Game Review | The Walking Dead | Season 1, Episode 1 | "A New Day"
Episode Summary: At the onset of the zombie apocalypse, Lee Everett rescues young Clementine, and joins with other survivors in Macon, Georgia to protect themselves from the undead. (Wikipedia)
In some ways, going back to this after playing more recent Telltale titles is both rough and surprising. Rough not only because the graphics are worse, but the controls aren’t quite as refined and things seem a little less polished than something like Tales from the Borderlands.
What’s most surprising is how much action there is, with numerous encounters with zombies meaning players need to be far more aware of what’s going on than the more relaxed pace of later games. Seriously, if you come to this after Game of Thrones, A Wolf Among Us or Tales from the Borderlands, you might get a nasty shock now and then.
Of course, some of the shocks are intentional as you’d expect from a game based around a zombie apocalypse, including the very beginning of the game involving you being the passenger in a police car that crashes off the road after colliding with one of the undead at high speed.
From there, you take control of Lee Everett and pretty much just try and survive all the hell that comes your way, encountering new friends and some complete dicks as you go. The best friend you’ll make is Clementine, an eight year old girl who Lee promises to look after until her parents can be found.
And that right there is why The Walking Dead still works so damn well despite its rough edges: the relationship between Lee and Clem is so warm and so genuine that you’ll be completely engrossed by the end of the first episode and willing to do anything to keep that little girl safe from all harm.
The fact that the setting is otherwise a normal world other than the zombies - sorry, Walkers - means there is less to set up than a fantasy or sci-fi game, with The Walking Dead able to concentrate on fleshing out the characters for pretty much the entire episode, rather than having to do any world-building at the same time.
The voice-acting really helps too, especially from the leads voicing Lee and Clem, although the entire cast is pretty much uniformly excellent from the first scene to the last. All the characters you meet are brought to life extremely well by the people playing them and provide extra depth than is there in the lines they give.
This does also mean that the characters written to be arseholes really do feel like complete arseholes. I’m talking about Larry here, who is simply a complete and utter jerk pretty much the entire time his heart isn’t giving him issues. Seriously, the dude has no redeeming features at all as even his daughter, Lilly, is an arsehole too, so his protection of her just feels like two antagonists sticking together.
Also, I’ll admit up front that I don’t like Kenny that much as the guy is pretty selfish under the guise of looking out for his wife, Katjaa, and his son, Duck, even if I did end up sticking up for him a lot when he argued with Larry because… well, Larry.
The fact that there is little needing to be set up other than ‘real world plus zombies’ means that it feels like a lot happens in the first episode and you do get several set pieces, multiple locations and a surprisingly large number of prominent characters are introduced in just a couple of hours.
Despite playing through this first season multiple times, I always end up looking forward to the next episode thanks to the brilliant way “A New Day” ends and the excellence of the writing and performance of the characters, which means this is probably still the best first episode of a Telltale game series yet.