Telltale Games continues their excellent take on Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead comic books in episode 4, "Around Every Corner". This episode is penned by Book Of Eli writer Gary Whitta, and is the second to last episode of the season. Skeptics may have expected Telltale to flounder with one of their episodes by now, but "Around Every Corner" continues to best my expectations.
Note again that, because this is an episodic game, I will only be addressing notable changes from the previous episode. For a more in-depth look at the core gameplay systems, check out my review of the first episode here.
Let's get the bad news out of the way first: episode 4 continues the trend from episode 3 of including impact-less shooting galleries. The camera is jerked from its usual cinematic resting place and put in a first-person perspective where -- you guessed it -- you take aim at zombies and pull the trigger. Fortunately, unlike Episode 3, most of these sequences don't interrupt the momentum of the story, and some of the ones later in the episode actually ratchet up the tension more than if the action played out on its own. Ultimately, I feel Telltale could have kept the few of these sequences that really worked and tossed the rest, and the episode would have been better for it.
What wasn't broken has not been "fixed" however. The quick time events are implemented at a tasteful pace (take note from Telltale, Resident Evil 6), and confining certain choices to a countdown timer is still just as effective as it was when the first episode came out 5 months ago.
The graphics are largely the same from previous episodes. While there is less diversity in locations in "Around Every Corner", I felt a cinematic flair to the proceedings that was more stylized than previous episodes. Visually, "Around Every Corner" is pretty close to playing through a Hollywood film.
The Walking Dead continues to be the only game this year that really gets in my head while I play, and stays there long afterward. My emotions while playing range from sadness, to guilt, to remorse, to shock and disbelief. The characters remain well-written and have really come into their own since the outset of the season.
While episode 3 dragged a little in the middle, episode 4 keeps the tension high for its entire three hour duration. I don't want to stray into spoiler territory here, but I will say that "Around Every Corner" goes the extra mile to show you that nothing is sacred in the universe of The Walking Dead. Going in, I had some guesses as to how episode four might continue to play with my emotions. "Around Every Corner" took all those expectations, threw them out the window, and went in a direction that I never could have foreseen.
The conclusion of this episode leads directly into the setup for the fifth and final episode of the season which, after the resolution here, is now at the top of my list of "games I must play right now".
The Walking Dead delivers a dramatic and emotionally exhausting experience that few, if any, games have achieved. Forming a close bond with the characters over 12 hours of game play makes the countdown clock for each decision even more stressful. As the psyche of each survivor has slowly been reduced to tatters, every choice has positive and negative impacts for all.
The Walking Dead doesn't cast you in the role of the "good guy" or the "bad guy". Rather, you play the role of a human being doing whatever he can to survive and hold on to his last remaining shreds of hope and dignity. Incredibly powerful stuff for a video game.
Even with the unsung fifth episode waiting in the wings for a December release, I can promise that you will remember the twists and turns throughout the first season of TheWalking Dead for a long time.