The Walking Dead traces its inception back to 2003, when Robert Kirkman created the comic book series chronicling the survival exploits of post-zombie apocalypse refugees, particularly Sheriff Rick Grimes, in the desolated backdrop of Georgia. However, it wasn’t until AMC’s The Walking Dead premiered in 2010 that the name was infused with mainstream popularity.
TellTale Games is currently riding on this relevance to great success with the episodic The Walking Dead (read our reviews for The Walking Dead: Episode One and Episode Two) – all while staying close to the comic book mythos. Apparently seeing that a void was left to be filled, publisher Activision has now joined in, licensing the properties of the television series for a new first person-shooter: The Walking Dead: The Game.
Development of The Walking Dead: The Game is being handled by Terminal Reality. (You may know them more recently from Kinect: Star Wars, and more vividly from BloodRayne.) Where TellTale’s series hits on the comic book plotline, The Walking Dead: The Game functions as a prequel to the television series based on brothers Daryl and Merle Dixon (played on AMC by Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker). The two are separated rather brutally in Atlanta, and one ends up portrayed as a repugnant antagonist, but on the game’s website they’re simply advertised as two humble brothers, in blood and arms, on a mission to stay alive in the zombie infested Georgia countryside – fateful, appendage-severing day looming in the distance as dramatic irony.
Story deviations aside, though, the gameplay definitely intends to strike a chord with loyal followers of the franchise. According to information reported by IGN, players will control Daryl Dixon on what Activision calls a “haunting, unforgiving quest to make their way to the supposed safety of Atlanta.” Combat is de-emphasized, a calculation, and players will have to balance the scarcities of food, ammo and supplies as they avoid detection from zombies who hunt using sight, smell and sound. Zombies can either be engaged to neutralize widespread detection, or avoided through stealth altogether.
Activision claims that Daryl will cross paths with a “slew” of other characters who vary in degrees of hostility and hospitality. Choices are presented in whether or not these characters will accompany the player – part of a larger dynamic where “major decisions will constantly be made while fighting to survive.”
Activision and Terminal Reality have a high bar to reach with the sterling episodic content being churned out by TellTale. Yet by its melding of visceral action, dramatic storytelling and moral ambiguity, The Walking Dead is an inherently fertile franchise for video games of multiple motifs. Varied gameplay and weighty predicaments are a good place to start. The story – though it could easily settle for shallow – is perfectly suited to expand on Merle and Daryl’s eventual rift, as well.
The Walking Dead: The Game releases in 2013 for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.
Follow me on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.