Walking Dead Episode 2: Starved for Help E3 2012 preview
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2012-06-20 Xbox 360 Adventure M (Mature) Telltale Games

One of the first games that really impressed me at this year's E3 was Telltale's The Walking Dead Episode 2. I had a chance to watch the first 20 minutes of this second episode, which I'll relay here. Obviously, this will be one of, if not the most spoiler-filled things I've ever written, so I'll warn you now: DO NOT CONTINUE UNLESS YOU WANT DETAILS FROM EPISODE 2 REVEALED TO YOU!

The episode begins with Lee and a new character Mark searching for food in the woods, Lee's trusty axe in hand. They find a rabbit being eaten by a zombie ("walker") and make a note of that being another meal lost. They look tired, dirty and fairly helpless. It's revealed to us that it's been three months since the beginning of the 'plague' and the events of Episode 1, and that food is incredibly scarce. This new fella Mark was allowed to join the group because he had a food supply, but everyone's shocked how quickly it ran out. Lee and Mark have a conversation about Larry, and you're allowed to give your opinion on Larry. Is he a racist? Does he simply think Lee is dangerous? Or, is he just a concerned father looking out for his daughter? Whatever you choose, Mark will remember it and mention it later on, in front of Larry. For the sake of argument, the developer chose to say that Larry was a racist.

While walking, they hear a male scream. Thinking it's Kenny, they run in the direction of the noise only to meet up with Kenny at the site of an elderly fellow with his ankle caught in a bear trap. He's accompanied by two teenage boys, and we learn that the man is a teacher, trying to find shelter with his students. In this comes the first major action sequence, as his screaming is causing zombies to appear from the edges of the woods. You can either abandon the man to his fate or can use your axe to literally chop his foot off and help him escape. You'll also have the ability to wait too long, but as this option wasn't shown to us, Im not sure if youd just run away from the man or would watch him bleed to death, etc.

If you choose to chop the man's leg off, which was shown in the demo, one of the students will apparently die in the resulting "escape-from-the-woods" attempt. It's not clear whether this is destined to happen regardless of your choice. As you bring the now two surviving people back to your camp at the motel, Larry and his daughter freak out about you bringing back more mouths to feed. In this case, Lee states that they couldn't just leave him there to die. The resulting argument sees Lily confronting Lee about her self-assigned role as leader of the group. She states that if Lee is going to haphazardly bring in more mouths to feed, than he should be the one rationing out the remaining scraps of food, rather than her. There are nine people to feed here, and youre given four pieces of food to dole out as you see fit. Were told by the dev that Lilly had a standardized system for who receives food and when, so if you go against this, prepare for some backlash.

In this particular playthrough, the first episode had been played with Lee constantly being mean to Lily and Larry, constantly being nice to Kenny and family and choosing to save Doug over Carley. Thus, he chooses to give food to Clementine, Duck, Kenny and Mark (you do have an option to keep the fourth piece for yourself, after feeding three others). Doug was on the food list for the day, so he's incredibly frustrated with Lee that he skipped him, and Lily gets mad at Lee for choosing favorites. During this time, Mark and Larry have been building a fence, and the previous conversation in the woods is mentioned. Larry says something snotty to Lee, and Mark brings up Lee's choice of saying that Larry was a racist. Of course, Larry doesn't take too kindly to this, and we're now left with another choice. They need Lee's axe to break down some wood to continue building the fence. If you don't give it to them, the fence remains weak and zombies will be more likely to enter. If you give it to Mark, a weakling, it will take longer to construct. Give it to Larry, and you risk him using it to harm Lee for his lies and his general hatred of your character.

We're reaching the end of the demo now, as Lee sees Doug creating a makeshift alarm system for the compound out of debris he's found. Tripwires and other items are placed in the forest so that the survivors will know when zombies are coming. While this wasn't presented during the demo, I took a moment to ask what would have happened if Carley had been your choice here. Obviously, the alarm system wouldn't have been built, but you'd also have a sharpshooter that could shoot any zombies attempting to enter the compound. The resulting effect then is on how much warning the characters will have before being attacked, if and when that comes into play. You can also speak with Clementine during this downtime. She's lost her hat, and you can make a choice to help her find it or tell her it's not a big deal. Lee tells her he'll help her, but that apparently comes after the demo ended, as we didn't actually see where the hat was or how to find it.

The final moments of this demo see the teacher dying from his wounds, even though Kenny's wife had tried to save him. He had apparently lost too much blood, but since he hadn't been bitten, the situation should have ended, right? Not so, as the man turns a few seconds later, and attempts to kill both Kenny's wife and Lee. You'll need to get your axe back from Larry / Mark and use it to kill the teacher-turned-zombie. Of course, the survivors are confused as to why he turned when he didn't appear to be bitten. The remaining student chimes in and says that it's not a bite that makes you turn. Instead, the simple act of dying (without destruction of the brain) will result in you turning into a zombie regardless. After that plot twist, the demo ends and we're left waiting until the end of June to see what happens next. Remember, all of this took place within 20-25 minutes, including the time the developer took to stop every now and again and explain his previous choices.

After the demo, I had a nice chat with the developers about the choices between Carley and Doug, and even Shawn and Duck in the first Episode. We spoke about Clementine and her growth throughout the series. Apparently, when all of the episodes are said and done, Clementine will be confronted with Lee's true history and will use everything she's witnessed (whether the game makes a note of it or not, Clementine is constantly watching Lee) to determine her final opinion of the man. Obviously, I'm incredibly interested in the series (as these 1,200 words prove), and I'll make sure to play and review the second installment (this time without so many spoilers) as soon as I have a chance.