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The Walking Dead

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ESRB Rating: Mature

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The Walking Dead

UPC: 894515001184

Platform: Xbox 360

Publisher: Telltale Games

Developer: Telltale Games

Category: Adventure

Style(s): Survival Horror

Synopsis: Originally released in five installments by the episodic experts at Telltale Games, The Walking Dead puts players in the middle of a zombie apocalypse based on the popular comic and television show of the same name. Gamers take control of accused murderer Lee Everett as he fights for survival, solves puzzles, meets familiar characters like Glenn and Herschel, and makes decisions that affect the fate of others, including a young orphan named Clementine. Players have a limited amount of time to make agonizing decisions, and their choices have permanent, lasting effects. ~ Christopher Brown, All Game Guide

Package Contents: 8-page Instruction Manual

Controls: Joystick/Gamepad

The serialized storytellers at Telltale Games might have stumbled onto their most lucrative license as of 2012: the Walking Dead. Tapping into the popularity of the graphic novel and AMC television series, the Walking Dead's five-episode adventure grabs you like a zombie's decaying hand and never lets go. While fans of previous Telltale titles know what to expect in terms of play mechanics and structure, those new to the publisher's previous efforts will be surprised at how enthralling the game is, which is almost entirely due to its character-driven story.

If you're hoping for an action-oriented take on the zombie apocalypse, holster your pistol and head for the hills: the Walking Dead is more interactive movie than game. While you will directly control your character at certain points, movement isn't much more than walking from one side of the screen to the other, typically from a fixed vantage point. This is perhaps for the best, as the controls adopt an early Resident Evil-style scheme that involves awkwardly rotating in place to orient your character and then tapping a key to walk forward.

The rest of the controls utilize a point-and-click scheme typical of the adventure game genre. Each scene has a number of clearly marked hotspots that you'll click on to either examine an object more closely or to interact with it, depending on what you have in your inventory. If you come across a car window, for example, you can peer inside it or try to smash it with your fist; if you have an object, however, an option to shatter the glass becomes available.

This hotspot system is also used for combat, allowing you to fire a gun, swing an axe, stab with a screwdriver, or kick your feet simply by aiming over a specific hotspot and tapping a key or button. Other times you'll need to directly aim at a zombie's head, but the targeting reticule is so large, so generous, that it's nearly impossible to fail an encounter, which also periodically involves rapidly tapping a key to break free from a zombie's grasp. Yet the Walking Dead isn't about challenging your hand-eye coordination: it's really about engaging you through the choices you make throughout each two-to-three-hour chapter.

These decisions are the heart and soul of the game, and the story is actually tailored to reflect your input in several key areas. As you encounter different characters, you'll decide what to say or how to respond from a choice of three time-sensitive options. The story's main protagonist, Lee, finds himself in midst of a zombie outbreak, where quick decisions are required on how best to proceed. You'll gradually learn more about his background (he was on his way to prison before a car crash frees him) as well as the stories of each new character as you progress.

Since you don't know who you can trust, you might decide to lie or choose guarded responses to questions. Yet this approach might cause others to react differently, and you'll constantly wonder if you should have handled a situation differently. The decisions aren't easy, either. If two people are attacked by zombies, you'll have to decide who to try and save first. You'll also determine who should receive your limited rations and who should go hungry, and how much information to share with strangers. Your decisions don't always have immediate consequences, but it feels like there could be repercussions down the road. There's also an emotional connection you'll have with a child you'll take under your wing, a young girl whose parents are missing. Thus, you're not just looking out for your own safety, but for the girl's well-being as well.

Most of the game involves conversing with characters, learning more about their situation and backgrounds, as well as examining your surroundings to acquire the tools to solve certain puzzles. You may need to collect batteries for a radio, find keys to access a locked door, move a tractor to use as cover, and perform other survival-oriented tasks. At any point a zombie can suddenly attack, which keeps you actively engaged in the story.

As entertaining as the game is, it still would have been nice to have even more decisions, like whether to follow a certain character or group or venture off with another, deciding whether to travel to one particular city instead of the other, and so forth. The developers could have easily made games out of hunting for food, scavenging for supplies, rebuilding walls, creating traps, and similar tasks. There are many, many opportunities for more traditional gameplay in the Walking Dead, so hopefully the developers will expand on the content in future installments.

While there is substantial room for improvement, the Walking Dead is easily one of the most absorbing games you'll play. You'll care about the characters and their fates, something that's sadly too rare in games. You'll also wrestle with the choices you make, which keeps you thinking about the game long after you've stopped playing. Who should you save during an attack? Should you lie to a child to give her hope, or be truthful to prepare her for what lies ahead? Will you be loyal to a person or risk alienating him or her to do what's "right"? If these types of questions pique your interest, the Walking Dead should shamble its way to the top of your play list. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide

the game requires Joystick/Gamepad.