I've played recently a game I have tried to avoid for a long time. Everything I knew was that it was an adventure game, and that it was about zombies. Pretty much hating those two things, I evaded it for as long as I could, until my friend nearly forced it into me. And by God, it's astonishing.
For those who havent played - this is indeed a kind of adventure game with zombie plot, based on a comic book of the same name. You guide your character, Lee, through a series of events during a zombie invasion. The game puts a little attention to the zombies themselves, rather making it a background for great character developement and relationships - and having to make difficult choices based on them.
To make it clear - it was the first time I actually felt any connection, any bond with a video game character. Not only with Lee, your main protagonist, who thanks to hundreds of choices that need to be made becomes a kind of your soul mirror, but with Clementime - a girl you babysit during the whole game. If you think a computer generated girl playing a major role in the game is not going to have any influence at you - just play it, I wouldn't believe it myself. And not only her - every character you meet is another tough choice to make, lines of dialogue to listen to, another thought to have.
Another thing important is the fact you have no "right choices" here. Where you see yourself in a situation where you ave to choose to save either a woman or a man (and you built some relationship with both before), you don't get 100 points for the right choice - there is none. You simply keep the story going, experiancing the possible drawbacks of your choice later - but somehow this game rather prevents you from loading the previous checkpoint to change your choice. It kinda tells you "it's your choice, keep it, you have no reason to regret it".
And to sum up - the thing that shocked me the most is the fact... this thing barely resembles an actual game. I played a few adventure games before - none grasped me tho - and they were swarmed with puzzle games, clue finding, minigames, stuff like that. This game doesn't make you play it - it makes you write itself. It's like a TV series you are writing and experiancing at the same time. I'll tell you something - there are moments in the game where you do NOTHING but press the 'w' key to move ahead, usually in pretty bad enviroment (there are zombies here, just reminding). If you stop pressing it, nothing bad happens, you just don't move. This sounds like a terrible idea at first - why don't just make it a cutscene? Tell you what - even those little 'w' scenes make you feel "in character" more than most recent games. I don't know how they did it, but it works.
So, a question: do you thing a kind of revolution is coming? This 'game' is nothing players experianced since CDI or Sega CD "Interactive movies", and we all know how much that sucked. Is it a sign that this idea was just terribly handled, and it can come back with such amazing games as "The Walking Dead"? Or is it a one time thing that was surely very good indeed, but the players will forget it soon enough, and the idea wont catch up?