Let’s head into the season finale...
Written by Super User
Published Thursday, 25 October 2012 20:00
It’s hard to imagine that even Telltale Games had any idea how successful their Walking Dead franchise would be when the licensing for the series, based on the comic book, was announced in February of 2011. After all, although the zombie genre has been well represented in gaming for years by the likes of Resident Evil, Left 4 Dead, and Dead Rising, these games were a far cry from the point and click adventures that constituted Telltale’s core strength. It made sense to me that this type of gameplay had its place for a light comedy game like Sam and Max, or for a return to Marty McFly and his DeLorean. Surely though, a foray into Robert Kirkman’s dark and seething world where the living struggle to survive required a more mature and conventional gaming mechanic. With much relief I was pleased to see that I was wrong thinking the point and click style was not well suited for this type of game. Obviously others agree as evidenced by the commercial and critical success of the episodic series. The series surpassed one million copies sold in a mere 20 days, and a second season of the game was announced after only the second episode of the first season had been released.
The fourth episode, dubbed Around Every Corner, finds our band of survivors entering Savannah, Georgia shortly after the conclusion of the previous episode’s events. It is the first time the game’s lead character, Lee Everett, has ventured into another city, and he is devastated to see that like Macon, the dead now control the streets and there is little sign of humanity. Part of the city has been partitioned off behind a mountain of corpses and impaled dead, reminiscent of a medieval warning system for others to stay away. The group quickly learn that on the other side of the wall is a society that has put a horrific twist on Darwinian survival having expelled the sick, old, and the young for being weak. It is from this backdrop that Lee must keep his group together as they attempt to find a boat to escape the mainland in search of an island sanctuary.
"The much touted in-game decision making has proven to be more than a marketing talking point, culminating into a multitude of story variations by the episode’s end."
So far, each episode has had a slightly different gameplay focus that differentiates it from the other chapters. Around Every Corner is no exception, having a much greater emphasis on exploration than previous instalments. The amount of real estate available for investigation feels to be more than the previous three episodes combined, with story set points covering a multitude of locales. This exploratory emphasis complements the story given that the new city remains largely unexplored and its secrets guarded. Once again the point and click control scheme feels to be the perfect choice to facilitate deft navigation and examination of this larger game world.
The graphics and voice work remain just as strong as previous offerings while two minor improvements to the overall presentation were noted. Firstly, the camera placement in several cut scenes had a cinematic flair not previously evident, and it went a long way towards conveying the desolation of Savannah and its buildings. Furthermore, this marked the first time I felt as if there must be a film director setting up the in-game shots. Secondly, every episode commences with a video clip detailing the major plot points of the story so far. Given that the story is influenced by the choices made by the player throughout the game, this clip’s contents can differ markedly depending on these choices. It had struck me in the previous episodes that the editing of this clip was uneven and felt haphazardly stitched together. I had always assumed the lack of polish was a result of the game piecing together my story arc as opposed to the hundreds of other possible combinations. For the first time, the “Previously on The Walking Dead” clip was smoothly presented without the lag and audio hiccups encountered in earlier episodes.
Further to the decision making and choice offered to the player, I played through most of Episode 4 with a sense of disappointment in this facet of the game. I was feeling as though all of the decisions I had made in previous episodes were so far removed from my current tasks that most of them must have been window dressing for the moment and must not have truly held much gravity. Fortunately I can’t remember the last time I had been this happy to be proven wrong. Like a scorned ex, the game had kept track of everything Lee has been up to over the four installments and more than one judgement and reckoning was to made for his actions by his fellow survivors. I really began to regret some of the choices I had made, and realized that the times I had been a jerk out of spite was going to come back and haunt me. The potential ramifications of Lee’s choices were further driven home when the game’s final statistic was displayed at its completion. Presented are the eight potential outcomes showing which survivors remain to accompany Lee into the fifth episode and a live update of what percentage of those players having completed the game ended up with each of the possible survivor configurations. It was enlightening to see how many different ways Lee’s crew could have ended up and that so many people were experiencing a story different than the one I was invested in.
The story is once again a solid experience with a liberal sprinkling of action, tension, and plot twists. These are disproportionately weighted towards the last third of the episode, with the front end of Episode 4 feeling thinner than it should have been. The benefit of this unbalanced pacing is that the final moments of the episode are brimming with content, revelations, and a haunting climax that replayed in my head for several days. To get to this climax, the game’s primary motivation seems to be story progression, which comes at the expense of continued character development. The new characters introduced in Around Every Corner do not feel that they have been as intricately fleshed out as some of the other survivors Lee has met during his journey. While the story-spinners at Telltale obviously had a significant number of plot points to cover, which were nothing short of incredible, I did want to spend a little more time engaging with the few remaining souls fighting the good fight.
The Walking Dead continues to be a memorable video game experience. Episode 4 delivers larger environments to discover and some minor presentation improvements. The much touted in-game decision making has proven to be more than a marketing talking point, culminating into a multitude of story variations by the episode’s end. While I would have enjoyed a more in-depth examination of the game’s new characters, the story’s momentum carried me towards several formidable plot twists which left me hungry for my next visit to this rich and frightening game world.
Release date : 2012-10-09
Publisher : Telltale Games
Developer : Telltale Games
Gameplay : Adventure
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