When it comes to 2012 Game of the Year discussions, there's been a whole lot of talk about developer Telltale Games' Walking Dead series. And why wouldn't there be? After all, the five-part point and click adventure can boast one of the most well-written and emotionally charged stories in the business. In case you're new to the series, back out of this review now. Get on your Xbox 360 or your PS3 or your iPad right away, download the first episode and immerse yourself in in the phenomenon.
When last we left Lee Everett, Clementine and whoever the hell else may survived the walkers and/or worst of humanity, things were not looking great. After heading into the Crawford district of Savannah (a community that simply cast out all the sick and weak and children) all hell broke loose and the group barely made it out alive. Clementine was kidnapped by the mysterious man on the other end of the walkie-talkie and—worst of all—Lee was bitten!
As episode 5 begins, players must search for Clem while dealing with what may just be Lee Everett's impending demise...dammit.
The Walking Dead game series has relied on the two main tenets of great writing and difficult decision-making since day 1, and episode 5 takes both elements to incredible new heights. Within the first few minutes, players are faced with the toughest choice since deciding who would prevent Kenny's son from turning into a walker.
Without ruining the surprise, it is one of the most jaw-dropping moments in gaming history, the kind of thing that solidifies Lee Everett as a true hero, regardless of his troubled past. This, umm, event, is all the more impressive when looking back over four previous games full of jaw-dropping events, but he loves Clementine like she was his own, and his willingness to do whatever it takes to ensure her safety is fantastic. We've watched as the pair's father/daughter dynamic has slowly evolved into a beautiful and meaningful relationship, and it is absolutely riveting to see how Lee handles her disappearance. We feel what he feels—utter terror and hopelessness combined with abject determination. Why? Because we love Clem, too. We feel like she has become our family, and it isn't a matter of wanting to save her anymore, we absolutely have to...no question. Who would've thought that a modern video game would have characters so very memorable?
Faced with the bite from the walker, Lee becomes more and more frantic, but it's always about Clem and never his own fate. This is what a father would do, and the surviving members of the group soften and begin to empathize. Whereas survival was priority one, Clem's kidnapping brings out the very best in all of them. Even jerks like Christa put Clem's safety ahead of their own as everyone works together in harmony for the first time for the good of everybody's favorite little girl hero.
It's like Kenny said in episode 2: "You took care of the kids first, that's what a real man does."
Depending on how certain scenarios play out, the characters meet less than satisfying conclusions. It's almost as if Telltale painted themselves into a corner by pushing the story to the very limits of intensity. It's a little disappointing when you're left with more questions than answers about characters you've come to know and love. It has been announced that there will be a second season, but all the same, it would have been nice to have closure for some of these memorable people. Episode 5 also moves more slowly than others, and it's entirely possible that those who aren't super-fans may have a hard time with the pacing.
The Bottom Line
If you've been playing this phenomenal series one thing's for sure—you will cry. Episode 5 has the type of ending that sticks with you for days after your playthrough. Despite technical hiccups here and there and a slower experience than previous iterations, Telltale Games has set a new standard not only for episodical gaming, but for the rich Walking Dead universe. For those who have been with Lee and Clem since the beginning, you will love this game. And for those who have yet to experience this masterpiece, what the hell are you waiting for!? Season 2 will arrive before we know it, and there's no excuse for missing this game, period.
9 out of 10
The Walking Dead Episode 5: No Time Left
Cost: $4.99 (or equivalent MS points/PSN bucks)
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, iOS
Rating: Mature (there will be blood)