Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead achieved critical acclaim back in 2012 when Episode 1: A New Day introduced us to Lee Everett and his band of post-apocalyptic survivors. Since then, the series has notched up two full seasons and an expansion under its belt, with a third season confirmed for release in the not-too-distant future. Based in the same universe as Robert Kirkman’s comic books, this video game adaptation of the lauded zombie franchise encapsulates everything that narrative-driven games do best: a compelling cast, decisions that matter, branching story paths, and stellar voice acting. Fortunately for PlayStation 4 owners, both Season One and Season Two arrive on Sony’s new home console in fine form, despite the appearance of some niggling game bugs. But let’s focus on the first outing for now.
From a technical standpoint, the PS4 version looks the cleanest, although The Walking Dead’s visuals are hardly on the demanding side, and more about adhering to the feel of the comic book. Like its last-gen counterpart, the vibrant aesthetic complements the cast admirably, with each strain of emotion, be it heartache, fear, anger, or sorrow, easily discernible thanks to some superb facial animation. The frame rate holds up much better, eliminating much of the stuttering of the PS Vita version of the game, even if the lip syncing isn’t much cop at times—although that seems to be a problem across the board, rather than limited to one specific platform.
Loading times have also been improved, and unlike the PS Vita/PS3 edition, I didn’t encounter any issues with lag when it came to a specific sequence booting up. If anything, the biggest crime The Walking Dead on PS4 commits is the fact some of the grammatical errors haven’t been ironed out, and there doesn’t seem to be much attempt to improve upon the resolution and frame rate. It’s not that it doesn’t run smoothly or look great, but you would have thought there would have been an attempt to lock down a slick 1080p/60fps presentation. There’s a couple of ugly textures that have carried over from previous versions, though they are pretty innocuous in the grand scheme of things.
Aside from that, this is The Walking Dead as you know and love it. Season One remains, in my opinion, unequivocally the strongest batch of episodes we’ve seen to date. Lee Everett’s journey is an emotional rollercoaster, with his nuanced characterization juxtaposed with Clementine’s doe-eyed innocence providing a gripping combination as you wrestle to make some truly gut-wrenching decisions in an effort to protect your surrogate daughter. It’s not just Lee and Clem either; Season One is backed up by a diverse supporting cast—particularly mullet-man Kenny—many of whom go through their own personal journey, and become trusted allies or points of contention throughout the adventure.
Your decisions ultimately feel like they actually matter, even though some may appear inconsequential or even arbitrary at the time. Will you take sides in an argument or remain neutral? Will you opt to leave someone behind for committing an atrocity in the heat of the moment, or perhaps grant someone’s dying wish? Maybe you’ll encourage them to keep fighting and refuse to give up on them. It’s all up to you, and there’s a startling combination of paths you may take, giving The Walking Dead fantastic replay value.
You don’t feel like a bit player for most of the time, either. The Walking Dead gives you ample opportunity to get stuck into the action, whether it’s capping Walkers in the head, wrestling with your fellow survivors, or even dishing out rations. Things get heated a lot of the time, and Lee is right there in the thick of things. Fortunately, if you cock up and end up Walker bait, the checkpoint system is pretty generous, and you’ll respawn near the point you met your maker.
Overall, The Walking Dead is a must-have for anyone with a penchant for story-driven adventures, and will serve fans of the comic book and its expanded universe extremely well. To top it off, you’re also getting the least bug-ridden iteration of the series to date, which is a nice bonus, even if it could have benefitted from a bit more spit and polish. There’s highs and lows as you’d expect with any episodic-based endeavour, but the overall quality of The Walking Dead is difficult to challenge.
For a more detailed look at The Walking Dead Season One, please visit our earlier coverage of each individual episode via the following links: Episode 1: A New Day, Episode 2: Starved for Help, Episode 3: Long Road Ahead, Episode 4: Around Every Corner, Episode 5: No Time Left.