Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Walking Dead: Episode 4

Please note that this is the rough draft for a review I wrote for Please check out the final draft of the review here.

Episode four can be summed up in a single word: Tension.
I'll be honest, after the emotional beatdown that was episode 3, I was a little scared to play episode 4. If it messed with my emotions as viscerally as episode 3 then I would probably end up as a little puddle of goo on the floor that my wife wouldn't appreciate having to clean up. Fortunately, while episode continued the trend of a strong emotional impact, there wasn't as much in the way of sucker punches as episode 3 gave us. In essence, it's the perfect follow-up since it gives you just enough room to breath without letting up entirely.

So, Episode 4 takes place immediately after episode 3, and the group has reached Savannah, but as you can expect, things aren't going to be nearly as easy as they would hope them to be. It seems that every step forward is met by another walker who forces them one step back There are still large hordes of walkers in the city, there are no boats left at the dock, apparently the only large community of people left is made up of social Darwinists who throw out anyone not deemed to be physically fit enough to survive, and someone keeps ringing bells around the town, attracting the zombies. It's not quite out of the frying pan and into the fire, but it's at least out of the frying pan and into a different frying pan. 
Much akin to the previous episodes, we explore some new themes and we're treated to a lot of difficult choices. A few new characters are introduce, and some characters are killed, though some of who dies depends on your choices. While this episode isn't quite the roller coaster that episode 3 is, there are some incredibly touching and possibly disturbing moments. Heck, there was one scene where I just told myself, Gary Whitta, this is incredibly touching. At the same time you are one sick S.O.B. for even thinking this up. In case you didn't know, Gary Whitta is the story consultant for The Walking Dead, and he personally wrote episode 4. He also let's a bit of his nerd hang out for this episode since there are some rather obvious references to Star Wars, Back to the Future, and other classic movies. They may have been gratuitous, but they actually fit rather well. But where this episode really shines, as I said at the beginning of this review, is the tension. At few points in the episode do you not feel tense. Heck, the few action parts of the episode are almost a relief since the tension is broken and the adrenaline rushing through your body suddenly has a purpose. There are a few jump scares that actually scared me, when they might not otherwise have if I hadn't already been wound up so tightly. At one point I had to pause the game and take a five minute break in order to calm down before I could continue. Sure, I admit I'm a bit of a wuss in the first place, but I have never had to do that before.
I can't say much more because I'm trying to avoid spoilers. Suffice to say, as far as the story goes, everything that happens is pretty much believable within the context of what's happened so far. Promises made in earlier episodes have either been fulfilled or are shaping up to be fulfilled, new promises have been made, and the episode ends with three twists that you may or may not see coming. (I guessed two of them back in episode 3, but the third totally blindsided me.) Episode 5 promises to be an amazing and emotional climax to what has been an amazing and emotional series. Telltale keeps teasing us by saying that it's going to be out sooner than we think without giving a date, but it should definitely be out before year's end. I literally cannot wait.

Bottom Line: Each episode has gotten better and better. If the trend continues (and there is every indication that it will) then The Walking Dead will be my personal Game of the Year. Despite a few technical flaws, it is easily one of the best video game narratives I have ever seen. If you have any interest in The Walking Dead, or the zombie apocalypse in general, then you owe it to yourself to go out and play this game if you haven't already. I guarantee that it is better than most zombie movies you could be watching instead. In fact, I'm tempted to say that the game is better than the comics that spawned it. If episode 5 is anywhere near as good as I anticipate it to be, than I will give in to that temptation and just say it outright.

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