Without a doubt, this is one of the best games of the year.
Reviewed on the Xbox 360 by Alex Trotter-Fernandez
I was apprehensive about playing this final episode of The Walking Dead: The Game. Over the past few months Tell Tale Games have tormented me. They’ve presented me with impossible choices, killed off the people I cared about it and forever dangled a carrot which was always rotten at the core. In their efforts to break down my humanity they have been remarkably successful. I’ve done things, man, horrible things, and this final episode is all about atonement. Remembering the things I did to survive, and putting them into perspective with a warped sense of satisfaction. From Day one we all knew where this was heading and the closing moments of episode four only cemented the clear and present fact that this was never going to end well. As this is about atonement, it presents one last chance to make things right. To save your own innocence in the form of a fruit named child with a bloody baseball cap.
The first thing that’s evident about No Time Left, is that there’s really isn’t any time left. The sense that a ticking clock is quickly counting down to zero is strong, the final episode being far shorter and streamlined than previous offerings. Before episodes were slow burning and measured, doling out painful memories with enough time for reflection. Episode five is a freight train that doesn’t let up. The previous episode may have not pushed the narrative far enough, but here were presented with an exciting, tense and often horrific adventure. Major decisions occur in each scene while older ones play out in an often satisfying way. The opening Disclaimer is that The Walking Dead: The Game is tailored to your choices. Tale Tell chose to tell a very specific story, there are no branching paths to be found here and the outcome is often the same. What does work is how they successfully made the story yours by way of decisions that you made.
[pullquote]…the moral choices you made and how you carry yourself is vital to the experience of this game.[/pullquote]It’s a far cry from the pre-determined multiple endings of other games, but instead of offering tacked on different colored endings, The Walking Dead: The Game offers different experiences. That’s the keyword here, experiences. How you get along with characters, the moral choices you made and how you carry yourself is vital to the experience of this game. You could play the game in different ways and experience something new each time, even though the story itself is linear. Rarely have games that so right in the past, future and present. It’s about closure more or less, in terms of the narrative the things that you may or may not have done don’t really come back to bite you in the arse. There are plenty of nods here and there, but the overall impact remains the same whether you played as a evil bastard, white knight or just some guy in-between. Because of the grey moral areas in Tell Tale’s yarn, the chances are you’ve probably done something reprehensible at some point or another, and the game reminds you off that.
You see, throughout the game you’ve basically been judged by an unseen character. I’ll try not reveal any killer plot twists, but this character serves as your conscience. It’s an interesting close to the series in that point, as this final confrontation is essentially with yourself and the horrible things you may or may not have done. Guilt is one way of putting it, I often chose responses to each realization and aquisation with a “I’m Sorry”. As much as I tried to justify the horrible things I’ve done, this confrontation puts everything in perspective. I was a truly horrible person, and the only thing I done right was looking after Clementine. Although I was reminded that I let her eat people that one time. Whoops.
Long standing characters get their closure as well, and there are wonderful conversations that highlight this. Kenny was always a bastard no matter how you played, but he was my bastard. In the end he atones for his sins, a theme that is consistent with this episode and quite possibly the entire series, started with the fact that in your previous life you did a horrible thing. This episode reminds you that it was never about the needs of the group, just doing right by Clementine. She represents your innocence or the one good thing you ever did in your life. The ending of this episode only strengthens that feeling. It may have been downplayed somewhat, but the emotional ride of a journey long finished is enough to tug on your heart strings. Of course anything involving The Walking Dead wouldn’t be right without it’s fair share of harrowing moments. The choices you have to make, and the things you have to decide are just as tense and horrifying as previous episodes. There’s also a fantastic sequence involving some rock n’ roll and a sturdy weapon. A build up to the conclusion of events that have sent in stone something horrific. Talk about anticipation!
Technically this episode plays and feels like the rest of the episodes, only with more immediacy and in a streamlined way. Puzzles are there, but they are quick to solve to keep the story moving. There’s no downtime here and the flow is indicative of something moving to a grand finally. Technical hiccups still persist with a new graphical glitch that is truly terrifying. At one point I was talking to Kenny, he turned around and his eyes were missing. I literally freaked out and screamed in horror. His eyes then moved independent of his head as if under control by some supernatural power. As usual stuff like that isn’t enough to ruin the experience, only hamper the immersion some what. And scare the living crap out of you.
No Time Left is a fitting end to the first season of The Walking Dead: The Game. As a whole the series has gone from strength to strength with an occasional hiccup. It revitalized the point and click adventure genre to the point where it’s one of the most played games on Xbox Live. Something independent with this overall quality is a rare and beautiful thing. With it’s strengths and flaws, it’s easy to see this game being talked about for years to come. The ending also highlights something important. There will probably, most likely be a second season of this game. With a masterpiece of storytelling like The Walking Dead under their belt, it’s hard to see Tell Tale faltering in the next installment. The Walking Dead: The Game does something that most games fail to do. It provides an experience that’s immediately personal and allows you to reflect on your choices in a way most games do not. If you haven’t played The Walking Dead: The Game yet, what are you waiting for? Download it now, or get the retail version in a couple of weeks. You have to play this game to experience it.