Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The Long Walk

Genre: Real Time Strategy/Third Person Shooter
Format: PS3, Xbox 360, PC 
PEGI: 18
Publisher: A&E


Stephen King's cult 1979 novel (written under the pseudonym, Richard Bachman) is brought to vivid life in this new release by A&E. 

The designers have taken a huge gamble and place you in the role of "The Major" (the shady antagonist of the novel) rather than the walkers. This switch was probably essential as a 400 mile version of Daley Thompson's Decathlon would be hell on both fingers and controllers!

As 'The Major', you oversee the 'walk' and organise everything from monitoring 'warnings', distribution of food/water canteens and certain aspects of crowd control. You have a small team of soldiers and half-tracks at your disposal, which you must place in positions around the walkers where they will be able to monitor the contestants speed and ensure that none of them try to make a break for it into the woods or crowds of spectators (the crowds start non-existent and develop into massive, troublesome, throngs in later stages).

Trouble on the 'Road'
When a walker exceeds their 3 warnings and needs to be 'ticketed' (an in-game euphemism for brutal death) the interface switches to 'third person shooter' mode. In order to attain maximum points you must despatch the poor lad in as short a time as possible and remove the body before the 'morale' level of other walkers dips excessively and they feel inclined to make a break for it en masseThis horrific mode of play also kicks in when a member of the crowd (this includes children and, on one occasion that we saw, a dog) tries to interfere with the walk. It's a controversial part of the game (in a "Manhunt" sort of way) and, although it feels morally wrong, it is incredibly well presented - blood and brains fly everywhere - and it does fit with the tone of the novel.

The voice acting of the walkers, which can be 'tuned in' using your soldier's high-tech listening devices, follows the dialogue of the novel very closely and is provided by the likes of Tom Hanks (Garraty), Paul Sorvino (McVries) and Kevin Spacey (Stebbins) amongst other famous names. This all adds to the realism and user  involvement in the game.

The only let down for us at VT is the rather muddled interface in which all of this macabre fun is brought together. Controlling the soldiers is not as easy as we would like and the AI of the walkers is sometimes lacking.

VT Rating: 7/10