Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Platform: PlayStation 3 / PlayStation Network
Review Copy Provided By: Telltale Games
Release Date: November 20, 2012
The final episode of season one of Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead game has finally arrived. It is the conclusion to a game that fits all of the critic buzzwords like “emotional thrill ride” and “heartbreaking but satisfying”. The story goes beyond the zombie genre, movies, television, and books providing a seat at the table that so many critics in other media have tried to deny gaming. A lot of reviewers will be throwing around ideas like “proof that games can be art” and “neener neener neener Roger Ebert.” We won’t be getting into that argument here but this game will be talked about, poked, and prodded for its winning formula for years to come.
Rest assured that key things are the same as they have been in previous episodes. The Walking Dead has not left the gameplay stylings of point and click adventuring for first person shooter (at least until Activision comes out with their game based on the AMC television show). There are still scenes where players are tasked with looking at items and using them to solve problems in an open but limited area such as a room or house. Quicktime events still happen and can still kill you. The Walking Dead is still cell shaded with excellent art along the lines of the comic. This is not an effort to sound flippant but Episode 5 is the same game we have had since Episode 1, so don’t expect much difference outside of content.
No Time Left picks up after the twist and cliff hanger at the end of Episode 4 – Around Every Corner and puts the survivors on a mission to save one of their own. Characters we have met along the way will meet their ends in ways that completely fit their character right until the end. There are no real “well why did they do that” moments that often trouble narratives trying to wrap up to a conclusion. It becomes emotionally and painfully clear that the characters were crafted to tug on our heartstrings and that while we have some choices to make, their destiny has long been set in stone. Callbacks to character defining moments fill this episode and really help define the tone that this is end for better or for worse. Lee and other characters will have to answer for their decisions whether they regret, excuse, or stand by them.
Voice acting is once again superb and ups the ante as the drama and emotion required by the harrowing plot brings out the best in the voice actors. Gamers have suffered bad voice acting since it’s inclusion and while there are games that have great voice acting, it is usually relative to the games with bad voice acting. The voice work in The Walking Dead game and No Time Left in particular is beyond that of rivaling performances outside of gaming. There is just a mind-blowing amount of emotion in the performances.
It was interesting to watch reactions on Twitter throughout the week after the release. Many a grown man made the claim of weeping like a child. That reaction should speak volumes to the emotional depth that this episode is able to achieve between story and presentation. There were some cheesy scenes, like one towards the end where Lee marches down the street hacking away at zombies with a cleaver while some cowboyish rock showdown music plays in the background but the heavy hitting stuff outweighs them.
The Walking Dead finishes as a game that exemplifies the concept of the journey rather than the destination. Choices didn’t change who lived and died at the very end but all of the characters had a destiny and the choices made by the player paved the road there. The only downside to the title might have been the gameplay that was stuck in a paradigm of point and click adventures. A large number of the find these items to solve this situation areas killed the pacing. By the end of Episode 5, I would groan every time I reached one of these sections of the game because I wanted the story to continue.
Outside of the gameplay, Telltale’s complete product showcases masterful storytelling and carefully crafted characters that could cause the players to love and hate them at the appropriate times, *cough* Duck *cough*. Painstaking attention had to have been paid to carefully plan every little detail to grab at the players emotion.
Season 1 of the game could not have gone any better and there are already claims of Season 2 in the works. No Time Left caps off a story that fits perfectly in the world of The Walking Dead found in the comics and television show. As any experienced gamer knows, there were so many ways this game and this episode could have gone south due to the licensed nature of it. We have grown to distrust anything licensed but maybe we can start feeling hopeful again with the resurgence of quality attention paid to properties such as The Walking Dead and Batman.