Woah. That is the impression The Walking Dead: Episode 4 left me with. It has been tagged as the penultimate episode leading up to the fifth and final in the series from Telltale Games and it succeeds in setting up a thrilling finish. Penned by writer Gary Whitta, this episode picks right up where Episode 3 left us stunned. Whitta and Mark Darin weave a harrowing tale, well paced and thrilling. The story is the star here, the twists and turns compelling the player to move forward. They kept the ebb and flow smooth and there were several moments during this episode that left me genuinely scared and a bit creeped out.
Nothing really changes graphically from the other episodes. It still looks and feels like a living, breathing comic book. The details are superb. I really like what they've done with the art direction in this game, from character design to the city of Savannah itself. Everything feels like it belongs. There were a few moments where the game didn't quite match up audio and visually, but in a game like this it isn't a crime when that happens, just mildly inconvenient. The voice acting is still solid and adds depth and emotion to the game, especially Clementine.
Speaking of Clementine, I've spent most of my time through this game series doing my best to take care of that girl, basing all of my decisions on how best to take care of her. It is a testament to how well the game has me enthralled with these characters that I'm even starting to make decisions I wouldn't find myself normally making in a zombie apocalypse. I've always prided myself on being level-headed and cold when it comes to the potentially inevitable zombie apocalypse, but my decisions in this game have been anything but. I get upset when I think something has happened to her and every time I leave her with someone else I fret those few moments when I come back and I don't know where she is. The game could be a complete mess but now that I'm attached to these characters I have to see it through to the end. Luckily, the game play is great and the inclusion of the R1 button to fire your weapon makes those shooting segments a lot easier. That was my one issue with the previous games, the random shuffling of the zombies made it really hard to aim with the right stick and fire with X. Now that it is alleviated, the game plays a lot smoother.
There was a particular segment that comes to mind that perfectly blended the sense of action, fear and decision making that Telltale is known for. I was running up a staircase — in a location I'm not going to disclose for spoilerish reasons — and zombies were in front of and behind me. They were between the group and I, newly armed with a shotgun, started fighting my way back up the stairs. At one point a leg falls through the stair and you have to pull yourself free while alternatively fending off the horde. I'm not ashamed to admit I died during this particular moment at least once. The game had me feeling panicky and I spent too much time jerkin' my own leg. The end result being a zombie got a Lee sandwich for dinner. Eventually you work your way back up the stairs after taking out a few more with a hatchet, which admittedly makes you feel kind of bad ass. Ben has been a pain in the ass so far into the game and you're given a choice once you reach the top that could or could not come back to haunt you. You don't have a lot of time to make the decision with the masses of the walking dead scuffling toward you, so you decide quickly and hope for the best. That whole section kind of personified the game for me a little bit. It had everything the game has tried to push from the start and it is pulled off flawlessly.
The story has had its share of twists and turns through the first three episodes and they keep coming right on through Episode 4. While I did see a few coming, there were others that genuinely took me by surprise. The story definitely has its own voice at this point and the decisions you've made in the past 3 are starting to really come back to haunt (or help) you. All in all, a wonderful performance by everyone at Telltale Games. I can't wait for Episode 5.
Dylan Tano has been playing video games since before he could walk. He's scaled castles and rode on the backs of giants. He has lived many lives and will live many more.He revealed himself to be the infamous Spider-Bro on Twitter as @BroSpider.