Thursday
Oct182012

QCF: The Walking Dead: Episode 4

 

With past choices and those terrible circumstances still fresh in their minds, the group of survivors are on a one-way stop to a potential escape from the zombie hordes pursuing them. However, once their train arrives in Savannah, Georgia it's very clear that this ghost town is far from dead and some of its inhabitants don't want them to reach their destination. Upon completing Episode Four of The Walking Dead there will be more questions than answers, however it blends great dialogue and storytelling mechanics with a better use of action to set the mood perfectly as the finale to the first “season” approaches.

 

As Lee, the player enters the town of Savannah in hopes of finding a boat that will put them far away from the zombie outbreak that has claimed everyone he's ever loved. The only thing that presses him forward is the well-being of his nominally adopted child, Clementine. Their relationship, along with the rest of the group's, is tested throughout this story as they encounter others in town that may or may not be friendly or helpful to their escape. The story is well told, with excellent dialogue that seems believable in certain situations and can simultaneously be very hard to hear or experience. This was the first instance in the game where I not only felt bad for an action or choice I'd made, but upset and hurt at how a character addressed me. A digital character made me feel like a terrible human being, which certainly is a shining example of how Telltale continues to blur the line between a video game and an interactive experience that spins a better narrative than many movies and books.

This episode played more like a mystery than others in the series, with constant clues and pieces of evidence that were slowly being pieced together to tell a story too gruesome to be described here. The player would also have the opportunity to address these situations, say for example the secrets concealed by a Savannah native named Molly that you meet early on in the episode. Choosing not to discuss the event seemed like a more civil approach and as Lee I felt that I would carry the burden and not bring another survivor down who, until that point, was hopeful and motivated. Molly gives some insight into the town of Savannah and how the city was destroyed. Not by the dead, but by the survivors that attempted to take matters into their own hands. In true Walking Dead fashion, it's discovered that the real monsters are the same people trying to live another day at any cost. By the end of this particular arch, I felt my humanity was tested and possibly changed for the worse as I was forced to remember the choices leading to this point and the sacrifices made throughout the journey.

 

The action in this entry was handled better and more fitting to what was currently happening in the story. Unlike the previous episode where shooting felt like a poorly designed light gun game, the mechanics were streamlined and it seemed that each movement and action was for a reason. Especially in the ending moments of the encounter where a mad dash to escape had me holding my breath in anticipation. Although this story is told by decisions and not actions, it was reassuring to see that Telltale was taking concerns to heart and truly attempting to improve in these areas. The music was very subtle throughout most events, however one scene involving an undug grave was very telling of how Lee was feeling and told of a sadness that everyone in the group was experiencing.

 

All these moments in this latest episode were well crafted and told an amazing story. Not only was the group struggling to find an exit to this nightmare, but at the same time new elements were being incorporated that gave depth to the zombie outbreak and other survivors. A particular scene involving a child that is found in an abandoned attic was such an experience that it made the entirety of this season feel incredibly real and emotionally draining. With the cliffhanger ending and now the awareness of what is at stake, I believe the wait for the final chapter will be unbearable. For anyone who has yet to jump into The Walking Dead, this will be the easiest choice you'll make this year. Buy it. Buy the entire season, and wait along with everyone else as we count the days until this tale reaches its epic conclusion. 

 

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