The Walking Dead video game series is a little hard to review, especially when inspecting just one episode. While it is basically an adventure game focused on storytelling and intense emotional drama, The Walking Dead ultimately revolves around choice and the player’s actions in certain situations (and zombies). That means that each player experiences each episode differently, depending on the characters that survived from previous episodes and the nature of the protagonist’s relationship with them. This leads to a bit of a problem, since what I experienced while playing through Episode 4: Around Every Corner might not (and probably won’t) be what most of you will. Luckily, there are still plenty of things to talk about, that make The Walking Dead series one of the best story-driven video games in recent years, and episode 4 is no exception.
First and foremost: this review might contain minor spoilers for previous episodes in the series, so if you haven’t played them all yet – go do that instead. Now.
Around Every Corner picks up right where the previous episode left off, as the gang enters the city of Savannah is search of a boat to take them all to the relative safety of the ocean (zombies don’t swim). What was supposed to be a clean stroll through the seemingly abandoned city, quickly goes south as Lee, Clementine and company have to, once again, run and fight for their lives against the walkers while the mysterious voice from Clem’s walkie-talkie keeps taunting them. As the story progresses we get to meet new survivors, such as a cancer support group hiding in a hospital and a young woman named Molly who is more than capable of holding her own in a fight against the “geeks”, as she calls them.
But all these new faces just serve to emphasize the holes left by ones you’ve lost along the way. At times it really feels like the new characters are supposed to replace the now-absent people you grew attached to in previous episodes, with little to no success. At other time they feel like nothing more than a passing ship in the dark, with no real impact on the story or group dynamics. It points to both a strength and a weakness in the game’s atmosphere, on one hand highlighting the series’ ability to create real emotional connections between the player and the NPCs, but on the other making the newcomers seem shallow and uninteresting, with no real personality other than an overused trope.
Oddly enough, there isn’t a lot of story progression for such an advanced episode, but the little there is is still incredibly engaging. The search for the boat is still the main driving force behind the plot, and episode 4 doesn’t really introduce any new story elements at this point. However, it does have its own self-contained story arc about what happened in Savannah and the fascist city-state that rose after the dead did the same, but it all comes to a conclusion by the end of the episode to make room for the cliffhanger ending. Around Every Corner is less about moving forward and more about setting the stage and tying loose ends before the grand finale in episode 5.
When The Walking Dead isn’t about story, it’s about choices, and episode 4 has some of the most difficult ones in the series so far. Players who are heavily invested in the story will have a hard time deciding between what they know is right and what they feel they must do, especially when it comes to Clementine. Around Every Corner is probably the hardest episode to go through, not because of the puzzles or action sequences, but because of the emotional stress and rising tension. It feels like all of the choices you’ve made till this point have come back to haunt you.
Speaking of puzzles, action and tension, episode 4 is the most action oriented episode thus far. There are all the usual inventory-based puzzles and quick-time events we’ve come to know throughout the series, but now there are certain action-sequences that make the game feel more like a first-person shooter. It’s not an unwelcome change of pace, if viewing the entire series as a whole, but it does feel a little bit alien, or even over the top at times. Sure, it’s fun to shoot zombies in the head, but it takes away a lot of the tension and sense of dread other episodes worked so hard to build (and shooting zombies isn’t why people play The Walking Dead). Besides, blasting through a dozen zombies with a shotgun on a narrow staircase with a few clicks of a button isn’t very empowering or intense; it just serves to make the zombies seem less terrifying and dangerous.
The presentation, as always, is top notch. The voice actors behind Lee and Clementine have done an amazing job in particular, alongside all the others, at bringing the characters and their motivations to life. While you probably like some more than the others, each character feels like a rounded human being with fears, hopes and goals, thanks mostly to the voice acting (and the dialog). By now, you should be familiar with The Walking Dead’s comic book-like artistic style, with colorful environments and slightly exaggerated character models. It looks as lovely as it did in previous episodes, and keeps the series’ main theme of subtle gore combined with a unique, bright and colorful aesthetics.
The Walking Dead Episode 4: Around Every Corner is a very satisfying experience for fans of the series, even though it is much more focused on action than on story or puzzles. It offers a great side-story and further explores the relationship between Lee and Clementine by forcing you to make choices you really don’t want to make, but know you have to. The new characters might not be as interesting as the ones left behind, but they still help set the episode’s atmosphere and guide the player through the horrible reality the group stumbles upon in Savannah. As the series comes to a close, episode 4 tries to tie any loose ends it can find, sometimes at the expense of story integrity, but it is quite befitting, what with the epic (and probably tragic) conclusion of Lee’s journey just around the corner.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.