The Walking Dead: Episode 4

Oct 23 '12

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The Walking Dead: Episode 4

SPOILER WARNING – THIS REVIEW WILL BE FRAUGHT WITH SPOILERS! YES, FRAUGHT!

“Around Every Corner”

I’d considered waiting until Episode 5 is released before writing a review of this game. That way, I could talk about the entire experience in one review. However I can’t wait that long to give my thoughts on this game.

To start with, let me say that up until recently, I have been a very big TWD fan. I started reading the comic a little late, at around issue number 75. I read through the archives of those first 75 issues in 5 days and during that time, I could not wait to turn another page.

75 to 100 however brought about mixed feelings in both myself and Vince, as can be heard during various Comic Book Informer podcast episodes. Some issues, such as the now famous eye-shot, were so jarring, they caused a visceral reaction while reading them. However during those 25 issues, there were also a lot of, well, I’ll just go ahead and say it, boring issues, akin to the television series where you just wanted them to get off the damn farm.

When the game was announced by Telltale Games, I was very, very excited. I’m a very big fan of their games, not because they are action packed, but because they are story-driven… and if you listened to even just one of our For The Lore podcast episodes, you know that’s very important to me.

Also, I was very interested to see what they would do with a new cast of characters for the game. I like the idea of the story taking place in that setting, though with entirely different characters. It gives Telltale’s writers a chance to add their own style to an existing IP that’s a juggernaut in terms of popularity and sales.

I was curious how they’d handle action sequences, but having played through several other Telltale games, I figured we’d get a lot of the same with perhaps a few fighting/shooting mechanics thrown in. If you’ve since played through the first three episodes, you know that’s exactly what we’ve gotten.

So let’s dive in, however before we do so, here’s my “Previously On The Walking Dead”.

Story

I stress my “Previously On The Walking Dead” because we have been given the opportunity to make choices throughout the game which has impacted future episodes. One of the things I loved immediately about The Walking Dead was how at the end of Episode 1, we were given a screen which detailed the percentages of players who’d made some of the same big choices as us. It was very interesting, and made me wonder how the game felt for those who’d made different choices. Certainly, it wouldn’t be anything earth-shatteringly different, however because relationships are so very important in this game, it truly would feel different for those players who’d chosen to let Duck become zombie food in the first episode. Can’t imagine Kenny would let that slide… hell, he’s still ridding my ass about not having had his back once.

Vince and I had the opportunity to interview writer Jonathan Maberry on Comic Book Informer some time ago, and in addition to his fantastic “Marvel Universe vs” series, he’s also written some absolutely incredible young adult, post-apocalyptic, zombie novels. When we talked to him about the power behind that genre, he said (and I’m paraphrasing) that what makes such stories powerful is not the events within or the zombies, but rather the relationships between the survivors. He couldn’t have hit the nail more squarely on the head.

And that’s something that Telltale Games luckily understands as well. The relationships between all of the characters in this series have been nothing short of stellar. Even secondary characters like Doug become so important to you that when he takes a bullet to the brain pan to save a snivelling teen, it strikes you like a fist to the chest knocking the air out of your lungs, if only for a moment.

And that’s power. When a game can do that, they are doing it right.

In this episode, the existing crew, which keeps getting smaller and smaller, is about to arrive in Savannah, where they have to find a boat, search for Clementine’s parents, fix up numbnut’s leg (although if you ask me, if you can’t jump onto a moving train during a zombiepocalypse, you should be left to the zombies), and find whoever’s been talking to Clementine via her walkie-talkie.

No small order, lemme tell you, and as you are well aware, nothing ever goes according to plan for this group. No sooner do you arrive then you are made aware of Crawford, the segregated community which sounds more like a cult than a group of survivors. You meet a couple very interesting new characters, crawl around the sewers amongst zombies, and try to keep a hold of your sanity as you are forced to kill yet another infected child (that is if you had the balls to pull the trigger on Duck so that Kenny wouldn’t have to).

From start to finish, the episode does the very same thing we’ve seen in each of the preceding episodes; it takes you on an emotional roller-coaster ride. In the span of this one episode, you meet new people, and just when you start to warm to them, they get their faces chewed up by a pack of zombies. Now, being a longtime reader of the series, I know better than to get attached to anyone, however it’s so different in a game. It’s not a flat page that you flip. You’re involved. You are Lee, or at least some version of him. You feel his pain, and you become increasingly frustrated when there is nothing you can do to save those around you… or yourself.

As you continue through the story, you are forced to infiltrate Crawford’s base of operation, and that’s when the proverbial shit hits the fan. A simple snatch and run quest turns into a stressful survival exploration as all of Crawford’s residents have been turned to zombies. It’s there too where you learn a lot more about the new people you meet as well as how Crawford was run.

Suffice it to say, I cannot wait for Episode 5, especially taking into consideration the big spoiler (which you no doubt already know), but also because of how I left things with Kenny. Throughout much of the story, though not all, I’d sided with Kenny. I saved his son, heard him out whenever he was being a little too alpha-male, and tried to show his family all the support I could. When the time came to end Duck’s life, I took the gun from him and pulled the trigger so that he wouldn’t have to kill his own son. And when we found the child zombie in the house in Savannah, it was me who again pulled the trigger, as the boy reminded Kenny of Duck.

Now meanwhile, Kenny hasn’t been the most reliable survivor to have by my side. Bastard’s frozen up on me in a fight more often than I’d care to recall, and yet despite that, when it came time to go look for Clementine at the end of this episode, that friggin’ asshole had the nerve to say I hadn’t always been there for him. I’d been slow to react a couple times, literally TWO FUCKING TIMES, while he’d left me to fend for myself against the zombies multiple times, dropped me on a fucking car another time, and been a douchebag whenever he didn’t get his way. And I was the selfish one that was asking too much when I asked him to HELP SAVE THE LITTLE GIRL THAT WE’D HAD IN OUR GROUP ALL THIS TIME?!?

That was the last straw for me. I LOST it on his hillbilly ass and had I been able to, I’d have shot him in the fucking face then and there. Enough is enough.

See?! I’m getting worked up just writing about it!

So as you can imagine, I cannot wait till Episode 5.

Score: 10/10

Gameplay

Gameplay for Telltale Games is fairly standard. Don’t expect a FPS. Don’t even expect a traditional 3rd person RPG style. It’s Telltale’s own gameplay, though slightly tweaked for the purposes of this IP. You get to shoot zombies in the face periodically, though I found aiming and shooting to sometimes be a little difficult to get right in a pinch… and let’s be honest, that’s when you want to make sure it’s working properly.

As with the previous three episodes, I played this one on my PC, though with a controller hooked up. I have found that using a keyboard and mouse to make choices throughout the game is very clunky and needs work. Being able to quickly click the appropriate controller icon is far faster, and you need that speed with certain choices.

I can’t say I’m very pleased with the PC port, however as I can simply plug in a controller, it’s not a huge deal.

Otherwise, gameplay is good. It runs the gamut of slow and steady to insane “can’t-press-this-button-fast-enough”. It suits a story-driven game, though a few more tweaks here and there certainly would have been appreciated.

Score: 8/10

Video

I love the style of this game. It ties in perfectly with the comic book, to the point where I wish the comic looked more like the game.

If you aren’t a fan of the comic’s art style, that’s fine. You will find that the game’s style stands well on its own. It’s gritty and harsh which suits the theme perfectly.

The cutscenes are all spot on and there’s really nothing more I can say.

It’s not photo realism, but you know what, folks need to learn that photo realism isn’t the only art style out there. Games would be boring as hell if it was.

If you like this style, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in this game entirely.

I personally love it. It’s not perfect, but it’s damn good in my opinion.

Score: 9/10

Audio

The sounds in The Walking Dead are especially heart-stopping if you play the game with earphones, which I do. Turn off the lights, slide on those earphones, and listen to all of the sounds around you.

It is creepy as shit, and Telltale’s sound engineers do a fantastic job of creating ambiance in every setting. Whether you’re on the dock looking out over the water, or in the sewers avoiding zombies. It’s all good.

The voice acting is where it’s at though. Again, in a character-driven game, it is of utmost importance that those characters be voiced very well. And these guys are. There is not a weak voice actor in this episode. They all deliver 100%, from Melissa Hutchinson (Clementine) to Dave Fennoy (Lee) who really got to exercise his acting chops during several tense scenes.

The talent in this game is staggering, and it shows. Each cutscene is fantastic, and it’s largely thanks to the voice actors who deliver convincing performances.

Score: 10/10

Value

Episode 4 can be picked up for $4.99, or is available as part of the entire package which sells for $24.99 and will include one more episode. The episode, much like the three before, is not terribly long, however when looked at as part of a larger sum, it’s actually very well priced at five bucks. I picked up the entire package before the game was released, and had felt that I’d already gotten my money’s worth after the first couple episodes. It’s been gravy since.

Considering the production value of this title, as well as the possible replayability thanks to the choices with consequences, I’d be quite the bastard to give this game a score of anything less than a 10 for value. However I’d like to score it based on this episode alone, and as such, I’m going to actually ding it one point, simply because it felt quite a bit shorter than the others.

Still a great deal for 5 bucks, though.

Score: 9/10

Parting Thoughts

I finished this entire episode in one sitting. Some may say that’s the mark of a game that is too short, and while I wouldn’t disagree with that, it is also the mark of a captivating game. Now, let it be known that though I did finish it in one sitting, I was playing till three in the morning (in the dark), because I couldn’t bring myself to turn the game off and get some much needed rest.

This was a fantastic episode, and the various spoilers throughout have got me itching for the conclusion. I am very worried about Clementine and need to play through Episode 5 to make certain she’s alright.

Seriously. I care about pixels on my screen.

She’s my responsibility. And damnit, I care about her.

p.s. Kenny can go to hell in a handbasket though, for all I care.

Final Score


The Walking Dead: Episode 4

92

  • Powerful Story
  • Strong Characters
  • Scary Shit
  • Emotional Connection
  • Still cheap

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