Published on October 22nd, 2012 | by Derek Strickland, Contributor
The Walking Dead: Episode 4 Around Every Corner Review
Developer: Telltale Games
Platform: PC [Reviewed], Mac, XBLA and PSN
Release Date: Oct. 10, 2012
Genre: Action Adventure, Horror
MSRP: $24.99 (full collection), $5 (400 MSP)
Telltale’s adaptations of The Walking Dead comic series have been hailed as some of the most genuine and original games in years, utilizing the signature horrifying aspects of the series and incorporating a level of human drama to bring gamers an episodic journey through a nightmarish world.
The characters are all realistic and fully-fleshed, each having their own personalities, beliefs, and struggles. Many of them go through a metamorphosis–such as Kenny, who loses everything he’s ever loved—and turns into a hardened survivor. The accounts of human struggle and purely emotional drama make up for the best elements of the series…yet the gameplay is quite innovative and makes use of original game mechanics to provide for an interesting and memorable experience.
Continuing from Episode 3: The Long Road Ahead, the survivors have made their way to the suburbs of Savannah via train. In the last episode three more survivors joined the dwindling group: Chuck, the aged hard-knuckled drifter, Omid, a charismatic and lighthearted fan of Civil War History, and Christa, Omid’s wise-cracking girlfriend with a spitfire attitude.
Everyone is under the stress of constantly having to fend off zombies to survive, yet Kenny is wound much tighter than the rest as he’s still dealing with the demise of his family–Katjaa and Duck.
In a masterful plot twist, the group learns that Clementine’s walkie-talkie isn’t broken after all, and she has been communicating with a mysterious man right from the beginning. Lee, who’s willing to do whatever it takes to protect Clementine from both the dead and the living, is instantly distrusting of this new creepy figure, and decides to keep the walkie talkie out of Clementine’s hands. Not only has she been giving details about the group–Lee in particular–she has told the mysterious stranger their plans…putting all of them, especially herself, into jeopardy.
The chapter continues with a variety of new faces and characters, including Molly, the agile survivor who uses an ice axe to take out walkers, and the harsh society of Crawford–a community of fiendish elite survivors who live in a fortified neighborhood and live by stringent rules. The story takes twists and turns, many of which are as shocking as those featured in the earlier episodes, and continues the story of our ragtag group of friends who try to do what it takes to survive.
What lies in wait for Lee and Clementine, and will he be able to protect her from the evils of both the dead and the living?
Episode 4‘s game mechanics keep the traditional point-and-click, free-roam scheme found in the rest of the games, and don’t vary in any way from the other titles in the series. Players are still met with dynamic dialogue choices that affect gameplay, as well as those emotional and tough decisions like who of the survivors they’d like to save. Around Every Corner keeps the grisly nightmarish aspects that are present within the whole series, while building on the general plotlines and expanding the persona of the characters.
The controls are still the same, but personally I find that the game is better played with a USB Xbox 360 controller rather than the traditional mouse and keyboard combination. Whether you’re playing on PC or console, the basic controls are the same–and strangely there is more fluid control with the dual axis of a controller rather than a mouse. Players navigate throughout areas either using the standard ASWD (or arrow keys) and look around with the mouse–with a controller it’s the left stick for movement and the right stick for controls.
While playing with a controller, dialogue choices are presented in a sort of radial menu where four choices are usually present, making use of the four face buttons. This is much more efficient than using the 1-4 keys on a keyboard, and presents a more stylish on-screen representation.
The Walking Dead games are a bit like old-school detective games where gamers inspect the environments around them, and collect various items and clues to solve a given situation.
For example, to enter the boarded up house in the beginning of Episode 4, Lee digs up the corpse of a dog to retrieve his collar in order to activate the signal for the doggy door. Players pick up the shovel, uncover the remains, pick up the collar, and then use it to open the door in a systematic and linear path that is logical and not too cryptic.
In high stress situations where a few seconds can be the difference between life and death, players will have to rapidly press various buttons (like Q on the keyboard or X on the controller pad) in order to survive. These situations range from strong-arming walkers to prying open sewer caps to escape, many of which take quite rapid pressings to align the on-screen prompt. After alignment, players must then press a certain key in an allotted time in order to survive.
The graphics in Around Every Corner keep the familiar style that’s a staple for the series: a blend of cell-shaded and 3-D rendering. The visuals are impressive and truly give the game that distinct graphic novel look and feel, which is fitting considering “The Walking Dead” originated as a popular comic book series.
The puzzles aren’t difficult and usually players can figure them out as long as they fully explore and experiment with the multiple elements of a given area. Many items–such as doors, cabinets, etc–can have multiple actions associated with them. Most items or noteworthy parts of a given area can be “Looked” at, but doors and other dynamic elements can be “Opened” or an inventory item is used on it to forcibly open or break an object.
Every object in a given location is easiest to examine with a controller, as players can easily investigate the options that are presented on the D-Pad. Each location–Up, Down, Left and Right–on the directional pad represents a different option or choice to interact with an object. This makes it much more efficient and easier to understand than when playing with mouse and keyboard, where players switch between the options by scrolling with the mouse wheel.
Important items such as weapons, firearms, and useful utilities and tools are stored in an inventory. This isn’t an active inventory that players can explore to equip, inspect, or even drop items: it’s more automatic, and each of the tools is usually used up whenever they’re applied to a certain situation.
The weapons–like whichever players select at the train–are always kept and can be used to bash zombie’s heads in and interact with the environment.
One of the most unique features about Telltale’s The Walking Dead series is its use of emotional drama and shocking revelations. Whether it’s the revelation that the St. John dairy farm in Episode 2 is actually a cannibalistic meat factory, or how Kenny’s family met their demise, this series employs heartbreaking moments that adequately portray realistic human drama.
Players feel an overwhelming urge to keep Clementine safe, no matter what it takes. She represents hope in a world that’s dark and foreboding, and Lee can find salvation and redemption by keeping her safe. In essence, the paternal relationship between Lee and Clementine is the nucleus of the entire series, and everything stems from their relationship.
Another unique feature in the games is how the living are sometimes just as bad or even worse than the dead. Again, the St. John dairy farm comes to mind, or the twisted and cruel denizens of the Crawford community who made a literal wall of dead walkers…as well as Lily, who shot Carley in cold blood. The use of this element is intriguing and provides a sense of realism, as people would most likely react that way in a horrifying nightmare scenario such as that of The Walking Dead.
Episode 4: Around Every Corner provides a masterful addition to “The Walking Dead” story arc, continuing the survivors’ journey as they cross into Savannah in search of shelter, food, and Clementine’s parents. This chapter of the story provides new characters and faces, allowing gamers to see how the tragedy of a zombie apocalypse has affected society as well as how the survivors adapt to the ruined world. Episode 4 is a fantastic experience and provides a shockingly realistic look into how people adapt to a nightmarish environment, coping with loss and the constant struggle of survival.
The Walking Dead games, to me, are most enjoyable because of their use of character realism and the dynamic dialogue choices that dynamically affect gameplay. Characters will react to certain situations differently based upon what players say and do, making them seem like actual people. With an engaging and emotional story arc, a distinct visual style, and a memorable and terrifying world, Episode 4: Around Every Corner is a great addition to any gamer’s library.
+ Masterful storytelling
+ Plot twists
+ Graphic Violence & Gore
+ Realistic characters
+ Awesome visuals & graphics
+ Definitive Walking Dead experience
– A little too easy
– Too short