In the opening moments of The Walking Dead Episode 2 — Starved for Help, series protagonist Lee Everett hunts for food in the woods when he encounters a high school teacher whose foot is caught in a bear trap. The man’s agonized screams have attracted the attention of hungry zombies. Two students beg Lee to help. Fellow survivors Kenny and Mark (a new character) urge him to flee. Should Lee try to save the man or leave him to his grisly fate?
The choice matters; that’s what developer Telltale Games preached this week as it showed off the first 20 minutes of Episode 2 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, Calif.
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As the walkers draw closer and closer and the tension escalates, the Telltale representative guiding us through the demo tries to pry open the trap, but this only causes the teacher more pain. He attempts to break the trap’s chain with Lee’s axe. This fails as well. With time quickly running out, the rep hovers the game’s cursor over the teacher’s leg, and I detect a hint of glee as he clicks the A button.
Every journalist in the room groans and laughs in shock, disgust, and maybe a little sympathy as the axe connects with a sickening, meaty “THUNK!” It takes about four swings to sever the teacher’s leg completely. It’s an absolutely brutal scene, one that plays out much differently if the player chooses to run away instead.
While many decisions are made in the heat of the moment, Telltale says Episode 2 starts to dive into deeper, more complex situations as well. Three months after the events of Episode 1 — A New Day, Lee and the other survivors hole up at an abandoned motel. They’re almost out of food. Fisherman Kenny is thinking of leaving with his family to head for the coast. De facto leader Lilly is mad at Lee for bringing her more mouths to feed, while everyone else resents Lilly because she’s in charge of rationing their meager supplies. Frustrated, Lilly hands Lee the last four pieces of food, forcing him (and the player) to decide who does and doesn’t eat.
Each survivor’s opinion of Lee will change based on his actions in this sequence, which could affect the storyline in unknown ways later on. If Lee hands out food to people he’s built friendships with, some will accuse him of playing favorites, while others will confront him if they’re left out. It’s through these relationship-building choices that Telltale plans to shape the story in a way that’s uniquely tailored for each individual player.
Episode 2 does not have a specific release date yet, but Telltale hopes to have it out by the end of this month, saying, “We hear you, we know you’re hungry for it, and we can’t wait to feed it to you (wink, wink).”