so there is a fair amount of fast-paced ducking and dodging but don't worry blood-lusters, there is a whole lot of blood to whet your palette as well. Clementine can't remain innocent forever has she has to learn how to survive without Lee.
While Telltale's formula of gameplay may not be to everyone's taste – interactive story may be the best way to express this – what it is very good at is making you care about the characters. The Walking Dead Season One made us feel feelings we never knew we had for games. We laughed and cried along with the characters and when they fell it was just as painful and traumatizing as fans of the TV series can attest to.
The overall art direction of the game is still very strong. Sticking to an alternating style of high and low detail cell-shaded graphics. There are still the occasional pop-out, where objects will move through a character's body but it's a testament to the story that this really doesn't take anything away from the game as these instances are infrequent and don't take place during the action.
The Walking Dead: Season 2 premiers with Episode One, out today on Steam for PC, Mac and PlayStation 3 while Xbox 360 and iOS will drop December throughout the day on December 18.