Developer: Telltale Games / Publisher: Telltale Games / Played on: PS3 / Price: $4.99 / ESRB: Mature [Strong Language, Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes]
What is there to say about Telltale’s The Walking Dead at this point? The first three episodes are truly a revolution when it comes to gripping, episodic content that is rewarding to play and serious about its thematic approach. Episode four is penned by the series’ story consultant Gary Whitta, the man who wrote the screenplay for The Book of Eli, a fact you by now surely know. So is it good? Well, yes. But if you’ll permit me a turn of phrase, Around Every Corner “is about the destination, not the journey.”
If you’ve been keeping up with the story thus far, you know that Lee and the crew arrive in Savannah, Georgia in hopes of finding a boat to sail to safety. Of course, Omid has a broken leg and needs medical care, so the group decides to hole up in a house, gather supplies, and figure out who the heck seems to be following them and ringing the church bells around town, causing the dead to shamble towards their position.
Ultimately, the plot of the episode is decent; it’s a story of survival and fetch quests punctuated by action and chase scenes through the sewers. You’re introduced to new characters, including Molly, a mysterious girl with agility to spare. Molly’s story might be the best of the bunch in this episode, as she fills you in on the neighborhood of Crawford, apparently a haven for a brutal “survival of the fittest” society of humans determined to stay alive during the outbreak.
All of this unfolds under dramatic circumstances: Ben proves he’s about as useful as a doorknob, Clementine continues to find danger, and Lee and Kenny either love each other or hate each other depending on your past choices around their relationship.
What’s really unfortunate is that the plot threads teased out at the end of episode three aren’t really resolved or moved along, except with a slight nod in the final five minutes of Around Every Corner. The mystery voice on the walkie-talkie remains just that, and Christa and Omid don’t develop as characters the way I wish they would have, making them feel like throw-ins. Like episode three, episode four seems more focused on having you perform menial tasks while it’s busy setting up the final fifth episode.
That said, the end of this installment does end under shocking and dramatic circumstances, events that will be sure to provoke plenty of discussion among fans. The decisions you make, too, also finally feel like they’re really affecting the possible outcomes, with the final scene of the episode playing out in one of six different ways. It’s also very clear to me that nothing good will ever happen to any of these characters; just when I thought I might be earning small victories, the game smacked me down with some of the worst downers yet.
All in all, the story is still riveting, but I would like to culminate the experience at this point.
It was quite rewarding to explore an urban setting again; the city of Savannah is rendered nicely, lending an almost peaceful quality to the affair, despite the zombies. I also continue to marvel at the sheer variety of character design Telltale has put into this series, even for the bit parts. Characters without speaking lines still have a differentiated look, and each zombie feels unique, which lends a nice dynamism to the game world.
Some of Lee’s animations are questionable; sometimes he slowly walks during a scene that clearly is pushing rapid tension (can he not sprint anywhere?) but that’s a very minor annoyance.
This is the same game you know and love, and while the episode plot itself might not light a fire, the events near the conclusion of the story have a very heavy impact on episode five (and this is reflected by the omission of a “Next time on The Walking Dead” teaser at the end of the episode). It’s got some nice simple puzzle sequences, some shootouts, and a truck full of drama. Let’s just hope the final chapter doesn’t take forever to come out.
+ Great action and drama
+ New characters are interesting
- Lack of movement on the overarching plot
8 / 10