PC Gamer

Overkill's take on the Walking Dead has been formally confirmed for a 2016 release on PC by the studio's parent company Starbreeze.

The team behind Payday 2 is handling the comic book tie-in, and the co-operative first-person shooter will - quite obviously - take a fair few pointers from the creation (and success) of Payday 2. Just with more zombies, I'd guess.

Based on the comics, Overkill's version of the Walking Dead is also going to avoid the pitfalls of certain other tie-ins by running with its own set of characters and stories, with creator Robert Kirkman in tow to help out.

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When you think of Walking Dead videogames, odds are you think of Telltale's outstanding adventure series. But Overkill Software announced last year that it's getting in on the action too, with a cooperative FPS that will feature elements of action, stealth, survival horror, and role-playing. Speaking at a SXSW panel over the weekend, Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman said the experience will be much like Payday, but bigger, and won't slavishly follow the plot or characters of the television show.

"I can say that it will be Payday-esque because [Overkill and parent company Starbreeze] are currently doing Payday," Kirkman said, via Polygon. "But I'm told it will be in a bigger world than Payday currently encompasses. They are going to be learning a lot of stuff from Payday that they will be incorporating into The Walking Dead game."

Overkill hopes to avoid the pitfalls that trip up most licensed videogames by doing its own thing with the property, rather than trying to pander to the existing anbase. "The key I think, which is very important, is that we're not doing, 'Hey, it's Daryl Dixon running around shooting zombies, because you like Daryl Dixon.' Or, 'It's Rick Grimes doing this because you like Rick Grimes'," Kirman continued, possibly alluding to Activision's The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, which holds a deathly Metacritic rating of 38. "We're telling our own stories and doing our own things almost as if they are original games."

He also confirmed that, much like Payday, the Walking Dead game will feature online cooperative gameplay. "It will follow a similar approach. That's good news," he said. A release date hasn't been announced, but it's currently slated to be out sometime in 2016.

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Telltale Games has built a solid reputation adapting existing franchises into adventure games, but according to the studio's new CEO it has an "upcoming original IP" in the works. The news comes as part of an announcement earlier today that the company's president and co-founder, Kevin Bruner, is now CEO. He replaces Dan Connors, who will stay on as an executive advisor.

While corporate musical chairs is interesting to some people, the promise of an original Telltale game inspires hope, as does "unannounced partnerships". Could this mean our long-hoped-for Seinfeld game is happening? Probably not, to be honest.

Here's Bruner's full statement, via GamesIndustry.biz.

"We're thrilled to continue our growth and bring our unique style of scripted entertainment to the next generation of digital media, and do that across thousands of different devices. Our top priority is to continue fostering an environment where the most talented and creative storytellers in the industry are working side by side with the world's biggest creative partners. We're already working on some of the biggest franchises in entertainment, and when you add our unannounced partnerships and upcoming original IP, it's clear the most exciting time to be at Telltale is now, and there will continue to be more and more opportunity to innovate ahead of us."

Following its success with The Walking Dead, Telltale has embarked on serialised adventure games based on The Wolf Among UsBorderlands and Game of Thrones. Here's what we think they should do next.

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Firewatch


Firewatch was announced by Campo Santo earlier this year, but the details were left unknown until we got our first look during PAX 2014. During today s panel in Seattle, the development team talked about their goals for the game and played it live for the first time. Firewatch, it turns out, is a mystery story set in the 1980s Wyoming wilderness.



Firewatch s main character is a chubby man named Henry. His life hits a rough patch, so Henry decides to get away from everything and everyone by taking a job as a lookout in a fire tower. Completely alone except for a walkie talkie connection to his supervisor, Delilah, Henry is surrounded by a hundred miles of forest to watch, some books to read, and a typewriter.

On his first day of work, Henry responds to a routine call: some drunk idiots are shooting off fireworks in the middle of the summer-scorched forest. During the live gameplay demo, we got a look at the game s storytelling mechanics, which have a lot in common with Telltale s The Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us series: a few dialog options vary in terms of humor, harshness, and earnestness, and letting the timer run out and the radio fall silent is always an option. Henry hikes out to confront the drunk campers at the urging of Delilah. Henry finds empty beer cans and bottle rockets, and the player chooses whether and how to talk about these things with Delilah.



On returning to the watchtower, Henry discovers that his new home has been broken into and all of his things have been ransacked, which kicks off the mystery: How alone is Henry, really? Who else might be out here? Are there more dangerous things in the woods than bears and forest fires?

Even though Firewatch is set in an open forest that can be explored in any direction, Campo Santo was clear that it will not be a traditional open-world setting. This is not an open-world game in the vein of Skyrim, developer Chris Remo said during the Q&A session. This is a narrative game, and we want players to experience this narrative in a certain way, but with a degree of freedom. You can go wherever you want and you won t find invisible walls, in other words, but you will find empty forest until its time for the mystery to unfold naturally. Co-founder of Campo Santo, Jake Rodkin, elaborated: I think Sean framing it as a mystery is a good way to do it. At a certain point you re not going to be able to advance in the story until you ve found a key piece of information, but we want to give you the freedom to be wrong, to make mistakes, he said.

A huge part of the story will be your interaction with Delila: how you respond, when you respond, pausing before responding, talking too much, and talking about nothing will all change the way she views you and interacts with you, especially as tensions start to mount.



Henry will be an unarmed protagonist exploring a wilderness mystery, a synopsis more at home to modern literature than modern gaming. A firewatcher s safety, of course, comes from their tower, not from guns. When that sanctuary is violated, Henry realizes that he is completely unarmed and alone, and someone nearby doesn t have his best interests at heart. It looks like it could shake out to be a tense, dark mystery told in an exciting new way.

Campo Santo is aiming for a 2015 release for Firewatch. Look to the team s development blog for more details. You can check out all of our PAX 2014 coverage here.
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walkingdead-s2e5-2


Warning: there are unmarked spoilers for all of Season 2 of The Walking Dead, including episode 5, below. Going forward, PC Gamer will review episodic games like TV episodes: critiquing and discussing the story of each episode as the season progresses, before assigning a score at the end of the season (season 2 review coming soon). Read more about how we review games in the PC Gamer reviews policy.

I cheated in episode five of The Walking Dead Season 2. Not with a code or a hack that lets Clementine and all of her friends live happily ever after. But I did cheat, or do something that feels like cheating, to me: after finishing episode five, I went back to two moments and did things differently. I sacrificed the purity of the story, the agony of making blind decisions, to see if things would play out differently. I didn t expect the story to change so dramatically, or that replaying those decisions would completely change how I felt about the episode, but it did.

Until this episode of The Walking Dead, I was convinced that Telltale s narrative power came from the illusion of choice. If you ve ever replayed any of the Walking Dead s dramatic decisions, you know what I mean. In most cases, different dialogue choices lead to the same reactions. Saving one survivor over another may affect the short term, but every path, be it bloody or guilty or stoic, intersects eventually. But the story works, because unless you replay those moments, you never know for sure. Maybe I could ve saved Kenny from a beating. Maybe Luke didn t have to die.

But replaying those moments robs them of their power, right? That s what I ve always thought, which is why I rarely replay sections of Telltale s games. I would be robbing myself of the impact of a death or emotional confrontation. It feels like cheating in the same way that save-scumming a game with permadeath feels like cheating.



Season 2 s finale No Going Back left me with a different feeling. The climax left me so dissatisfied and more importantly, seemed to so dramatically affect the outcome of the story that I decided to retread my decisions. The first time, I played Clementine logically, making the choices that seemed smart, necessary for survival. The second time I played from the heart, and I got a radically different ending. This was not the illusion of choice. This was real.

The first half of the episode is an exercise in inevitability. The overall story arc plays out predictably, following the same framework of a TV drama finale. The characters drag on towards an unhappy ending; Clem, Luke, Kenny, Becky, Mike and Jane have a brief moment of happiness around a campfire before tragedy whittles down their numbers. Clem, like any good protagonist, is injured, but soldiers on. Jane and Kenny, the ultimate survivors, see their character arcs come to a head. The episode is actually more about Kenny than it is about Clementine; it not-so-subtly builds towards the realization that Kenny is a monster, sadness and loss twisting his insides until only rage comes out. Jane, meanwhile, is desperate to be the big sister to Clementine she couldn t be to her real sister.

The first hour was so predictable I mostly felt bored, like both I and the game were going through the motions. Of course Kenny was going to angrily yell at everyone and be overly protective of Rebecca s baby. That was all foreshadowed last episode. Of course the group s moment of happiness is just a lull between bad times and worse. Even the final showdown was predictable, but my appreciation for it flipped completely when I replayed my choices.



In the climax, Clementine has to choose who to trust: the sane-but-cynical Jane, or the unhinged-but-fiercely-loyal Kenny? I just couldn t bring myself to trust Kenny after two full episodes of him yelling, beating people, and insisting he get his way. I shot him, but his death felt empty. Wasted. Jane forced the fight, and helping her fulfills her character arc. But it also cheats Kenny of a natural conclusion to his. Would he have become a monster on his own, without Jane intentionally pushing him over the edge?

Replaying the ending answered that question, and the answer is no. If Kenny lives, his ending is amazing. Cathartic, tragic, and whole. He completely recognizes what he s become but keeps fighting against it to be better, and his sacrifice at the end, based on another Clementine choice, gives meaning to all his struggles. It s not exactly a happy ending, but it s a powerful one.

Playing the endings in the order I did actually made Kenny s ending more moving; it felt like I d discovered the real ending the second time around, the one that offered the greatest sense of closure. It also impressed upon me how many branching paths Telltale has to establish, and then wrangle together, over the course of an episodic season. And I was surprised by how much more I cared about the ending when I knew I had controlled how it played out. That behind-the-scenes knowledge enhanced, rather than sabotaged, my experience of the story.

I suspect that I got to make those choices because season two s ending won t lead directly into season three. In fact, each one seemed like a fitting open-ended sendoff to Clementine s story. She becomes a fearless loner, or a finds peace in a new society, or strikes out to survive with a reformed Kenny or trustworthy Jane by her side. Perhaps this is it for Clementine. If so, she could ve had a better final episode like much of season two, episode five barely offered opportunities to talk to characters during downtime or explore but those endings will stick with me.

In my mind, Kenny s still out there somewhere, mending the pieces of himself that broke along the way. I d be happy if season three let me keep that image and moved on to something new.
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Walking Dead


I'm about to put a lot of trust in Telltale Games. You see, normally it's good form to watch the game trailer that you're posting to a major gaming website. But this one, for Episode 5 of The Walking Dead: Season 2, contains "major" spoilers for the preceding parts. And while yes, I should really have played those episodes by now, there are 125 other games in my "to play" list. Geeze, people, cut me some slack.

I apologise in advance it this is just five minutes and thirty-six seconds of wall-to-wall dongs.



The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 5 "No Going Back" will be released next Tuesday, August 26.
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The Walking Dead


PayDay 2 studio Overkill has revealed a few morsels of information regarding its forthcoming take on The Walking Dead series. During a Reddit AMA, producer Almir Listo addressed some questions regarding the project, which will be the third The Walking Dead video game adaptation in as many years, joining Telltale's serialised adventure drama and Activision's FPS stinker.

On the topic of what it will be, Listo confirmed what many of us have suspected: it's built on the foundation established by the PayDay series.

"Here's our elevator pitch to you," Listo wrote, "Overkill s The Walking Dead is a co-op first person shooter with elements of action, role-playing, survival horror and stealth, that invites players to explore the hugely popular The Walking Dead universe, where they will play the role of survivors fending for themselves in a post-apocalyptic world dominated by flesh-eating walkers.

"In 2016 Washington will fall - what will you do?"

As for the setting of The Walking Dead, Listo confirms that the game will be set in the same universe as the comics, but will feature brand new characters. "We're working with Robert himself. Seeing as he writes the comics, it's only natural that we'll focus on that. Personally, I love the focus on horror in the comics. We'll focus on new characters and new storylines, same universe."

Listo also addressed the topic of Storm, a co-op science fiction first-person shooter previously described as "PayDay in space". Is it still happening? Will development on The Walking Dead affect its progress?

"Storm is still on our road map," he replied. "More information will come when it's available."

 
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The Walking Dead


There wasn't really too much doubt about this, but it's nice to get confirmation anyway: Telltale's The Walking Dead series will be getting a third season, as announced at Comic-Con (and on Twitter). No details yet, but I don't think it's way out of line to expect zombies, quick-time events, and for Clem to be replaced as protagonist by Bob from the increasingly rubbish TV series. Well, OK, probably not that last one.

The Walking Dead creator and writer Robert Kirkman, and Telltale president Kevin Bruner confirmed the third season at Comic-Con, though they didn't provide any additional details. Will it star Clementine? I guess that depends on how season 2 plays out, which is currently awaiting its fifth and final episode. You'll find our review of the penultimate episode here.
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walkingdead-s2e4-teaser


Warning: there are unmarked spoilers for all of Season 2 of The Walking Dead below. Going forward, PC Gamer will review episodic games like TV episodes: critiquing and discussing the story of each episode as the season progresses, before assigning a score at the end of the season. Read more about how we review games in the PC Gamer reviews policy.

"I've seen you take care of yourself more than any three adults put together," a bitter Kenny says to Clementine in The Walking Dead Season 2's fourth episode Amid the Ruins. I've tried to convince Kenny that I need him--that the group needs him to survive after escaping, battered and exhausted, from Carver's compound. He's not buying it. And he shouldn't.

In my review of The Walking Dead's last episode, I wrote that Clementine seems more capable than most of the adults she travels with, far more capable than an 11-year-old should be. Episode three delivered some of the series' most dramatic moments by sacrificing some of Clementine's believability and what little freedom of exploration The Walking Dead has had. Episode four continues down that path, charting a straight course toward the end of the season by minimizing player control even further. Telltale clearly has a specific story to tell, and episode four tells it well it's just not very interesting to play.

Episode four of The Walking Dead finds Clementine's group scattered and barely surviving after the attack on Carver's hardware store. Most of the characters introduced in episodes one and two are dead, and the survivors soon have a new crisis to deal with: Rebecca's impending childbirth. Most of the episode revolves around pulling the group back together and finding supplies to help Rebecca give birth. Even moreso than in episode three, it's up to Clementine to do most of the work.



Episode four drops any pretense of having Clementine act coy or slyly maneuver her way through adult conversations. She's the driving force of the episode, heavily influencing decisions and physically saving other survivors when they're in trouble. In one of the episode's only scenes that lets you walk around and explore, she has to find supplies in an area that other survivors have already been searching for at least an hour. They're apparently very bad at scavenging.

Other than about five minutes of walking around and exploring, episode four is all dialogue and cutscenes and QTEs. While playing the previous episode, I was sometimes frustrated that Clementine seemed so capable while Telltale gave me so little control as a player. The episode made up for that with dramatic, unexpected story moments. Episode four, by contrast, mostly seems like it's on autopilot. Other than the brutality of its opening scene, none of the story beats are surprising or lead to particularly difficult decisions.

The most interesting dynamic of Amid the Ruins is the relationship between Clementine and Jane, a tough lone wolf who recognizes Clementine's own survival skills. I was hoping that the game would give Clementine the option to abandon the rest of her group and strike out with Jane. Unfortunately, after a few exchanges of dialogue and Jane teaching Clementine a few tricks to survive on her own--Jane starts spilling her backstory, which turns out to overtly parallel the events that take place in Amid the Ruins. It's a technique that gives weight to some of her actions throughout the episode, but you can also see it coming from a mile away. It's too convenient to be particularly effective.

I found it hard to be too invested in Amid the Ruins when its most dramatic moral choices centered around Sarah, who's been nothing but dead weight both as a character, and to the group the whole season. Telltale delivered two exhaustingly intense episodes in a row, and episode four seemed more like filler, moving the plot forward into what will be a bloody, painful finale.



Despite few opportunities to shape Clementine's character in episode four, I think this season of The Walking Dead will end strong. I may not find Clem's survival skills believable, but I still care about her and want to see where her story goes. I have a feeling that if she lives to see a season three, she'll be the Mad Max of the Walking Dead universe, more road-weary and scrappy than Lee ever was.

Verdict: A weaker episode than the two preceding it that fails to offer interesting character exploration or heartwrenching decisions.
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