Video Game Review: The Walking Dead, Ep. 4

luke kalamar reviews the fourth episode of the walking dead video game…

With only a days hours left until the highly anticipated premiere of the third season, fans of The Walking Dead universe were able to whet their appetite with the release of “Around Every Corner” on Tuesday/Wednesday. “Around Every Corner” is the fourth episode of the critically acclaimed video game series based on the famous zombie franchise of the same name. The series started back in April with Episode 1: “A New Day,” followed by new episodes being released every two months. Every new episode has been a step up from its predecessor, causing the player to experience even more heart breaking scenarios that rip apart whatever hope you have for these characters. “Around Every Corner” is the most gut wrenching installment of the series, and that is what makes it the best so far.

For those who don’t already know, The Walking Dead Game follows the story of Lee Everett and a young girl named Clementine as they try to survive the zombie apocalypse. “Around Every Corner” follows these two and their group to Savannah, GA as they try to catch a boat to flee the zombies on land. How the events unfold is entirely up to the player as they choose what Lee says and does. They can turn him into a caring, protective man, or make him into a ruthless killer. This ability to mold the story to the player’s whim is one of the many reasons why this game is so good.

This episode is easily the most action packed installment of the entire series. This is actually extremely different than the previous episodes that focused more on character development and dialogue. This type of play style contrasts other famous zombie titles like the Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil, or Dead Rising series of games. Episodes 1-3 didn’t have Lee and his group running around towns and cities with guns blazing. They were all about connecting with the characters and seeing this horrible life through their eyes, with some zombie action thrown in.

“Around Every Corner” changes this by thrusting the player into scenarios where they have no choice but to mow down a sizable group of the undead. One of the lasting images I have from my first play through is Lee backing up a staircase, shotgun in hand (with seemingly endless ammo), completely destroying the monsters following him. In all honesty, this change totally works with the episode. I am already so connected with the characters on screen thanks to the previous episodes that more character development wasn’t even necessary. The characters are already developed with their own back stories and definable characteristics. This action packed episode felt perfectly organic within the story and felt like the next logical step.

In terms of heart breaking scenarios, as I said before, this episode takes the cake. Every previous installment put the player into horrible situations that cause them to feel absolutely terrible. If it’s not choosing which one person to save when two are in danger, it’s determining who will be the one to execute a dying child. It’s this terrible reality of what a zombie apocalypse would actually be that makes this game, and the entire Walking Dead universe, so damn good. The ending of “Around Every Corner” takes whatever hopes the player had for the future, and completely destroys it. It’s almost amazing that developer Telltale Games can still find more ways to make the player feel completely hopeless. However, when you really think about it, there is still a chance that the ending everyone wants is still possible. All you have to do is look into the comics for the answer.

The voice acting is top notch as always. I don’t know where Telltale Games found these voice actors, but they do an excellent job at pulling the player in and making them truly care about the survival of these characters. Few games really make you care about the characters, so it’s great to experience those few that make you connect.

My gripes with “Around Every Corner” mainly derive from unanswered questions and technological hiccups. The game played beautifully on my PlayStation 3, but there were a few times where the game was slow to load that really interrupted the experience. These weren’t all periods where the loading screen was on either. Sometimes the next scene that is supposed to play out doesn’t do so as flawlessly as players want, and we experience a brief skip. These hiccups have been few and far between over the entire series though, so it’s nothing unexpected and truly game damaging.

As for unanswered questions, there is one mystery that was introduced at the end of Episode 3: “Long Road Ahead” that wasn’t resolved in this episode. That was pretty disappointing considering it’s exactly how this episode was set up. It felt weird to have that cliffhanger introduced and then have it not be a major focus. I find it difficult to view this as an oversight however. There is still a fifth and final episode to come out in December, and this unsolved mystery perfectly sets up the end of this first season for the game. So while I’m disappointed that I’m still left with questions, I believe that happened for a reason and the payoff will be extraordinary.

If you have yet to play The Walking Dead Game, you are missing out on one of the greatest gaming experiences of 2012. Episodes 1-4 are all stellar, and I am confident that Telltale Games will deliver a spectacular ending. Plus, the game has immense replay value as there are so many different ways to progress the story. “Around Every Corner” is definitely the best installment to date, but you need to play the first three episodes before this one or else you’d be completely lost. Any fan of The Walking Dead or zombie games as a whole should not miss out on this experience. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Rating: 9/10