|System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC*|
|Dev: Telltale Games|
|Pub: Telltale Games|
|Release: October 9, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Strong Language, Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes.|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
I've had a bit of a problem reviewing The Walking Dead by Telltale games. There are four episodes so far, and my previous review scores couldn't go high enough. Every time I felt like Telltale made a near-perfect game, they managed to outdo themselves in the next episode. I can honestly say that Telltale's The Walking Dead is one of the most well-thought-out and artistic games we have seen this year, or even in this generation!
So I was fully expecting Episode 4 to wow me just like all the other episodes have, pushing the game's score closer to a perfect 5/5. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Though The Walking Dead has had an amazing run so far, Episode 4 disappointed me. That's not to say it's a bad game. On the contrary, it's still an above average adventure game that exceeds in its storytelling. It just doesn't even come close to what Episodes 1-3 were.
The first issue with Episode 4 is that it plays fast and loose with its characters. Episode 3 introduced a whole host of new party members that we barely had time to get to know. They all entered the fray right at the end of the episode, sticking around for only a few short puzzle sequences before suddenly worming their way into our party. Right at the beginning of Episode 4, some of these characters leave the party, some cause party friction, and some die.
The problem is, I can't bring myself to care about anything these characters do. I don't know who they are, I don't particularly care about them, and they haven't been useful enough for me to care about their desires or opinions. I fully expected Episode 4 to start slowly, allowing me to get to know these new members of my party a little better. Instead, it starts me right in the middle of an action scene, without any real context other than, "Hey guys, guess what? There are zombies here too." Once of the new party members literally has only two lines before he is torn apart by the zombie horde. Sorry for the spoiler there, but come on. It feels like the character was little more than a plot device to be thrown away at the story's convenience, which is something The Walking Dead never did in the past.
Speaking of action scenes, there are a lot more of them this time around. Whereas previous episodes built tension by engaging you in dramatic dialogue and slowly building up the threat of the ever-present zombie horde, Episode 4 just throws zombies at you left and right. There are blatant shooting gallery sections where you are tasked with shooting down a mob of zombies before they get to you. It feels like a carnival game more than an epic zombie survival horror/adventure.
The whole mood of the game is broken by this reliance on shooting and stabbing zombies all the time. The Walking Dead is known for its oppressive horror atmosphere. It scares you by presenting a setting that the characters are almost guaranteed to fail in. There's no real way to fight back against the walking dead. They are everywhere, and civilization has crumbled around them. The very of knowledge of this puts you in a sort of existential crisis that makes you ask, "What would happen if I were put in the same scenario?"
Unfortunately, Episode 4 doesn't really do this. It instead relies on tired old horror tropes like jump scares and deus ex machinas that work against the party. There's one instance where a party member removes an obvious zombie blockade for no good reason, queuing up a zombie chase scene. Except you can't really feel the scares during this scene because you are just frustrated that one of your allies could have been that stupid. Later on, you literally charge through a line of zombies on a stairwell, pulling a Chris Redfield and murdering every single one that gets in your way. You hatchet them in the head, kick them off the stairs, and plow through them like an action hero, which is far off color for The Walking Dead's depressing atmosphere.
Now, that's not to say there aren't any good sections in The Walking Dead: Episode 4. In fact, Episode 4 asks you to make far more decisions that previous episodes have. You get to choose who likes you, who doesn't like whom, who you ally with, who lives, who dies, and what your eventual plans are by the end of the episode. You can even tell there were more meaningful choices this time around because the statistics screen at the end of the game was far expanded. Not only that, but the choices are harder to make this time around as well. They really tug on your conscience and put you in the position of choosing between what your morals want you to do and what decision is best for the practical survival of yourself and those you care about.