It’s the end of the road. For now.
Telltale Games’ brilliant The Walking Dead adaptation comes to a close in the stirring frantic finale.
I reviewed it for SquareGo
The Walking Dead – Episode 5
It’s been a long road. It feels almost years have passed since we first met Lee Everett in the back seat of that cop car, powering out of Atlanta towards a future in a prison cell that turned out to be more metaphorical than anyone could have guessed. Through his journey from disgraced history professor, to leader of a band of ill-fitting lost souls has brought us into conflict with others, sometimes verbally, on occasion violently with a ferocity that was at times sickening and at others grimly satisfying. Yet behind this savagery and beneath the skin of this gratuitous experience there has always been a story of hope, trust, dependence and love. The love of a parent and a child.
It’s fair to say that the names Lee and Clementine are now all but impermeably etched upon the consciousness of anyone who plays through the Walking Dead series. Above and beyond the legion moral conundrums and bitter, often pyrrhic decisions Lee has faced throughout the series, the one constant factor has been his need to protect his all but surrogate daughter, Clem. After four parts of a story gently leading the audience to love these characters, the final piece has locked into place, and ensured that they now have a tangible and definitive goal that emotionally resonates. It’s almost impossible to imagine any player who has stuck with the series to the end and not being utterly hell-bent upon seeing this through to the bitter, and necessarily horrific finale.
Suffice to say that episode five “No Time Left” represents the culmination of the series in a variety of ways. A surprising number of the choices made throughout the series return to haunting effect, in subtle and clever moments. While the plot isn’t entirely unpredictable, it does throw enough curve balls and unexpected turns to keep the momentum going. Especially after episode 4′s pedestrian pace and overbearing sense of being filler material before the climactic segment.
Telltale Games are not new to this business, they know their craft and with The Walking Dead they’ve created that most curious of things; a series that will be studied and copied for years to come, a gaming landmark which easily surpasses both the recent television adaptation and the original comic book series in quality and in emotional draw. The fact remains that the storytelling, dialogue and voice acting in The Walking Dead represent a high-water mark in gaming history. In the place of the usual clichés and deadpan “MacGuffinism” of the videogame lexicon, we have ordinary people talking and acting believably in an extraordinary situation. But there has been a further ace up the game’s sleeve, the illusion of choice.
Few games have ever managed to demonstrably get inside the head of the player as brilliantly as the series Telltale Games have created. The balance of linearity and the illusion of free will has been met perfectly, giving an experience which captivates as well as entrances. The branching choices in the storyline as well have been better used in The Walking Dead than in almost any other adventure title. We live the choices we make in the game, and in turn we are forced to suffer the consequences and ire of those choices as in few others. It’s this crowning achievement that sets The Walking Dead apart, and makes the ENTIRE series an essential game to play.