I like to think that Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead is an exploration of character and violence more than it is some grim zombie fairy tale. Its cast is as beastly as its undead. Action is sudden, terrifying, and distressing. Decisions are made in bursts of lust and blood, greed and anger, brains and preservation. This miasma is revealing: we're not good people. This makes for interesting reading, as you get to glimpse into what makes us forget who we want to be, and become what we actually are.

The first episode of Telltale's The Walking Dead plays like a celebration of the comic and its themes. It adheres to the Kirkman's vision, showcasing the series' violence and grit, choice and character. You'll make painful decisions, interact with broken people, and participate in some of the most brutal, real-world action that's ever been shown in a video game. In under an hour of play with a Mac build of the title, I have become one of The Walking Dead's characters: a liar and a monster in the face of danger.

You'll play through a vehicle named Lee, a loosely defined character with a mysterious history and an innocence about him. The opening takes place right before the world goes to hell. Lee is in the back of a police car, handcuffed, talking to the officer driving when, suddenly, the officer strikes a walker with his vehicle. The crash is stomach-churning, and the action after is intense. Lee survives, but finds himself in a world where the dead shamble and the living sprint.

Lee goes on to meet a few characters, including a little girl who becomes something of a companion. As you progress, you'll make choices that each character will "remember," perhaps coloring the events in later episodes as you jump in and out of alliances with others, react calmly or violently, or lie. Thus far, I don't have a great sense of how anything that I'm saying or doing will play out, and that's perhaps The Walking Dead's biggest upcoming challenge: these choices need to feel meaningful one way or another.

Mechanically, the game controls like a cross between Jurassic Park and Heavy Rain: you manually move Lee in very specific environments, searching for items and clues that will inevitably lead you to the next story point. The Walking Dead doesn't rely on puzzles as a bridge. Instead, it leverages Lee's confusion and desire: you find things for people or for Lee. Action segments challenge you to react fast, as you line up reticules or tap buttons to complete QTEs. The dialogue system, on the other hand, presents multiple flavors of response and a timer forces you to make snap judgements and decisions.

I appreciate the intensity of the writing. The Walking Dead invites you to explore a grim and violent world spotted with people who actually feel like people and react in extreme ways under the pressure of survival. Being able to lie to cover things up or get an "in" with a group of better equipped survivors, or save one person over another are the game's strongest points of narrative design. I've been swaying between unnerved or moved as I progress, and this emotional connection is what appeals to me the most about the game as a whole.

We don't know how the iPad (or iPhone) version of The Walking Dead will control, though the expectation is that it'll work similarly to how Jurassic Park did with its basic and functional touch, tap, and swipe controls. We're also not so sure when we'll see this episode on our devices of choice. Rumor has it that the iOS versions have been delayed beyond its planned May launch. We're checking on that.

Regardless, you'll want to keep up with its progress. Provided Telltale will continue is trend of launching really, actually good ports of its games on iOS post-Jurassic Park, this is something I feel like could be required play material.

All of the assets in this article are from the PC, Mac, Xbox Live Arcade, or PSN version of the game. If it means anything to you, we played the Mac version with medium settings and it still looked fantastic. We expect this level of quality, at least, on the new iPad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/valentine.mocan Valentine Mocan

    I typically say "meh" to all zombie games. Well, not this time, I couldn't get enough of this trailer... The voice acting, the emotion, the animation... All fantastic. I've not seen any of the gameplay, but I'm hopeful it will be good.

  • bigrand1

    Dayum, Brad, you really got me excited about this one! Been looking forward to this and now I want it even more! Will keep an eye out for this, as for me it's an instabuy! Can't wait!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YSYYB7PKCRIMLNBDJNUTEMWSAQ Steve

    OMG, why does this have to be a Telltale game...   I like to play games, not watch them

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/YXWW7GBVIUTV3F7KVEO5HISKNU Brandon B

    Brad, Roughly how long was the episode or at least how much were you exposed to?

    • bradnicholson

      Roughly two hours in length, I believe, which is fairly standard for Telltale's stuff. I wouldn't expect the other episodes to hit over this, either.

  • http://twitter.com/SquishedMitten Tyler Piderit

    Sounds like a good time. I'm always a little iffy on TellTale games. Still gonna play Jurassic Park despite its media heat, because Dinosaurs are awesome. Looking forward to this one.

  • Furtin

    I can not wait to play this on the iPad. Actually I am so intrigued by this game, that I almost bought it for my iMac. But then I'd love to play it on the iPad. Maybe I'm buying it now and then for the iPad again. Argh! When does it come out?!

  • http://twitter.com/Micahsa Micah Peterson

    Give me this now. Hopefully this will satiate my Walking Dead on AMC addicion

  • GamerChica

    I am pretty excited about this game

  • GiHub

    Giantbomb.com had a Quick Look of the game a couple of days ago. At first I didn't think much of this game as I'm not a big Telltale fan. But after the 20 minute video on giantbomb, I have to say this looks very good!

  • http://arnereport.net/ Arne

    The Walking Dead look like a great game. I watched some of UberHaxoNova's Videos about it and after that, I am pretty sure I will enjoy it playing myself for sure. However I wasn't a big fan of the graphic style of Borderlands and this looks similar, so let's see. 

    Thanks for the few lines about the game Brad. 

    • Guibsx

      I started watching the same youtube video but decided to stop. This is the kind of game that is more fun if you don't know what is coming up. If you keep watching these videos, it won't be worth it to play the game as the suspense and not knowing how the story unfold is part of the experience. I didn't want to risk spoiling it for me.

      • http://arnereport.net/ Arne

        Yeah, you are totally right. I just watched the first video to see if the game is something for me. Then I bought the game and played it myself to the current end. Watching the whole thing and then playing it would be kind of stupid.

  • metalcasket

    This was, by far, one of the best "experiences" I've had in a very, very long time and easily Telltale's best since Tales of Monkey Island. So gripping. I can't ****ing wait for the second episode to come out and one of the warmest feelings in the world is knowing that this won't be over until August. 🙂

  • Guibsx

    Wonder if the iOS port will have better performances than the other telltale games.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/LYHEHYWKVFTYWFIGFU7RIQD3GE daniel l

    I noticed a Hieroglyphics shirt. Someone must be a Bay Area hip hop fan!