The Walking Dead Episode 4 Review (PC)

Walking the Dead is a completely different game. Like Nintendogs.

Telltale is now up to Episode 4 with its excellent Walking Dead series of adventure games. I have never played anything so gut-wrenchingly upsetting and loved every single minute of it. I don’t want the next episode to come, but I know as soon as it does I’ll play it in one sitting.

(This is a new style of review that I’m trying out. If you want full reviews methodically checking through every feature, go read any of the plethora of mainstream review sites. This is more personal, and I’d appreciate any feedback)

After finishing that episode I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. It managed to elicit a real emotional response from me. I felt real guilt at things that I had done, regretted decisions but didn’t feel the urge to load a previous save to go back and ‘try again’. I feel this speaks volumes for the power of Telltale’s writing in this series.

The game forces you to make quick decisions and they feel like real-life dilemmas. Most games present you with binary moral choices. Do you act good or bad, and then you can predict the consequences. Here choices are more nuanced. Do you praise a small girl for risking her life to help out the group? Do you use a pistol or a tool to dispatch a zombie, do you convince a man to tell a horrible truth or keep it repressed? All of these decisions have far reaching effects and the game makes a point of letting you know. At certain points after you make decisions a message pops up telling you this has happened. At first I thought this was just part of the interface, but in this episode I’ve seen it as another tool to give the decisions impact. A flippant comment will be remembered. When the messages flash up on the screen, it hits you what you’ve just done. You know the results might not take effect for hours to come, but it will come, and your decision making will catch up with you.

It helps that the graphic-novel presentation and soundtrack is so excellent, but really this game is all about fantastic writing. I would encourage anyone who enjoy post apocalyptic or zombie stories to give this game a go, even if you’re not a traditional ‘gamer’. I sets out to achieve similar goals to Heavy Rain in terms of a truely interactive novel, but far surpasses even what Quantic Dream were capable of. The characters have real depth, but no-one is safe. Subtexts are present but rarely hit you round the face to make their point. Your thoughts and values are challenged and tested.

This episode makes a point of judgements. How easy it is to judge others, but when you’re placed in the same situation, what do you do? It seems like the plot is railroading to an obvious choice, but nothing is obvious in the Walking Dead. Everything is so graceful and eloquent, the art of the writing is worth the admission price alone. That and the fact it’s the best adventure game to come out since Grim Fandango. I’m giving this a nine for now, but by the end of the series this could be our very first ten.

 

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