THE WALKING DEAD Knife to the eye!

THERE ARE many reasons for me to recommend Telltale Games' The Walking Dead to fans of the series: It looks like the comic, it plays great, the oppressive sound work is spot-on, and most crucially, the developers have nailed the grim tone of Robert Kirkman's original comic, to an even greater extent than the creators of the AMC TV series.

Fans of the comic will tell you that The Walking Dead is not about action or killing zombies. At its core, the series is about human beings dealing with unimaginable horror and the tough decisions people will make to survive. Telltale has fully embraced this concept, with a game focused on character interaction, punctuated by morally difficult decisions and brief moments of terrifying violence. Though you'll have to kill a few shambling corpses, the true strength of the game is found in dealing with frightened people. Do you hand the infected girl a gun so she can kill herself, or do you take her with you, hoping to find a cure that almost definitely doesn't exist? By making these kinds of dilemmas the cornerstone of its game, Telltale has found a way to elegantly walk the line between rampant horror and emotionally gripping melodrama—which, as viewers of the TV series will attest, is not an easy task.

Similarly impressive is the subtle character work. Fans will see a few familiar faces from the comics, but for the most part, the characters in this game are all new, yet just as complex and fleshed out as anything the series has seen. How often is a game's protagonist a wanted killer tasked with caring for a little girl?

Admittedly, with only one installment of the episodic game available so far, it's entirely possible that Telltale might drop the ball—but if the first episode is any indication, The Walking Dead game will be the best exploration of this horrific universe outside of the original comics themselves.