I’ll be the first to admit I was a little surprised to see the announcement of The Escapists: The Walking Dead. Being solid franchises on their own, the two seemed like an unlikely pairing. Yet after spending a little bit of time with the game they actually paired in quite a unique way, making for an enjoyable new take on Rick Grimes and his band of survivors.

The game takes its narrative from the original Walking Dead comics by Robert Kirkman, putting us in the shoes of Rick Grimes. The beginning level of the game–a tutorial of sorts–takes place in the memorial hospital, an iconic scene for both fans of the show and the comics.TheEscapistsTWD_HarrisonMemorial_2_08-07-2015Before he awakes, however, 8-bit style comic panels give you an introduction to the story, something new to the Escapists formula. After waking up the game then teaches you the basics of scavenging, crafting, and combat, which feel at home in this new setting despite the near identical systems to the original.

From the get-go you begin by learning to craft one of the signature weapons from the prison break predecessor, a sock mace (a bar of soap plus an old sock), allowing you some basic protection should a walker or two give you trouble. Lifting and moving furniture, looting to craft items like cutters to get into vent systems, and exploring the area to gear up are all key aspects to the title, with a big new addition in the form of guns.

I only got my hands on one gun in the preview, that being a handgun that allowed me to clear out the lingering zombies outside of the decrepit hospital. Aiming with the controller was smooth, with the reticule locking on to finish off targets. While the first shot didn’t send zombies rushing towards me, it took two shots to fell the one I’d hit, attempting to kill me in turn. While I’m not sure how all this will work in levels with more zombies and different weapons, it seemed to work out well here. I’m glad that in this case they didn’t try to turn it into an arcade styled twitch shooter, retaining the slower pace that rewards planning through trial and error.
TheEscapistsTWD_HarrisonMemorial_1_08-07-2015The game has a very retro feeling soundtrack with eerie and tension building 8-bit audio playing as you explore and fight. It lends itself well to the visuals which I actually quite liked, with green zombie sprites chasing you down wherever you move. It’s quite a nice look that worked for the original and works well again here, expanding the audience of The Walking Dead series with a more simplistic and less graphic take on the comic universe.

The Escapists: The Walking Dead feels like a great collaboration already, combining solid gameplay and design with a unique perspective to get new and returning fans excited. The story aspect is especially welcome, giving additional direction to the title that may have put some people off at first in the original Escapists. With plenty left to see and explore, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what levels and characters come into play when the game launches.

The Escapists: The Walking Dead is scheduled for release in late 2015 and will be coming to PC and Xbox One.

This preview was conducted on an Xbox One build of The Escapists: The Walking Dead at Surprise Attack HQ.