The Walking Dead: Episode Four – Around Every Corner|
The first two episodes of The Walking Dead set a pretty remarkably high bar for interactive storytelling, following Lee and the fractious group of survivors as they try to make it day by day through the world after zombies. Episode 4, Around Every Corner, is a little bit of a breather before the very end, but it's only a breather by the ridiculously intense standards of The Walking Dead. All the pieces continue to come together
You're still Lee Everett, of course, and you've arrived in the city, where a mysterious man is contacting you with Clementine's walkie-talkie, and your only plan for survival is finding a boat you can take out onto the water. By this point, you allegiance is pretty much set, and it's up to Lee to act on the trust he's built, and deal with the trust he's broken, as things come down to the line. At this point, Lee is pretty well-defined, no matter the choices you've taken. He might not side with the kid who's been screwing up from the start, but he's not going to leave him to die. The game's writing is just a triumph, showing what can happen when good writing and strong choices work together to help the player discover their own character and make their own path.
The adventure game elements are comfortably tucked away again, forming a nice balance between the extremes found previously, while still giving some room to experiment with the environment, and tasks to accomplish that can impact the story. The shooting controls are back, and refined from previous episodes, making the combat segments much more manageable than before, getting the pulse going without inducing a headache. The game's controls, and the ways you interact with the world have finally come into their own. There aren't many cringe-inducing moments in the mechanics compared to previous episodes, but it's still brutal and desperate, and there's just the right amount of physical conflict alongside the confrontations between NPCs.
Really, it's hard to say much about the game without spoiling it. The Walking Dead is all about the story of what happens to the survivors, the desperate downward slide, how societies work and how they break. People die, both suddenly and at agonizing length, more survivors join the group, and the question is always there: Who can you trust, and who'll trust you? There's always new secrets to be hidden or revealed, at possible great cost.
The game's graphics and sound are right on the mark. With character designs taken straight from the comic and cell-shaded graphics, the game looks like an animated, colorized version of the comic, and the sounds and voice acting are right on. Even the little touches are brilliant. When you finish the episode, you're presented with a trailer for the next episode, with selected scenes based on the choices you made, followed by a list of the major choices you made, and how they stacked up to the choices others made. Even during the game, you get popups telling you when an NPC's attitude towards you has been affected by your choices. When you refuse to answer someone's pointed question about your past, and the game tells you that they'll remember that, it's about as chilling as being trapped by the dead. In a game so focused on player choice, Telltale really grasps every opportunity to highlight when and where the things you do matter.
The Walking Dead might not be for everyone, but for the people who realize that the real horror in surviving a zombie outbreak lies in other humans, Telltale's game provides a compelling drama. While I'd prefer more interaction and more desperate fights and less puzzles for the sake of padding things out, The Walking Dead is still one of the only zombie games that gets why Romero's zombies worked, and it's all the better for it.