I’ll start this off by saying, I was completely clueless as what to expect with the latest installment of The Walking Dead, as the first episode did exactly what it was supposed to do: introduce a cast of characters and set the stage for a larger story. The only deviation from this is that at the very end of the episode, at the motel, you aren’t exactly sure what is going to happen to Lee and the gang. This works in the audience’s favor as it makes the episode feel more like a prologue than an opening chapter. This is by no means a bad thing, as this uncertainty allows the player to be sucked into the story and not know what is going to pop up this time around.
In the introductory segment, the stage quickly becomes set as new characters are introduced with an almost blazing speed, and this is where The Walking Dead continues the tend of to sticking closer to the comic iteration, rather than the television version – this both hurts and helps. The upside is that anything can happen at any time and the downside is that “anything” usually qualifies as someone’s random and untimely death. This means that every single newly introduced character may as well have a red shirt, as they’ve got a higher mortality rate than the average stormtrooper.
After the newly introduced characters, Lee and the survivors meet up with yet another group of strangers that lead them to their farm, and considering how the comics and the television series all feature this backdrop, it does feel quick a bit old and almost clichéd even. However, the storyline does go a bit deeper and certainly darker than anything else the television show has gone into, so you’ll be in for something different. The story does become very predictable within the first few scenes, although, predictability doesn’t always mean boring or stale; it’s very obvious that something is amiss with the new group of people you encounter. It’s the fact that the story is tied together so well in the final scene, it gives a fantastic setup for things yet to come and that alone makes the entire event feel worth while.
Considering the choices that you can make in the original game, the concept of them carrying over to Episode 2 is certainly something I was excited to see, but it’s honestly a tad disappointing. Some old events are brought up but they seem to be mentioned only in passing and to remind the player that they made them, but not because there was any consequence to the previously-made decision. Sure, the person you chose to survive from the original makes their appearance (while the deceased stay deceased) but not much changes regardless of whom you saved. They both do and say the same thing and the difference feels like little more than a palette swap. The one upside is that Episode 2′s final act seemed to generate many more choices that seem impossible to NOT play out down the road.
I have said time and time again that I enjoy games with a “choice vs consequence” morality system rather than the tired “light side vs dark side” and Episode 2 certainly lives up to my large expectations. You may surprise yourself over the choices you make and even more-so when the consequences come back to bite you. Don’t be surprised if you instantly regret what you’ve done. I implore you to not replay the episode at this point and finish the game living with the choices you’ve made. This feature makes each play-through much more interesting as you may now spend the final episodes attempting to atone for what you’ve done or make things right to the person you’ve wronged. I found myself switching allegiances of members from the original episode because of this very fact. It’s incredibly gratifying to find storytelling this unique in games today.
Outside of the narrative and plot, The Walking Dead remains virtually identical to the first episode. It consists of the same cell-shaded graphics that are intended to pull the feel of the comics and, just like the first, work really well. A few character models look awful when viewed up close, as well as some truly terrible backdrops from time to time, but overall, it works. Also, when characters get sprayed with blood, it makes the cast of the Dragon Age series chuckle at just how ludicrous it looks. What doesn’t help with is that there are quite a few lip-synching issues that, at times, appear to be more glitches than just poor synching. However, the terrific underground voice actors make up for this as they give life to every character.
The Walking Dead: Episode 2 probably won’t convince someone who is still on the fence after the first outing as the only difference is the advancement of the plot. However, those that enjoyed the original should definitely give this one a shot. It’s more of what you already enjoy and like all good suspense stories should, it leaves a lot open to be hopeful for the next chapter. The truth remains though, the absolute best thing about Episode 2 is that after the credits, there’s not a single solitary moment of The Talking Dead TV show.
The Walking Dead: Episode 2 was released on June 27th, 2012 for Xbox 360, and June 29th, 2012 for PC and PS3. Review is based on the PC version.