Even with all of the controversy surrounding showrunner Frank Darabont's recent departure, "The Walking Dead" seems to be growing in popularity by the minute. The comic book by Robert Kirkman continues to be a rousing creator-owned success, and AMC's runaway hit TV series is set to enter its second season this October. But perhaps the most interesting twist on the franchise comes via Telltale Games, the company hard at work on a completely separate video game product based on the "Walking Dead" universe.
In the game, you don't play as Rick Grimes. Instead, Kirkman opted to let Telltale Games create its own "Walking Dead" story involving a new side character named Lee Everett. We don't know much about Lee at this point, only that he finds himself in the back of a squad car that's crashed on the side of the road. At first glance, it appears the driver collided with somebody that made them crash -- the somebody being a zombie. Lee then has to work his way through a number of situations in order to survive.
As Lee proceeds on his adventure, he finds an unlikely ally in a little girl named Clementine, who's spent the last three or four days shacked up in her tree house, avoiding the zombie invasion. There's no sign of her parents, and she's frightened out of her wits. She finds some solace in Lee's company, and as the player, you'll need to make decisions throughout the game that affect them both.
Telltale Games didn't have any game footage to show Comic Book Resources just yet (they're likely saving that for the New York Comic-Con), but they did leak some details as to how the game's events will play out. "The Walking Dead" won't be a traditional zombie-killing action game, a la "Resident Evil" or "Dead Rising," instead relying on solving puzzles and making a number of choices. You'll have to make some rough decisions, particularly with who you save and who you leave behind. As Telltale introduces new episodes to the "Walking Dead" game series (five are planned at the moment, only two are in production), new characters will enter the fray. Some will help, like a citizen who patches up Lee's wounds upon running into him, but not everyone can be trusted in this world of zombies. The freedom of choice will help expand "Walking Dead's" replay value, enabling you to make new decisions and see what happens to the main characters as a result.
As for the puzzles, Telltale Games isn't looking to go all out with real mind-benders. Instead, it wants to deal with realistic situations. The game's opening scenario, for instance, requires Lee to find a way out of the locked squad car.
Even without gameplay footage to show off, CBR News was impressed with the early concept art Telltale had prepared. We got an in-depth look at "The Walking Dead's" art style, which uses an exquisite amount of coloring and shading, giving the world a dark, murky look. Effort is being put into both the lighting and shading on the characters, so that you'll feel like you're actually walking through this world teeming with the undead, rather than simply meandering around a typical area. For instance, the run-down motel seen in the concept art posted here resembles a location like you might see on the show, ready to crumble at any given minute but still somewhat holding together.
Another example of the detailed stage design can be seen in the Clementine family kitchen. You can just see the subtlety in the little things, like the blood stain on the floor and the stool hunched over in the corner of the room (so Clementine could access high shelves). You'll need to carefully examine these environments to find clues that allow you to move through the story.
Telltale Games is used to making products that involve the players, including their previous releases in the "Sam & Max" and "Back to the Future" series, as well as their upcoming "Jurassic Park" game. But "The Walking Dead" looks like it will dig much deeper with its psychological tone, heavy-handed choices and creepy atmosphere. Kirkman is reportedly quite pleased with the effort going into this game, and chances are you will be too once it arrives next year.