Turning The Corner
Well, this is it, the second to last episode of one of the best games Telltale has produce thus far, and a sterling example of what the adventure genre as whole can do when all cylinders are firing. With the 4th episode of The Walking Dead we get a continued sense of momentum although there are some sputters here and there that keep it from being the smooth ride of past episodes. Having said that, there is still plenty of tension and a cliffhanger ending that cements your commitment to seeing this series through to its end.
The Crisis Point
If episode three put the screws to our hapless cast of characters, the episode 4 is the Chinese water torture designed to break their will. In some ways it feels like a more linear affair; certain decisions and the karmic meter people have been keeping based on your treatment of them will play out. That just means there’s less of a sense this episode that you’re making decisions that will affect things later down the road, although that’s not to say that such moments are entirely absent. This episode is really more about consequences of past choices than it is about making new choices.
There’s also a fair amount of action in this episode as well, but only in the second half. It’s an instalment of the series with a very distinct feel from the rest, likely a result of the guest writer, Gary Whitta, screenwriter of The Book of Eli and former editor-in-chief of PC Gamer magazine. The result is a story that takes a very strong turn of its own with some developments that feel right in line with what has come before while others come out of nowhere, such as new characters quickly introduced to the core group and given a heavy jolt of implied backstory to give them as much substance as the existing characters have already developed over the last three episodes.
In some ways, Around Every Corner feels a little more like a George Romero zombie adventure than the more stately pace of Robert Kirkman’s titanic sized series. There are people barricaded in houses, larger compound situations with more zombie dilemmas and quite a few QTEs centered around classic zombie pistol/shotgun moments. The dramatic character conflicts of past episodes take somewhat of a backseat to actual plot developments this time out.
On the whole, what we’re left with in episode 4 is a strong, compelling instalment that still does the series proud but feels the most uneven of the episodes produced thus far. This is not to stay that it’s a bad episode by any means, and it still has some character moments and a few truly moving sequences that bring the horror of this zombie apocalypse to a relatable, everyday level. But the machinery of moving the plot forward to its conclusion has muddied somewhat the clear line of emotional arcs for the characters that the series has enjoyed so far.
Around Every Corner is still a strong addition, and even though it’s weaker than previous episodes, it’s still miles ahead of what other adventure games—or even past Telltale games—have accomplished. The cliffhanger nature of the ending works its magic and leaves players with no real choice; after seeing how it ends, you HAVE to be on board for the final episode. Anything else would just be an itch you’ll never be rid of until you scratch it.