Those that already have the game know that the latest instalment of The Walking Dead series has hit the digital download market. Amidst a week of fabulous game releases and updates, The Walking Dead Episode 4 launched at a rather precarious time with risk of being overshadowed by other select titles. Fortunately for this brilliant title by TellTale Games, none of that takes out any of the emotional punch of their latest chapter.
The latest release of the episodic adventure that chronicles the life after life of Lee and his ragtag group of survivors was penned by Gary Whitta, notable writer behind such films as The Book of Eli. I’ve become increasingly aware that Gary Whitta does, in fact, hate me and wants me to crumble into an emotional wreck. He has taken everything that I felt comfort in through the story of The Walking Dead and thrown it against the wall to watch it suffer, he is a maniacal writer that cares nothing for the people who have vested so much interest in the deep characterizations of this series… and I love him for it. See, the story in Episode 4 has set up the ultimate in climaxes: Everyone is at their wits end, characters will die and leave your party never to be seen again, and you will be let down by actions and circumstances that happen in the game. All of this sets up one hell of a cliffhanger, leaving you needing Episode 5 immediately to satiate your appetite.
Episode 4 takes place entirely in the town of Savannah and, as is par for the course, nothing is going as planned. Through the story you meet new characters that, although their time is relatively brief, play an integral part in the stories development. I wont spoil anything for you, but by the end of the campaign you will feel regret, remorse and fear for what your choices, seemingly throughout the entire series, have culminated in. One character in particular that I felt had a strong bond with in my playthrough of Lee ended up getting in a heated yelling match and left the party for good. In retrospect, I can only imagine that some choices I’ve made throughout the other episodes have affected that outcome and it makes me want to replay the entire series to see if I can set that one incident straight. At the same time though, I’m still furious at the character for not sticking by my side after one altercation even though I’ve felt like I’ve been by theirs all along. The fact this game had enough of an emotional impact on me that I’m feeling spiteful towards a fictional character is a testament to the series brilliance.
Gameplay in the series hasn’t changed. Its still a point and click adventure that has you solving scene related puzzles in order to advance the story. It seemed to me that his episode wasn’t as convoluted as some of the past episodes in order to advance; either that or I’ve gotten so used to the model that by the time this episode came around I was familiar enough with the formula to go through it easily. Either way, its a system that works well. I’m typically a person that does not enjoy point and click adventures, but The Walking Dead does it properly, without feeling overly hokey like other titles tend to.
One area in Episode 4 that I seemed to have problems with were the graphics. While I’ve always loved the animation in this game, the style of the characters look as if they’ve been gleaned directly from the pages of the comic book and the world works in that regard, I don’t recall ever being distracted by the obvious sketch lines which float outside the character model before. I realize that this is an aesthetic for the overall design, but it was glaring this time around and detracted from my experience. There was one scene where you find a young boy who’d been overcome by the outbreak, and these sketch lines hovered what would be easily 6 inches beyond what the sides of his body would be if you could accurately measure their body size. Other characters also had wild sketch lines appearing over their shoulders. Additionally, this was the only episode where I had parts of significant frame rate drop in areas where there wasn’t much going on in the scene. All other episodes ran smooth as silk, but this one had a few hiccups that I couldn’t let go of.
All in all, the game proves that it deserves to be on everyone’s list of must plays. It is an emotional rollercoaster through an apocalyptic world where hope is something that seems to fade away with each passing moment. The final episode is in the works and after the way Episode 4 ended, it is proving that it will be a hard charging episode with massive implications. I wish I could go into detail as to what has been set up for the finale, but to spoil this game would do it a massive injustice. It is so beautifully weaved that each user’s experience must be their own. I’ve said it in my other reviews of this title and I’ll say it again. If you do not own The Walking Dead yet, you are doing yourself a disservice. Buy it, live it, love it.