Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead is a real jerk. Sure, it’s a fantastic adventure series that combines memorable characters, well-written banter and intuitive gameplay into an easy-to-digest, episodic package, but that can’t stop me from being angry at it.
I’m not upset because the latest episode, “Around Every Corner,” isn’t what some might deem a quality chapter, either. The fourth part in this emotional story is both expertly written and fun to play. But damn – the choices I had to make nearly broke me. While not as fast-paced as the last two undead outings, the latest episode of The Walking Dead acts as a strong setup for what’s sure to be a tear-jerking finale, and it’s difficult to not question yourself during each of the game’s impactful, poignant decisions.
Many of the difficult situations are the result of the trials and tribulations the cast has experienced over the past three episodes. The city of Savannah has finally been reached, and while the much-talked-about boat that’s supposed to take the group to a much safer place is now within reach, spirits aren’t exactly high. Many lives have been lost during the journey of Lee and company, and the weight of the dire situation has finally begun to drag certain characters down. The prospect of finding a boat seems to be the only thing keeping Ken and Ben moving forward, and a few of the newer personalities introduced at the end of the third episode, such as Christa and Omed, aren’t exactly full of pep and optimism, either.
It’s a tangibly demoralizing atmosphere, and things only get worse when everyone realizes that the town has been stripped of all supplies – including boats. A few fresh faces help guide the ailing cast to a new, even more risky solution to all their problems, and a series of tension-riddled sequences all lead to a cliffhanger that made my stomach churn. I wouldn’t say I’m excited for the final episode, but I sure as hell need to play it.
There’s still plenty of shock and awe to be found around every turn, but the greatest enjoyment in Episode 4 comes from the intelligent character development and emotionally trying situations. Clementine, already one of the strongest characters, develops in some interesting ways throughout her stay in Savannah. No longer just a helpless little girl, Clem takes risks during more heated moments that put Lee in conflicting situations.
Honestly, Lee never really catches a break, as the unstable bond between certain characters is tested from scene to scene. Tempers flare to dangerous levels, and Lee’s level-headed nature forcibly places him into the role of mediator more often than he’d probably like. I had to pause the game and think through the possible consequences of a few set-ups, and I’m still unsure if I always made the right call. There’s never a clear-cut answer, and the fact that I’m still thinking about segments of the episode speaks to the quality of the writing.
Combat remains an impactful accompaniment to the twisting narrative, but the few new actions interspersed throughout the episode miss more often than hit. Segments of first-person shooting are a bit clunky, and the sparse puzzles that pop up aren’t exactly challenging. The moment-to-moment action is solid, but the meat of the game remains in the dialogue and intricate characters.
There may not be a single moment that blew me away, but Episode 4 of The Walking Dead is still a wonderful setup to the conclusion of this breakout series. So, no matter how mad I am at Telltale for investing me in this psychologically taxing game, I can’t help but wish Episode 5 was just here. I’m hooked, and not even an army of the undead could stop me from experiencing the conclusion now.
The Walking Dead: Episode 4 – Around Every Corner was developed and published by Telltale Games. An Xbox 360 copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.