Review – The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – A New Day (PS3)

I hate zombies. In modern media, they’re way overplayed. I also think point-and-click adventure games are old hat. The pacing doesn’t feel right, and it’s easy to miss things. However, The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – A New Day is a zombie-themed point-and-click adventure game, and I loved every minute of it. Here’s why.

A New Day, set in The Walking Dead universe, tells a completely different tale from both the graphic novel and show of the same moniker. The main character, Lee, is in a horrific car accident on the way to prison. When he awakens, zombies are roaming the earth. Lee stumbles out of the wreckage of his near-death experience to find that he’s not the only one still alive.

Choice. That’s what A New Day hinges upon. In modern gaming, choice seems omnipresent, but rarely is it done as well as in A New Day. Choices play out through conversations with other survivors, where dialogue options have an immediate impact on their actions and the way the story branches. Every decision that I made felt like it had tremendous gravity, and the immediacy of those choices springing to life is something I’ve never before experienced in a game.

Choices as simple as this can alter the course of the game dramatically.

Tackling these choices is what makes A New Day stand head-and-shoulders above the crowd. Many conversations occur with countdown timers, adding to the overall tension and urgency that A New Day radiates. Contextual gameplay choices, in addition to conversational choices, are presented during exploration. This allows for a plethora of investigation and zombie-murdering options.

Choices during combat and some major story scenes are glorified quick-time events, but regardless, they’re intense. A New Day had me on the edge of my seat throughout. I can’t think of a time where I wasn’t white-knuckle clutching the controller.

Many areas play out more like a puzzle game, where choice takes a backseat to finding the one particular way to “solve” the area. These are welcome changes of pace from the twitchy button-mashing combat sequences and the intense dialogue scenes, though they still left me feeling anxious.

Gameplay choices during exploration will sometimes leave you scratching your head. When I got stuck, aside from repeating actions I’d already tried and searching the environment more thoroughly, I felt a bit clueless.

Quick, hammer this zombie in the face! No time to lose!

Getting stuck isn’t the only issue in A New Day. Point-and-click controls are great, but in this instance, they didn’t translate to consoles well. The controls in A New Day feel sluggish, which is at odds with the way the game is being presented. This is especially evident when entering action sequences, where speed is suddenly vital. Detracting from the relentless tension and pace of a zombie apocalypse is counterintuitive to what the game is trying to do, and though I adjusted, I can’t help but think that more fluid controls would have taken this game over the top.

In terms of visual style, A New Day is hit or miss. On one hand, I can appreciate the stylized look of the game, but on the other, there are a lot of scenes that are just not pretty. Blurry textures, low resolution models, and object clipping are prevalent throughout. The heavy outlines look good from afar, but won’t elicit the reaction that Borderlands of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker might have. The closer objects are, the more sloppy things look. Even if that’s the style that they’re going for, it’s been done better elsewhere.

Despite some minor flaws, The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – A New Day feels like a fully realized interactive story. Given the engrossing narrative and unparalleled choice, all of the flaws are easily overlooked. I found myself wanting more, and with five episodes total, three already having been released, I can’t wait to see what the next episode has in store.

• Love zombies or The Walking Dead
• Enjoy tense story-based games
• Like playing shorter games

• Have an internet connection
• Seriously, there’s a demo

• Absolutely hate gore
• Are stubborn about hating zombies

Rating - 4/5

The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – A New Day was downloaded for free via Playstation Plus and played to completion in three sittings. Total play time was close to five hours.

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