Previews

A darker kind of Walking Dead: crossbows, scavenging and dealing with Merle Dixon

Can Terminal Reality's shooter stand up to Telltale's adventurous triumph?

One of the best things about Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead universe is how much room it offers for different kinds of stories. Drama's a constant, with character conflict playing a huge role in the comic book, the TV show, and Telltale's episodic XBLA adventure game. At the same time, though, this is a zombie apocalypse, and death is a way of life. No one epitomises that notion better than Daryl Dixon, the laconic redneck whose hunting prowess makes him the perfect ghoul-slayer.

It also makes him the perfect protagonist for Terminal Reality's new Walking Dead game, a first-person shooter that, unlike Telltale's series, will focus on this world's action side. The game will be a prequel based in the canon of the TV show, showing the journey that protagonist Daryl and his brother Merle took to Atlanta before they met up with the rest of the survivors in the first series.

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As you'd guess, those weren't safe travels, and the developer is crafting an odyssey where "death lurks around every corner and in every shadow", in the words of creative lead Angel Gonzalez. "Walkers are everywhere, and you don't know where and when one may attack or how many others are around." As in the TV show, zombies are "slow-moving, relentless killing machines... and if you're unlucky enough to attract a herd, run. Run or you're dead."

In the face of a zombie mob, you'll be best off employing stealth - staying far enough from Walkers that they don't detect you, sneaking by them if they're eating a corpse or are otherwise distracted, and being sure you don't stay in one place too long. The game won't have an on-screen representation of smell or sound - the dev wants to minimise the HUD - but major actions like firing a gun will attract zombies.

Against a few shamblers, though, you'll turn into the deadly Daryl fans of the series love, using blunt instruments, various guns, and his trademark crossbow to snuff the undead for good. Weapons and supplies (gas, food) will need replenishing, which means making choices about where and when to scavenge (is it safe inside that abandoned store?). You'll also have to decide whether to add more people to your group. Doing so gives you more hands to collect gear, but it also means more mouths to feed.

Your most significant interactions, though, will almost certainly be with Merle. He won't be a co-op sidekick, but he will be "an integral part of the story we're telling," says Gonzalez, "and you'll see how their relationship plays out over the course of their journey."

Given that Merle is a tough, drug-abusing white supremacist who the show's heroes had to chain to a pipe to keep him from pummelling another party member (he escaped by hacking off his own hand, though he'll return in season three), your conversations should be interesting. Daryl's evolution over the course of the series has shown he has a heart; but we're not certain Merle does, and it's almost guaranteed the pair will have a moral struggle at some point in the game. Hopefully, we'll also gain more insight into the rough childhood alluded to in the show.

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Playing as a unique antihero like Daryl should be compelling, and we like the thought of exploring a zombie-ruined world as a predator for a change. If Terminal Reality can nail both the FPS mechanics and the complexities of these well-known characters, this vision of The Walking Dead will be a fascinating addition to the universe.

By Corey Cohen

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