When Telltale Games first rose from the ashes of their disbanded Lucasarts team two expectations rose with them. The first was that the games they were going to make would all be awesome and the second was that they would probably never get too serious. Strangely neither of these proved to ring completely true as some of their early games failed to live up to fan expectations and it wasn’t until they went adult with their content and themes that they truly reached their potential. It has to be said, however, that The Walking Dead is by far the greatest game they have ever produced and also stands as one of the strongest episodic games of all time.
Much like the zombie epidemic around which the franchise centres, The Walking Dead is ever expanding. There are TV shows, games and literally hundreds of comics all taking place across several universes. So with so much Walking Dead in the world, it’s easy to feel over-whelmed. However, one of the best things about Telltale’s episodic fable is that it appeals to everyone, be they super-fans or newcomers. Regardless of what you have seen or read if you haven’t played these episodes yet, you are missing out.
The story centres on Lee Everett, a convict who’s being transported to prison when the zombie apocalypse hits. After a car crash followed by a run in with a few zombies, his survival (and the survival of those he meets along the way) suddenly becomes all that matters. It goes without saying that this is a story driven piece and those who have played episodes 1-3 will understand that statement to its fullest degree. If you haven’t played any of the episodes leading up to Episode 4 I strongly recommend doing so as soon as possible, maybe even before reading this review.
Don’t worry, this article is spoiler free, but the point here is that all these episodes are part of one story arc and should be played as so. Much of the tales impact would be lost if played out of sequence and this is something that should be bared in mind.
Episode 4: Around Every Corner picks up directly after Episode 3 and things are worse than ever for Lee and his companions. Much like the previous chapters, this instalment is full of plot twists and life changing decisions for you to make at nearly every turn. This is one of Walking Dead’s greatest strengths, as it will often mean your experience changes every time you play. These decisions have game changing consequences and this is perhaps even truer with Episode 4 (possibly due to its position as season one’s penultimate episode). Not only will it lead to plenty of lengthy discussions with friends about what path they took, but it will also make you want to restart the game immediately after you finish it, just to see what could have happened.
Another place where Telltale succeeds here is character exposition. Walking Dead (in all its forms) has always been a character study set against a ‘zombie apocalypse’ backdrop and this game continues to keep that tradition alive. These episodes are not afraid to have long periods of conversation to build your connection to the characters and their connection to one another. Much like the three episodes that came before it, Around Every Corner is all about the people and not the action set pieces. Don’t get me wrong, there is action to be found here (especially in episode 4) but it won’t be your main focus and that’s something truly unique nowadays.
In terms of story, Telltale has added an air of mystery to proceedings in Around Every Corner that was merely touched upon in earlier episodes. Although this has altered the tone slightly, it is a welcome addition to how things unfold. This marks the first episode to rely more on events outside of the main character group to drive the narrative and this only serves as a testament to the great writing that has led up to this point.
Graphically, the stylised visuals fit beautifully into the tone of the world as always. Sure, some of the animations are wooden and there are a few bugs here and there but you will be so caught up in the story that you will barely notice. One thing to note on this front however is that the console versions of all episodes do not run as well as their PC counterparts, suffering from the odd drop in frames and slow catch up. But again, this is nowhere near severe enough to ruin your experience.
So far, Telltale’s take on The Walking Dead has been nothing short of incredible and Episode 4: Around Every Corner is no exception. Other than a few technical issues and budgetary constraints that also plagues previous episodes, the penultimate chapter in this first season was possibly my favourite so far. The writing, characterisation and narrative structure are all some of the best I have seen in a long time and the game play is satisfying and enjoyable. If you are yet to take the hard journey with Lee and his companions, delay no longer and pick up the season pass on your format of choice. Episode 5 is just around the corner.