Happy Fourth of July, the holiday where we celebrate our great country's independence (that's America, for any of my international readers), because without it, we wouldn't have become the land of opportunity, where dreams come true.
A lot of people complain about this holiday, mainly because of all the drinking, fireworks being obtained and used by the general public, and the overall tomfoolery that is associated with it. Sure, over-indulgence of the freedoms we have as a country can always sour the things we should be celebrating, but that goes without saying for many things in our lives. The thing is, by complaining and sweating the small stuff, it essentially implies that our freedoms are taken for granted. Sometimes you just need to sit back and realize just how lucky we are to be able to live the lives we do, the way we choose.
By playing The Walking Dead: 400 Days, the (essentially but not quite) stand-alone DLC "chapter" in the original game's episodic story, it made me think that when push comes to shove, and when everything is ripped away from your world as you know it, then and only then is it easy to realize just how trivial it was in the first place to worry about the little things in life. It's only when you lose everything that you can truly appreciate anything ... or something like that.
Like I said, this game is essentially a stand-alone next chapter in the story, only because it is required you at least have chapter one of the The Walking Dead episodic game. It doesn't directly involved any characters or story lines that took place through the five chapters of TWD, though there are a few subtle nods at the game. In this one chapter, you play the role of five different people, experiencing their stories, all individually. TellTale games, the developer of this game franchise, has said that this is meant to be a stop-gap between the end of season 1 and the upcoming season 2, but it is unclear if these stories or characters will actually have anything to do with season 2 as it stands now. There seems to be some indication that it's possible, but we will just have to wait and see.
It almost feels like a prequel to season 2, rather than any sort of continuation to season 1, but I'm sure all unanswered questions will be solved in due time.
400 Days plays just like season 1, and it is littered with tough choices and heartbreaking moments. Sure, the character development is brief and rushed, but I still feel like they did a good enough job making you attach yourself to characters and the moral and ethical choices you have to make for them - and even the ones you have no control over.
Overall, it is grim. By the end of the chapter, you have reached 400 days since the outbreak begun. Society as it once was has completely crumbled to dust, and only shreds of humanity remain. Everything we enjoy now, both as privileges and rights, are mere memories. In this bleak and meager world that they have created and showcase in 400 Days, there are no little things to complain. Nothing is taken for granted and there are no freedoms left.
Think about that next time you want to complain about your neighbors firing off fireworks one night of the year. It could also be worse. Much, much worse.
in 2012, Telltale Games pretty much dominated the video games dojo with the release of the episodic and highly successful adventure game, The Walking Dead. Granted, it was capitalizing on the ridiculous momentum and allure that the franchise was drumming up, using the buzz to its advantage. Between the television show and the comics, the franchise was clicking on all cylinders, and Telltale Games cashed in on it at just the right moment.
That's not to say that it was a cash-grab game and held no merit as a stand alone product, because it wasn't. By itself, it was a fantastic game, and critically one of the best for the entire year. But that's not to say that the built-in hype didn't help at all, because of course it did.
What's important to remember is that this wasn't Telltale Game's first rodeo. They have actually made a few point-and-click adventure games, all based on other, popular franchises. One of their games was Back to the Future: The Game, which I started playing tonight. While not nearly as good as The Walking Dead game, it's easy to draw comparisons and look back to see what went right and wrong back then, and how they seemed to take those lessons and apply them to zombie universe.
This adventure takes place after the events of the movie trilogy, making a new storyline for the popular franchise instead of going the easy route and just recreating the movie series. The voice acting is phenomenal, and the characters seem as lively and lovable as they did back in the day. One thing that is clear right off the bat is how dull and bland the backgrounds are. While the characters look great, they didn't put much time in creating a world that you feel completely immersed in. The writing is great, but the puzzles are very simple and less challenging than I hoped they would be.
And that's the story for this game. For everything it does great, it falls flat on another aspect of it.
Thankfully, they figured out this pattern when making The Walking Dead, because without the ability to forfeit pride for the sake of betterment of a project, success would never happen. So for everyone who absolutely loved The Walking Dead game, you should go back and play Back to the Future: The Game, and get a little perspective.
I'm fresh off an incredible high from watching the latest episode of The Walking Dead, the last episode before the Season 3 finale - so excuse me in advance if this sounds a little more "fanboy-ish" then usual. But man, was that episode epic. It was such a great showcase of the Dixon brothers, who have been awesome together since being reunited earlier in the season. Because of tonight's episode, it was quite clear to me that tonight was the night to write about The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.
Well, that, and I've been playing a LOT of it since last night. Sometimes the stars just align in this crazy, random universe.
So we all kind of know the back story of this game, right? I don't mean the storyline of the game, but the critical scrutiny it recieved before its release? Well, if not, I'll give you the Cliffs Notes version.
First, several months ago, a fake trailer of the game surfaced on the internet that showed very rough and early game play footage of the game, which was only a few seconds long anyway. The internet immediately erupted in skepticism and negativity towards this game that was months away from being released. It was all down hill from there.
The week before the release, it was noted by several gaming websites that review copies of the game weren't being sent out until the day of its release, which instantly started the chatter of the old additive that "if a publisher won't send review copies out early, it's because they are hiding something and want people to buy the game before the reviews shun it and point out everything terribly wrong with it, which usually means the game is fundamentally broken." Now, this isn't hard science, but a well-know and even more well-believed theory that not only journalist subscribe to, but now the common consumer. In other words, the premature judgment of games based on reviewers not getting early copies has soiled the marketplace and the corrupted the minds of those who implicitly follow the guide of said reviewers.
I, too, fell victim to this, and I'm not proud of it.
I was excited about this game pretty much since it was announced. I'm a huge fan of The Walking Dead universe, and I just want to explore and enjoy everything that continues to expand this amazing story. When I heard all the negativity surrounding this game, I started loosing enthusiasm for it, and even considered not even giving it a shot. And that's because of the reviewers on the internet who feel entitled and deserving to play every game early, not realizing that there may be other reasons for not getting what they expect to get because of their credentials. Those poor, poor game journalists.
Anyway, I had a change of heart, and realized it was completely unfair to judge this game based on precedents that really bad games set for this type of situation. Again, I am a fan of all things Walking Dead, and it would take a straight-up broken game for me to not be able to find enjoyment in it. Also, Mrs. Noyse doesn't exactly like video games - like, at all - but she does love The Walking Dead probably more than me, so I saw this as an opportunity to connect with her using something she really enjoys to bring her into my little video game world.
I'm glad to report that it worked.
I started playing the game last night, after she got home from a Girls Night Out, just to see if she had any interest in it. Not even interested as in she would play it, but not sit in the other room while I was playing games type of interest. Also, I was hoping to have some good discussion about the story of the game and the universe just in case the game really was bad.
In all honesty, it's not a great game. It has its flaws, technically speaking. The shading, textures and coloring seem off at times, especially in the living people. Its a tad bit glitchy at times, but never game breaking bad. The AI of the walkers seems dumbed WAY down, but hey, they are walkers after all. Maybe they are just too smart on the show? Who are we to say how walkers should act, right? Also, the melee combat gets repetitive at times, but only when you are killing them one after the other. If you break up your chains of massacre with assassination kills or even firearm kills, the grinding feel of killing them doesn't seem that bad. And of course, you could always just sneak or run past them if you so choose.
The story is a prequel of when the show started, as you play as Daryl right when the outbreak is starting to get bad. You are in search of your big brother Meryl, in hopes of finding a partner in crime to survive this world that is going to hell quickly. You have to scavenge for supplies while traveling the roads of Georgia, meeting up with survivors along the way that can help your quest, but are always in danger of being killed by the environment or dismissed from the group by you, the player, based on a lack of seats in the vehicle you are driving. You travel from destination from destination, but you always run the risk of breaking down midway through your trip, forcing you get out and scavenge for fuel or car batteries or whatever else you may need to get back on the road. From what I could tell, this encounters and totally random, which is nice and refreshing.
The walkers themselves are pretty easy to kill and avoid if need be, but once a heard gets a whiff of your scent, its a footrace to shelter, which only lasts for so long as they will eventually break down the doors and get in if possible. The game really forces you to play stealthy and smartly, not just a rogue killing machine, which is how I imagine is the only good way of surviving in a real zombie apocalypse anyway, while also being true to the show and comics.
Don't think it's just a cake walk, though. While the game feels relatively easy if you are paying attention, there are plenty of jump-out-of-your-seat moments where walkers will spring to action or shamble from behind something undetected until it grabs you. I literally jumped several of times, cussing a few times and wanting to throw the controller out of fear on more than one occasion. While some of the moments felt cheep, I thoroughly enjoyed them none the less. It is a zombie game, after all! I WANT to be scared!
Going back to playing the game with the wife looking on, she enjoyed the experience. The fact that she loves Norman Reedus was a giant plus, but she enjoyed the story of how the Dixon brothers came to be apart of the group. She liked the universe and the idea of it all, and was offering suggestions on where I should go, what decisions I should make and what she would have done differently if she were making the game.
As they say in the biz, that is the epitome of S-U-C-C-E-S-S.
Again, it's not a great game. But it is far from a fatally flawed, broke bad game. Of course, I may enjoy it more than the average gamer or overly critical reviewer, but that's solely because of the individual experience I am having with the game based on how strongly I like the universe it is apart of. Survival Instinct is made for fans of the The Walking Dead, by fans of the Walking Dead. Maybe the developers were rushed or didn't have the resources to make a Game of the Year contended, but you can see and feel their love for the universe in everything they did. And that's what it comes down to. They knew they wouldn't reach mainstream appeal to the casual gamers or hardcore FPS players, but if they could connect with fans of The Walking Dead, they did their job.
Consider it a job well done, from my perspective at least.
On a final note, while this second to last episode of Season 3 tonight was amazing and a fantastic set up from the FINAL SHOWDOWN, I'm sad because I will be on vacation as of first thing Thursday morning with no way of watching the finale until I make it back from the Magic Kingdom the following Wednesday. While I will still be posting blogs (HOPEFULLY!) and tweeting out a million pictures from our adventure, I will try to stay as far away from reading twitter feeds as possible for fear of the conclusion to Season 3 being spoiled. I realized we scheduled this vacation on during the finale after the fact, also forgetting that we leave just after BioShock Infinite is released, meaning that will be sitting on my shelf waiting for me to get home for almost a week.
Man, I have horrible planning sometimes. Stars weren't aligned for me this time, unfortunately.
Free games. Who doesn't like free games, right? I even had a discussion on Twitter today about the difference between liking a free game because it's a good game, or liking a good game because it's a free game.
Some games aren't good, even though they are free. You have to sit back and ask yourself if the free game is something you would pay for had it not been free, or if you are just finding enjoyment in it simply because you didn't spend any of your hard earned cash for it.
Well today, The Walking Dead: Assault game for the iOS was being given away from free, thanks to the awesome IGN.com. When this game first came out last year, I chose not to buy it, despite how big of a Walking Dead fan I am. Why? Because I was pretty much burnt out and uninterested in mobile gaming that didn't involve my Vita or my 3DS. A guy can only play so much Angry Birds before he doesn't see his phone as a viable gaming platform any longer.
So, The Walking Dead: Assault ... well, it's a top down shooter that plays out over 11 missions. The controls are super basic, as all you have to do is move your group of characters around the map, pick up supplies and getting in range to take out the surrounding walkers. The pace is fast and frantic, with patience and skill getting pushed to the back burner for the most part. There isn't much strategy while playing the game, but before each level, you get to chose which four characters you will use in your squad. Why is that important, you ask? That's because each character has a different weapon (pistol, shotgun, riffle, etc.) and special moves. Does it effect the game play dramatically? Not especially, but each level does play a little differently, so your choice can effect how easy or hard the mission is.
The best thing about this game, hands down, is that it is based off the comic book series directly. The 11 chapters takes place over the first few books of the comic series, with characters and senescence ripped right out of the universe that Robert Kirkman created. It's all in black and white, with blood in red and ammo/supplies highlighted in yellow, and objects you can interact with in green. The limited amount of color looks gorgeous when dropped cautiously on the B&W backdrop of the zombie apocalypse.
This game does stay very true to the foundation of the comics and the universe, which is phenomenal. They could have easily slapped the Walking Dead moniker on any old top-down shooter game and made some money just on the name itself. And while it does feature a small microtransaction option for leveling up your characters, it's not forced down your throat, either. It's a nice addition to the Walking Dead universe, which is refreshing (as I have my doubts about The Walking Dead: Survivor Instinct game coming out next month).
Again, it was free, and is all month, apparently. Is it a good free game, or a game that's good because it's free? Well...
You tell me.
It's no secret to anyone that knows me that I am completely and utterly enthralled with The Walking Dead universe. Ever since the first pilot episode debuted on AMC on Halloween night a couple of years ago, I have been glued to this franchise. After falling in love with the show, I went on to start reading the comics, and now, a third medium has finally opened up to tell amazing stories from this dark yet humbling world of zombies and little hope: video games.
Let me try to explain this as best as possible. First you have the comic book universe. Then you have the television show universe, which loosely follows storylines from the comics, but has made it quite clear they aren't attempting to recreate the comics, as they have several different characters and plots not seen in one another. Then you have the new gaming coming out soon called "The Walking Dead: Survival Instincts," which takes place in the realm of the TV show, but acts as a prequel to show, showing how Myrle and Darryl managed to survive the the beginning of the infection before they merged with the group we know them to be apart of.
Then there is TellTale's game that came out last year, also called "The Walking Dead," which doesn't necessarily take place in either the comic book world or the show world. It is a brand new, never before seen or read story from The Walking Dead universe, with an all new set of characters facing different trials and tribulations of trying to survive impending doom. Other than a couple guest appearances from well-known characters of the series, this is a complete stand-alone game. Judging from the state of which the player encounters these familiar characters, it's safe to assume this story takes place before, or almost parallel with the Rick Grimes storyline we all know and love.
And boy, what a story it is. This game has one of the best stories in a video game I have ever played, bar none. And I'm apparently not the only one to think that, as it won over 80 awards for Game of the Year from various outlets. It's game play roots make a point-and-click adventure game, but it is far - FAR - from being anywhere in the vicinity as far as other games in that genre. TWD is more about choice, and telling a story, and how your choices effect the story as it is told.
When I played through it the first time last year, it was weird because they released every episode (five in total) every two months or so, and with each one lasting about two hours each, it felt like just as you were getting into one episode, it was over before you knew it, and you would have to wait two months before picking up where you left off. That left remembering the story a little difficult, and maybe not the best way to play it. So now, I am going back and playing through it naturally, as it should be played, while trying to make different choices than I did before, just to see how different the game really can be and feel.
I could write about this game for thousands of words, but instead, I just implore you, good reader, to go check it out for yourself. It's available for Xbox 360, PS3 or PC, downloadable or on disc format. If you have any interest in the The Walking Dead (TV show, comic or "other"), then this game - nay, EXPERIENCE - is worth your time. Grab a box of tissue, too, because you just might need it.
Oh, and the reason I chose this game today? The mid-season premiere of Season 3 was on tonight, finally, and insatiable appetite for all things Walking Dead was rekindle. Now go ... go play the game. I'm just going to sit here and wait for the other Walking Dead to come out, and hope it is even half as good as this one was. Fingers crossed!
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Games played for project : 365