Walking Dead Fever…

So this year, Meg and I decided (in between everything else going on) to devote a huge amount of time playing video games as we’ve both been a bit slack in that area of fun for a while now. First on the agenda (or play list) was The Walking Dead: The Game.

I had been watching the developer’s on-line “diary” of this game as they updated on a regular basis what they had done and where they were in the whole process. Telltale Games, the developers in question, were trying to push the boundaries a bit and not only come up with a game that would resonate with the existing Walking Dead franchise, but, they were also trying to breathe new life into the old “adventure” game.

Walking Dead is a “point and click” game with echoes of role play ala Mass Effect. The gaming community received the games release with a kind of euphoric instant acceptance that appears to be more for the “subject” of the game than the actual game itself. The Walking Dead has been popular with folks first as a graphic novel series, then as a television program based on the novels for quite some time.

Just one snapshot of the ever changing group in The Walking Dead.

The game does not follow the telly program, which did surprise me a lot, but the next iteration of The Walking Dead game verse will. Fans of the books will be pleased with the game though. It looks like you have stepped into a volume of them. The art work screams graphic novel and it works extremely well for the game.

The game play itself is a bit of a mixed bag. In some ways it is simple and direct, but in other ways it can be stupidly frustrating. It was probably just me, but I had a hell of a time moving the R3 and L3 together for “easier” movements and object searches. In the area of shooting the infected, it was too easy. When you pulled your gun and got ready to send a “walker” to zombie heaven, all you were given was a “box” like aiming area, no cross hairs or aiming features like Uncharted for example.

This caused me no end of problems at first. I kept dying as I tried to aim at a walker head. It took me literally ages to figure out that as long as you kept the zombie in the box, you were going to hit it. Once I got used to it, however, I was despatching walkers with the ease of an Annie Oakley shootist. Of course, then it got too easy and the end consequence was that it lost a lot in enjoyment value.

Like other games that are flooding the market at the moment, The Walking Dead has more than its fair share of glitches. Most of them were downright funny. Lilly with her invisible rifle, Omid lying in mid-air, to name just two; but some interfered with game play and were infuriating. There was an apparent frame rate issue that slowed action (or stopped completely) changing the outcome of that particular challenge.

It frustrates me that a company like Telltale Games will spend so much money on publicizing their product but will so obviously cut back on expenditure of quality assurance checks to make sure the game play flows smoothly. Anytime that a glitch changes the outcome of an event in the game, the glitch then becomes non-acceptable from the player’s point of view; and player is spelt C-O-N-S-U-M-E-R guys.

My overall experience with The Walking Dead was positive. I enjoyed the game, the story, and the graphics. I did not enjoy the glitches and the obvious “copying” of the role play element that worked so well in the Mass Effect verse. And copying it most definitely was, the difference being that you really did not change any of the “important” elements of the game by your decisions.

*And before I get my head bitten off here, yes I know that ultimately, when you finished ME3 your choices did not count for squat either, but, originally that was not the plan.*

What does confuse me is how The Walking Dead garnered so many awards, accolades, and almost universal acceptance as being the crème de la crème of all the games released in 2012. I can only shake my head and wonder if it has to do with “cross-merchandising” between the novels and the television series.

I haven’t said a lot about the story, but really there is no need to spend a lot of time here. The main protagonist is Lee, who is on his way to prison after murdering his wife and her Senator boyfriend. After the officer driving hits a “walker” and crashes, you play as Lee and eventually meet and befriend Clementine. Once you two “hit the road” you meet the first of the many folks you will encounter on your mission of trying to unite Clem with her folks.

The group dynamics change and flow as there are power struggles and leadership questions. Just as changing are the members of the group, who die off either getting munched by one of the undead or by natural causes. Not really any different from any zombie apocalypse film you seen or game you’ve played or book you’ve read.

Stepping back from the game for a moment and looking at the entire “verse” of The Walking Dead, I think that the existing popularity of a fictional world that the public already laps up has contributed firmly to the high rating given the game. Which is why I think the next game in the “Walking Dead” franchise that is due for release in 2013 as a “prequel” to the TV series will be instantly accepted and raved about.

Pre-order you prequel now…

Regardless of its merits or glitches or game play, the 2013 version of Walking Dead will hit the ground running and not lose one step in its stride towards “Game of the Year 2013. It is so obvious that Telltale Games want to further cash in on the success of the TV show. Of course when the name of the “real” game is making money, you cannot blame them.

I’ll leave you with two things (or maybe three). Am I the only person who wants to see how Clementine (Worst choice of a character name ever, I hear that “Oh my darling Clementine” in my head every time I hear the kid’s name) turned out after the events of the game? And who else besides me, thinks that “actor Anthony Lam” is really Steve Buscemi?

Will these questions ever be answered? Who knows, but I do think that Clementine is already a pistol toting, zombie killing, little momma who will be able to shoot the ears off of any walker who gets too close.

I would have to give this game a 4 ½ stars out of 5 (if I did a star rating system) just for the fun, if not frustrating at times, game play and story.

“Go ahead, make my day.”

Ah Agent 47, How I’ve Missed Thee…


The feeling of nostalgia was overwhelming as I popped the disc into the PS3 and waited for the latest update to load and install on Hitman Absolution. I loved the old Hitman with his bald pate complete with bar code and his cold blooded bad-ass killing instinct not to mention his sense of humour.

Who else would think of dressing up like a clown to infiltrate a party to get closer to his next victim (Blood Money), or dressing up as a Priest to take out the baddies in a Catholic Orphanage (Absolution).

Agent 47, that’s who.

Although in our minds (and actions) it is we who are really Agent 47; looking sharp and cool in the black suit with white shirt and red tie combo that makes up his professional attire complete with black leather “shooting gloves” and patent leather shoes. Forget Altair and Ezio and the other “new boys” on the block. Agent 47 was the original assassin and still is.

Now don’t get me wrong. I loved the Assassin’s Creed verse from its maiden voyage with the egotistical Altair who gets busted down to the assassin’s equivalent of a buck private. His journey back up and slow realization that someone wasn’t telling the truth still interests me and is the best of the franchise, in my opinion.

But Agent 47 with his “genetically manufactured” assassination skill which goes to prove that great contract killers are not just born, they are also made, has never bored me. Frustrated yes, but never bored. The times that I got frustrated with him was when I had repeatedly failed to stealthily kill the target and I was either killed or had to run for my life and try all over again. Of course when that happened, the thought of stealth went right out the window and I generally would “go Genghis Kahn” on everyone in sight and initiate a blood bath that old Genghis would have envied.

Frustrations aside, with my own limitations never that of Agent 47’s, the games are addictive and challenging in a way that other game’s just can’t replicate.

Looking at the Hitman franchise I chuckle when I remember how angry I would get at having to completely redo a mission because I’d been spotted or killed an innocent bystander. Absolution does not have that problem as you can save at “set” points in the game. So, yes, you still have to re-do some of the mission but not all of it; unless, of course, you want to.

The only problem I’ve had so far is that when I crouch, I can’t “un-crouch.” So you wind up crouch walking through crowds of people who do notice. I had an npc say, “Look at the hunchback.” Another told me to stand up and “stop acting like a child.” So far so irritating, but I cannot find a reference anyplace else where this problem is mentioned. So until I find a solution I’ll continue to have 47 hunched over after that first crouch.

*And before you say anything, yes I have pressed the O again and it changes nothing. He still crouches and looks bloody ridiculous. It must be some sort of glitch.*

I do have to say about the graphics at this point. As quickly as I could “get into” the old PS2 verse of Hitman, it did have a few issues with graphics. A lot of the PS2 games did. But you could ignore that because of the ease of immersing yourself into the role of 47. But the “last gen” graphics could give you a jolt now and again.


Not so Absolution. The colours and graphics are stunning. The textures are great and the overall appearance of the game’s set pieces look impressive. There have been no moments where I’ve been thrown out of the game because of a graphics let down. The game play itself is not difficult although, as I’ve said before, I am not the world’s expert at stealth. In fact despite the crouching problem, I’m doing pretty well. I still have moments where I get just that little bit too annoyed and rather than do a Genghis Kahn, I’ll do a Clyde Barrow and just start shooting.

When the opening cut scenes finished on the new game, slipping back into the world of Agent 47 felt as easy as slipping into an old pair of comfy sneakers (or patent leather shoes). I immediately found myself looking at the verse through familiar eyes. The world of stealth has not changed. You have a new “instinct” gauge that can be used to tell you where the enemies are and what path you should be taking. A little like Assassin Creed‘s eagle vision except that this gauge can run out of instinct and leave you blind.

I won’t talk about any of the games particulars, i.e. plot. But I will say it’s a good one, folks, it’s a good one. I will also say that 47 has learned a few new tricks, like how to kill with a screw driver, throwing a knife and an almost balletic way of using a fire axe to dispose of enemies. Just to list a few of these new kill skills. I’m sure he’s picked up a few other new ones since the last time we met but I haven’t encountered them yet.

The voice acting is top-notch. They’ve taken a page out of Naughty Dog‘s book and let the actors actually act with each other. No separate sound booths here with an actor reading his lines into dead air. They interact and even get to wear the motion capture suits a la Naughty Dog. It helps. There are some pretty big names attached to the project. Powers Boothe, Vivica A. FoxKeith Carradine, Traci Lords (ex porn star) and of course David Bateson is back providing the voice for Agent 47.

So apart from the continuing problem of crouching (or conversely not being able to stand up straight) I am loving this blast from the past with all its new trappings. It even looks as though the young girl that Agent 47 is trying to protect might be a new improved female version of him. It does sort of make me wonder is there will soon be a “Hitgirl” (and not Chloe Moritz from Kick Ass either). I am not that far into the game yet, I’m now competing with a pig-tailed brown haired version of Daisy Duke on a shooting range and not doing fantastically well. Of course, my aim is always a little off when I’m target shooting at two in the morning.

I did not realize how much I missed old baldy until I started playing Absolution. I suppose I could have gone back at anytime and played the old favourites, Blood Money or Contracts, but there never seemed to be the time. What with new games coming out and my tendency to replay all of the three Naughty Dog Drake games, I just couldn’t take the time.

But playing the long awaited “sequel” to Hitman, I’m sorry I wasn’t more faithful. Still, it has not taken me any time at all to get back into the swing of the Hitman verse and to fight off all the bad guys and terminate the targets. I’ve had to fight the compulsion to wear adult diapers and have my food given to me via a drip so I can play uninterrupted.

I also have to fight the urge to react badly to people who interrupt my game play for whatever the reason.