on Dec 1, 2012
Late in this episode we compare The Walking Dead to Dead Island. Here’s my review of the latter, if you’re curious. Here is the original Dead Island trailer, which caused such a fuss and led to unrealistic expectations for the game.
That game is pretty much my poster child for soulless AAA game development. Uncanny valley photorealism. Big-budget production values. Tacked-on leveling mechanics that actually detract from the core experience. Horrible kinesthetics. Loads of bugs. Lame-ass quests. Dissonant storytelling that can’t seem to present a coherent tone, theme, or plot. Jarring cutscenes that don’t mesh with the world. Completely unbalanced mechanics where one class is objectively better than another and all classes are rendered pointless by the kick action. Cringe-inducing pop-culture references. Shockingly awful character designs. Huge marketing push that was almost completely at odds with the game itself. A late entry into an oversaturated genre.
Millions of dollars were spent to produce and sell a game that just wasn’t worth playing. It would be like spending half a million bucks to make a solid gold Prius, and then not bothering to make sure the engine works. It’s heartbreaking to see so much money and hard work poured into producing such an unworthy product.
It’s amazing when you compare that game to The Walking Dead. Now, TWD isn’t perfect. We’ll get more into the flaws later. But it’s new* and smart and even when the game failed, it failed taking risks and not blindly copying what was already popular.
* The fact that Heavy Rain did this sort of thing a few years ago doesn’t stop this game from being new. Remember we’re comparing it to other videogame genres that go back years, built on gameplay conventions that go back decades.
Since we’re enumerating the zombie games is the current “zombie craze”, which I guess is the last ~8 years or so:
- Left 4 Dead
- Dead Island
- Dead Rising
- The Walking Dead
- Resident Evil
- Killing Floor
- Zombie Driver
- Atom Zombie Smasher
- Does Plants vs. Zombies count?
Obviously this list leaves out the many, many games with zombie sections, mods, or add-ons. If we wanted to list all of those we could be here all day. (Doom 3, Day Z, Saints Row The Third, etc etc etc.)
For the last couple of years, people have been saying that the zombie genre is “played out”, and as recently as 5 paragraphs ago I was calling it “oversaturated”. Not [just] the gameplay, but zombies as antagonists. But is it really more played out than (say) space marines, modern military, or GTA style gritty crime adventure? Actually, screw zombies and Space Marines. You could add those together, throw in Ninjas and pirates, and still wind up with less games than medieval fantasy. Why do wizards and kings get such a free pass?
Oh see, our setting is different because our elves are jerks and our Orcs are called something else.
I seem to have gotten lost while making a point. What were we talking about? Oh right, The Walking Dead. Yeah. So… I like Clementine. So there.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.