Happy new year. I'd like to start the year by helping you avoid a mistake I made in 2012. But let's rewind one more year, first, ok?
In 2011 I had the good fortune of playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on a machine that wasn't the PlayStation 3. I played it on an Xbox 360, but I just as well could have played it on a PC and experienced the same benefit of avoiding the version of one of 2011's top games that made its players miserable.
Skyrim on PS3 was a mess. It was laggy. It crashed. It had problems in its launch month. Patches and updates still left it underperforming a month later, in December. In February, the game's lead creator was still having to explain just what in the world had gone so wrong. But by that time, many people had declared Skyrim Game of the Year for 2011 (it was a runner-up for us).
Some PS3 Skyrim players fumed.
How could a game that had a version that was that much of a mess take top honors? You could debate for some time whether a buggy version of a game that can be played smoothly on other platforms should disqualify a game from Game of the Year consideration.
We're not quite in the Skyrim PS3 situation again a year later, but I must warn you: if you're going to play Game of the Year contender/winner The Walking Dead and if you have a choice of what to play it on, avoid the iOS version.
For the past few weeks, I've been playing The Walking Dead, the much-loved five-part graphical adventure game about a band of people struggling to survive a zombie outbreak in south Georgia, on my iPhone. I could have been playing it on PC or Mac, on Xbox 360 or PS3. I could have been playing it on my iPad. But for maximum convenience (or so I thought), I downloaded it to my iPhone and committed to playing it there. That was sort of a mistake.
The game is good on my iPhone. The acclaimed story is gripping. Using finger-taps to choose dialogue options works fine. Whatever the best is that the game has to offer, the iPhone version of the game gave me that. That's why, when the game came to iOS, we gave it a thumbs up. Bring the best over of an exciting, impressive game, and we'll be plenty pleased.
The problem is that, after a longer time playing it, it's clear that the iPhone version of the game fails the prime use case of any portable game: it can't handle being interrupted. The game doesn't handle being started back up once it's been put to sleep and it winds up requiring its players to re-play as much as several minutes' worth of its adventure time after time.
As you play The Walking Dead the game will automatically save your progress. These auto-saves occur infrequently and typically only after scene changes or major decision moments. There's nothing weird about a game that doesn't let you manually save and makes you sweat it out to the next auto-save checkpoint. That's standard, if sometimes inappropriately archaic, game design. It's also, sadly, incompatible with how mobile games are played. You don't time your sessions on a mobile game to the length of time between save points. You time them to the amount of time it takes for your bus or subway to get to the next stop or until it's your turn at the supermarket checkout counter or in the doctor's office. When it's time to stop playing, you have to stop playing.
Any well-made mobile game can deal with these sudden pauses. The iPhone, like the 3DS or Vita, lets you put a game to sleep. Most well-made mobile games can be woken right back up so you can resume playing. Most well-made mobile games can even tolerate an iPhone user's need to take a phone call, snap a photo or use any other app, other than the game, before returning to the game.
Through auto-saves, build stability and who knows what else, most mobile games can be woken back up just fine. Not the Game of the Year contender The Walking Dead. It wakes up about as well as a cranky one-year-old. After interruption, it often will display the moment you last saw in the game, but then it will freeze, choke, kick back to the title screen and wipe out any progress you made since your last auto-save. Because of this, I've had to replay small chunks of the game two and three times.
My colleague Jason Schreier has had the same problem with the iPad version, aka the version I almost played this game on. But I'd say that an iPad arguably could be considered a device you do play on for fairly long sessions. I could accept a save system and inability to handle idle states well on a tablet. On a phone? That system is terrible.
The game also doesn't support cloud-saves, for some reason. Progress in the iPhone game can't be picked up on the iPad, which is another way The Walking Dead fails to meet the standards of average iOS games, let alone one of the supposed best of the bunch.
In the days to come we'll be talking about our Game of the Year contenders here at Kotaku. I imagine we'll be talking about The Walking Dead quite a bit. I know that I'll be able to talk about the game's best qualities, but I'll also know that I experienced the game at its worst. I played the Skyrim PS3 version of the game and am simply grateful I haven't run into many of the crash bugs listed by other players on iTunes (I only hit one game-killing bug, early in the game's second act; re-loading to the last checkpoint resolved it).
I don't recommend that you avoid The Walking Dead. You'd be missing out. But I do recommend that you avoid the iPhone version if you can. It's more hassle than an iPhone gamer should have to put up with.
News of an Activision-published Walking Dead FPS first shambled out over the summer, but all we've had so far is a few screenshots and art pieces to set the mood. This trailer give a first look at the gameplay in The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, which is being developed by Terminal Reality. Seems like some stealth and redirection tactics are going to be necessary amongst all the melee and shooting. What do you think, TWD fans? Does this clip make you want to play as one of the show's more controversial characters?
I didn't notice how fairly quiet a year it's been for zombies until doing this round-up of all the flesh-eaters this year's media has to offer, but there were definitely some highlights that more than fill those gaps. Some duds, too, but you can't expect such a watered down narrative to always go over so creatively.
So let's take a look back at 2012 and all the zombie media that it had to offer. From games to comics to TV shows to film, here are a few highlights. If we missed any you're keen on, share your noteworthy selections in Kinja below.
This is the star of the list. Telltale's wonderfully harrowing episodic series was a somber exploration through your personal judgments as the game threw increasingly difficult decisions your way. The point-and-click adventure game also featured some refreshingly interesting characters, including a remarkably enjoyable young Clementine and a steadfast Lee. Though definitely the mediocre platform of the bunch, the iOS version available was an alternative to non-console gaming users. Which is great, because the more people that play this touching eye-opener the better.
There were hits and misses embedded in this franchise's 2012 existence. Resident Evil 6, for instance, was incredibly underwhelming. As much as the game tried to make interesting changes to the series, it felt too outdone by other games. Resident Evil: Revelations was a surprise hit on the 3DS, combining a quality Resident Evil vibe with an episodic structure that suited the mobile game well. And then Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City ran somewhere in the middle at mediocre.
The mod so good it's getting its own standalone game, DayZ has had an incredibly good year. It's marked by hundreds of compelling player tales on survival and trust, and a bunch of funny videos, too. Truly an experience unlike any other MMO or zombie game.
Not only is ZombiU arguably the game that makes best use of the Wii U's GamePad capabilities so far in the early launch days of Nintendo's new console, but it's also a fascinating game. The shooter experiments with new concepts—like having to kill zombified versions of your previous lives—and includes an incredibly fun multiplayer mode, too.
But, wait! This is a first-person, war shooter! Well it also has a multiplayer option completely dedicated to zombies. And it's quite good, if not a little tough.
Zombro is a clever, bright puzzle game where you can dismember your zombie body to roll, bounce, and crawl your way around each level. It's a lot of fun.
Deploy survivors, give them tasks, and survive.
Here's an interesting take on the world of zombie games. Zombies, Run! is an exercise game. As you go for a run around your neighborhood, you'll be listening to the story and taking instructions from the game, picking up supplies while being chased by zombies.
I imagine viewers are split on this one, as video games adapted into movies are never great. But our movie reviewer, Matt Hawkins, thinks that there are enjoyable elements to the latest film. Like great action sequences and some actual nods to the game, albeit not always too accurately.
This stop-motion animated zombie flick is different than what you're used to. It leans to the comedy variety rather than a horror film. Protagonist Norman has to use his ability to speak with the dead to fend off against the living dead. It's an adorable entry in what is normally a gross and scary one.
Perhaps not the most unique of zombie movies, REC 3: Genesis is at the least packed with gore and ludicrous action. What else can you expect of a wedding gone awry at the hands of a disgusting and infectious illness?
AMC's The Walking Dead, based on the comic book series, started off strong. Though losing some of its viewer loyalty somewhere near the end of season one and a whole lot of boring farm episodes in season two, the show has since picked up the pace in recent months with season three where the group of survivors finally starts to make more moves. The highlight of which has to be Daryl, who is certainly my favorite character, and unique to the show.
Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead series is absolutely fantastic. Artist Charlie Adlard's powerful black-and-white imagery adds to the many, many tense moments in the series that has been ongoing since 2003. It follows a group of survivors as they meet their biggest threats head-on: other survivors. Think of the series as less about zombies and more about the world zombies have left in their wake.
From Evan: If you only know Robert Kirkman from The Walking Dead or his other creator-owned hits like Invincible, you may not know that he delivered a gleefully gross mash-up of superheroes and shambling undead a few years back. Marvel Zombies gave us versions of Captain America, Hulk, Spider-Man and others who devoured every human being on their home planet and went battling across the multiverse to hunt for more fresh meat. This year, a massive anthology collected all the MZ mini-series between two covers. It's good gory fun that makes the good guys very bad. Get it for the zombie lover in your life.
As promised, the strange saga of War Z just keeps getting stranger. Turns out this promo screen for zombie survival game, which was pulled from Steam earlier today, was plagiarized from The Walking Dead.
A Kotaku reader sent over the following image to show off just how much of this War Z title screen was plagiarized from other sources: (Click to expand.)
It looks like the top few photos are from fan zombie gatherings (assuming they're not from actual zombie invasions). We couldn't track down the bottom-left photo—I think it's from Shaun of the Dead?—but the bottom-middle one is straight out of The Walking Dead.
The bottom-right photo, which was mirrored for the leftmost female zombie in the War Z image, is also from The Walking Dead.
For a clearer comparison:
Will this story ever end? Stay tuned.
More shows need Christmas specials. The UK The Office and more recently, Downton Abbey both had some pretty outstanding specials; surely The Walking Dead could use one?
This video from Jawiin imagines just such a scenario. The jokes are hit or miss, but the impersonations are all pretty great. "I'VE GOT THE HAM."
Are you with me that this most recent half-season of TWD was the strongest the show has been? Or do you think it's been good all along? What other shows deserve weird Christmas specials? I'd watch a Breaking Bad Christmas special.
Chat about that or whatever else, here or over in the Talk Amongst Yourselves forum. See you tomorrow.
Telltale's The Walking Dead game might be getting the lion's share of press lately, but there's actually another very good Walking Dead game out there: The Walking Dead: Assault for iOS. No, really: it's good!
Walking Dead author Robert Kirkman has been having fun promoting the game, and has launched a new Twitter campaign called "Play the Walking Dead" in which he'll regularly issue new challenges for the game via Twitter through December 21 (You know, when the world ends). It's the kind of thing that could be cool, or could be obnoxious, depending—but still, cool to see the author of the series engaging with the game so directly.
Full details from the press release:
Beginning today, Skybound, publisher of The Walking Dead: Assault and Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead, Invincible, Thief of Thieves and Super Dinosaur, will host "the 10 days of the Apocalypse", a celebration of our forthcoming apocalypse as predicted by the Mayans.
To celebrate this pivotal event in human history, Robert Kirkman is hosting a "10 days of the Apocalypse" event, where every day at 11AM PST on his Twitter feed, @RobertKirkman, he will set a new daily challenge for players of The Walking Dead: Assault.
Winners of each challenge will be awarded prizes that will be kept secret until the challenge is made, however, know that some of these will be very special items you will not be able to find anywhere else.
So, sure, it's really just a stunt to promote The Walking Dead: Assault. But hey, the game is good, and this gives the welcome opportunity to beat the creator of The Walking Dead at his own game.