This journey’s almost done, folks. Just like a great TV show’s penultimate episode leaves you on the edge of your seat, wide-eyed, thinking “god, please don’t let it end now,” Episode 4 kicks you in the face with a brutal “To Be Continued…” at game’s end. Taking all the decisions you’ve made thus far and bringing them full circle, this episode gracefully (and pretty much evil-ly) sets up the climax to what has so far been one of the industry’s best examples of episodic gaming.
Written by Gary Whitta, former video game journalist and screenwriter of The Book of Eli, this episode once again continues the voyage of Lee Everett and his band of survivors. Having finally reached Savannah, Georgia in hopes of finding a boat that’ll keep the group out of walkers’ reach, your party is, once again, immediately faced with danger and must regroup to plan an escape. This episode—aptly named “Around Every Corner”—makes sure nothing ever goes right for you, ever. As usual, you’re faced with tough decisions that, while not necessarily changing the progression of the narrative drastically (yet), still have you fearing the outcomes and their impact on each character.
As far as pacing goes, Episode 4 seems like the slowest yet, at least for the first half or so. Don’t get me wrong: there are zombies pretty much everywhere (or should I say around every corner [please don’t stop reading]), and they’ll see to it that you never feel secure in an area. But as this series has taught us before, walkers aren’t what we should be afraid of most. Human beings, on the other hand, are.
That’s not to say that the action is lacking, or happens in stilted adventure-game fashion. Quite the contrary, since more than ever before the game turns into a first-person shooter at the drop of a dime. At times, you actually have to use the Right Stick to aim your pistol at walker noggins and press R1 to fire a round, whilst aiming down your pistol’s sights. Sure, hit detection is pretty forgiving, but it’s a nice change of pace from the usual “walk around with the Left Stick and examine/interact with the environment/NPCs with the face buttons.” However, even when you’re doing the latter, the episode never feels boring, thanks to the new setting, dark situations, and mysterious happenings that plague the group throughout.
And man, things really do get dark at times. It’s nothing to be shocked about by now, as Episode 3 pretty much ventured into the grimmest of situations, but still – prostitution, cancer, more mercy kills… even Darren Aronofsky would be like ‘woah.’
I’m happy to report that the technical issues that seemed to plague the previous episodes are now gone, with scene transition hiccups happening so infrequently that I only really encountered one. It seems that Telltale listened and answered my prayer, as small bugs and glitches were my fear for this series going forward. Presentation—namely framerate—was always smooth and enjoyable, since I can’t seem to get tired of the comic-book-esque art style. Audio and voice acting are as entertaining and top-notch as ever.
Just like its predecessors, this episode clocks in at about 3 hours of game time, which, when combined with its caliber of storytelling, makes it well worth the $4.99 USD asking price on the PlayStation Store. You do sometimes backtrack and visit the same environments, but it never feels forced or annoying. Besides, there’s always trouble lurking around every corner (okay, last time, I swear).
Of course, it’s hard to talk about Episode 4 without divulging many story-related spoilers (something I never do in my reviews, FYI). Telltale elegantly brings past choices and results to light throughout the ride, all while setting up what should be an explosive conclusion to this season. While I can’t wait for this season’s finale, I also want to wait as long as possible, since it’s looking like Episode 5 will take a heavy emotional toll on those invested in the series’ story (i.e. me).
If I haven’t made it clear yet, let me reiterate: I recommend The Walking Dead series to any and all gamers—especially those that value mature storytelling in video games. If you haven’t played it yet, you should.