Review

The Walking Dead Episode 5: No Time Left Review (Xbox360)

Oh god. There are games that I look forward to, there are games I might consider picking up in a sale, and there are games I am indifferent to. The Walking Dead Episode 5: No Time Left, on the other hand, was a release I was absolutely dreading. Not that I wasn’t extraordinarily excited about finishing such an amazing series that is undoubtedly one of the best games of the year, but after the conclusion of Around Every Corner I knew it was going to gut-punch my soul.

Telltale’s The Walking Dead series represents exactly what storytelling in an interactive medium like games should be. Not hour-long cutscene after cutscene, but meaningful conversations, flawed characters, and most importantly hard choices with no obvious right-or-wrong answers that affect the entire story. Nowhere is this better exemplified than Episode 5, where a seemingly throwaway choice I made back in Episode 2 (that was months ago for chrissakes!) becomes a major plot point! I am now desperate to find out what the heck would’ve happened if I had made a different choice there, since all the events from the end of Episode 4 onwards seem to revolve around it! I’m probably not going to replay the series though, as I really don’t think my heart could take it.

This ain’t gonna end well, is it?

Normally at this point I’d give some semblance of plot for this episode, or a run-down of the events of the previous episode that lead into this, but there is absolutely no way I can without spoiling things. Suffice to say, the events that concluded Episode 4 left things fairly certain of a heart-wrenching finale, and Telltale have most definitely delivered on this in the most beautiful and utterly life-is-unfair way possible. Things come to a head, all the members of the group get their moments, and Lee and Clementine… no. No, no, no. I will not say a damn word. Nevertheless, you will cry. I did. Big manly tears.

The key to The Walking Dead’s critical success of course has been the way the entire game’s story has shaped itself to your choices along the way. Even right at the end Episode 5 continues adding more choice/consequence moments even as things begin to wrap up. Of particular note is a scene right at the beginning that I can talk about – during a conversation at the end of Episode 4 I made a dialogue choice but the game cut to the credits before Lee said it. Guess how Episode 5 starts? Yep, with my dialogue choice! A very tiny thing but hugely cool. Another choice that followed shortly after that I can’t talk about, but let me just say while I’ve been moved to tears in games before I’ve never been so close to vomiting before. It’s one of the sickest moments in gaming (and in keeping with The Walking Dead comic/TV show), so be prepared and have a bucket handy. Even recalling it now I feel my lunch rising in my throat a bit. Let’s move on.

Anyway, the point is that The Walking Dead is an astonishing bit of coding. I really can’t bang on enough about how much you need to play it, if just to see how much things can change on each playthrough. I thought Mass Effect was the pinnacle of choice/consequence gaming but Walking Dead is the new champion in my opinion, especially after ME’s botched ending . Although saying that, there is a post-credits scene here (which I obviously won’t spoil) that I’m a little cross with as it didn’t seem to meet my decisions. There could be an explanation for it, but you really have to fill in the blanks yourself as it jumps forward in time a little. No, not to the far future when a father’s telling his son about Shepard.

To lighten the tone, here’s some gratuitous violence

Another slight niggle about Episode 5 is that gameplay-wise, at least in terms of puzzles, this is the lightest yet. Telltale always seem to do this to be fair, where their season finale is all story and less game. I don’t really count this as a problem as it’s the choice/consequence system that matters most to Walking Dead as a game alongside a few quick-time events, but if you’re an adventure game fan looking for puzzles to solve there are very few here. Consequently Episode 5 is easily the shortest in the series, although that might be because I played it through in one sitting as I was desperate to find out what was going to happen.

Graphically I continue to marvel at how Telltale have managed to bring these characters to life with just a few facial expressions, but I’m really glad they went for the timeless cel-shaded style as it really allows the emotions to show and the game to look cool even with rather a basic graphics engine powering everything. And there’s the fantastic voice acting of course. I’m officially now shouting out to Melissa Hutchison (Clementine), Gavin Hammon (Kenny) and the rest of the amazing cast for really giving their all into these parts, but it’s Dave Fennoy as Lee Everett that I hope will go down as one of the best gaming actor performances of all time. His scenes in this episode in particular would not have put such a massive lump in my throat if he hadn’t been as good as he was. Sniff.

McCay’s Best Signs – For When You Need A Makeshift Bridge To Escape From Zombies

And there’s not much more to be said, other than also praising Jared Emerson-Johnson for his subtle but tension-inducing and nerve-wracking soundtrack. The Walking Dead Episode 5: No Time Left is a fine finale to a fantastic series, offering nail-biting tension, wonderful send-offs for the people who’ve earned it, and the culmination of eight months’ worth of decisions. Telltale could not have ended this season in a better way, but there are indeed threads which will undoubtedly be picked up on for the next season.

But will our choices be carried on? I hope so, but that’s a question only Telltale can answer. Whatever the case, The Walking Dead: The Game won’t just go down as one of the best examples of gaming as a storytelling medium, it isn’t just one of the best licensed games ever made, and it won’t just be known as one of the best games of 2012 (if not the best). It’ll also be the only game ever that made me think, made me laugh, made me jump out of my seat, made me cry, and made me want to vomit. That’s Telltale’s real achievement in my view.

Top Game Moment: That little chat between Lee and Clementine near the end of the episode. I think that’ll live with me forever. No spoilers. Sniff.

Platform Played: PC

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