HIGH The walkie-talkie resolution wasn't a total disaster.
LOW The conflict in the final scene felt too staged.
WTF Where's the obvious dialogue option in the alley?
The fifth and final part of Telltale's episodic The Walking Dead series is now available for download, continuing the story of Lee, Clementine, and the rest of the survivors struggling through the zombie apocalypse.
For people who don't know (and by this point, that's got to be a very small number) this series hinges on its storytelling and characterization. As such, it's crucial that the five installments be played in order. Current events build upon previous ones, and choices from earlier episodes have an effect on later ones. Don't consider playing The Walking Dead: Episode Five—No Time Left if you haven't already finished the first four parts.
With that information out of the way, I feel comfortable in saying that after playing through the series in its entirety, The Walking Dead will likely be my game of the year, and by a wide margin. It's been a long time since I've felt so emotionally invested in a story and its characters, and the wait between episodes 4 and 5 was brutal.
In fact, the night before the game was released, I stayed up late in the hopes of starting as soon as possible despite a bright and early start time at work the next morning. That sense of eagerness and anticipation was strong, and is noteworthy compared to the number of times I felt little or no desire to return to other titles this year. The Walking Dead had me thinking about it constantly, talking about it with friends after each episode, and even changing my schedule to work it in. For a game to have its hooks in me that deeply, it's got to be some pretty amazing stuff—and it is.
Now with all that said, there were parts of the series that didn't sit quite right with me, and episode five in particular had a few points which felt rushed. After such an incredible buildup over the last few months, I felt as though the writers really needed to nail every beat in the tale's conclusion. Although they came close, the final sequence of events isn't quite the command performance that I was hoping for.
To set the stage, Lee and the rest of the survivors are still in Savannah. As a result of my earlier choices, he starts off alone, but soon reunites with the group. Together they set off to accomplish their… last major goal… and bring the series to an end.
Although I appreciated that the action was brisk and tension stayed high throughout most of the episode, there were a few situations when the option that I wanted to choose was not there. That hasn't been a big problem in previous installments, so to have noticeable omissions now was somewhat jarring—when there's an obvious alternative to what's presented, dissonance starts creeping in. There were also a few scenes that felt too heavily staged for artificial dramatic value, and without the proper time taken for buildup, they didn't quite click.
Oh, and that last scene past the credits? Totally unnecessary.
I realize that I'm being very vague here, but it would be a mortal sin to spoil the events of this game for anyone who hasn't played yet. However, I will say that the issue of Clementine's walkie-talkie was something that had me especially worried. Frankly, I didn't think the writers would be able to wrap that item up without falling back on horrible clichés, and to their credit, they avoided them. On the other hand, it wasn't the jaw-dropping scene that it could have been for reasons I can't discuss here, but the very fact that it wasn't an utter catastrophe is something of a triumph.
To be honest, I'm disappointed that the issues I noticed prevented me from being as emotionally connected with the conclusion as I was with earlier installments. However, even though there were problems, The Walking Dead: Episode Five—No Time Left (and the series as a whole) is such a great step forward for storytelling, narrative, and characterization, that being unable to forgive a few missteps would be itself unforgivable. All complaints aside, Lee and Clementine are characters that will stay with me for the rest of my life, there's no question in my mind that The Walking Dead is a milestone that should be recognized and honored for the achievement that it is.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via paid download and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately one and a half hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the content was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains strong language, blood and gore, and intense violence. Parents, there's no question that this game is absolutely intended for adults and no children should play or watch. Some of the scenes are quite intense, and there's plenty of zombie-themed gore to go around. It's great, great stuff, but only for big people. Keep the kids away.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Subtitles are available for all of the dialogue -- and there's a lot. The great news is that the developers go further than most, and included different colors to signify which character is speaking. It's a great addition and really helps make the cutscenes easy to follow. In terms of the gameplay, there are no significant audio cues, so gamers with hearing issues can jump right in.