Xbox 360
4.5 stars
Amazon
37.12
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Overall Grade
4.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Game Itself
4.5 Stars
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
3.5 Stars
The Audio: Rating the Sound
4 Stars
Replay Factor
5 Stars

The Walking Dead: Episode 4 - Around Every Corner

Street Date:
October 10th, 2012
Reviewed by:
Review Date:1
December 14th, 2012
Game Release Year:
2012
Platform:
Xbox 360
Publisher:
Telltale Games
Developer:
Telltale Games
ESRB Rating:
M (Mature)

Introduction

The following review assumes you’ve played the first three installments of “The Walking Dead” and understand to discuss this latest installment; spoilers regarding previous entries are unavoidable. When players last left Lee and company in “Long Road Ahead,” we were on a train to Savannah in search of both a boat to fulfill Kenny’s plan of escaping the doomed land by sea as well as to see if against hope, Clementine’s parents are still alive. “Around Every Corner” begins with a mysterious voice on the walkie talkie asking about Clementine to Lee’s horror, but before any headway can be made in even deciphering the cryptic, ominous message, the group finds itself under siege by a mob of walkers, which results in a tense, action-based series of events for the player to participate in as well as some split second decisions by characters of the group that will set events into motion that make the journey into Savannah one of the most intense and expansive journeys in the series yet.

The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Nothing related to core game play is changed in the fourth (of five) episode of the series and that’s perfectly fine, as the game’s real draw, the smart, adult level of writing continues to push gamers down a compelling narrative path forcing them to make decisions that from a base complexity standpoint are rather simple, but carry far more emotional weight than anything you could possibly accomplish through controller-based wizardry in a watershed game series.

What “Around Every Corner” does do that makes the game feel like a step-up form previous installments in a minor way is to give the installment’s setting a more expansive feel. Lee and the gang traverse quite a variety of locales in Savannah and the game’s constant narrative advancement creates a disorienting feeling that quite admirably puts players into Lee’s shoes more snugly than before whether they realize it or not. The installment can be confusing to a fault, introducing a lot of concepts up front and then slowly building to some answers (with more than a few big questions left hanging) while managing to pull the rug from under any smug players who think they have it all figured out.

The urban environment offers one memorable set piece that completely overtook my expectations by heading in a direction I couldn’t have possibly predicted or dreamed of. The new characters introduced in the episode really show a polish to the series’ writing, and one in particular is naturally fleshed out in a way that allows players to make a connection all while furthering Lee’s journey forward in a method that is never once gimmicky. On the same note, your party continues to evolve and with that comes poignant moments of connectivity and bitter conflict, often in the same sentence. By the time the game wraps up with a major step towards denouement in the upcoming, final installment, the player’s emotions may be as frazzled and tried as Lee’s.

“Around Every Corner” is one of the best installments in the series so far by managing to feel like a self-contained game when possible and still manage to further an ongoing plot and set-up what by all foreshadowing, should be an epic finale. Those upset with “Long Road Ahead” feeling like filler with a few jaw dropping gutpuches should be pleased at what is to be experienced here. Like a top-notch penultimate episode of a TV season or series, “Around Every Corner” leaves players satisfied and wanting more. If “No Time Left” manages to even partially fulfilling the promises the series has alluded to and the high-note this installment ends on, “The Walking Dead” is a strong lock for Game of the Year.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The stylized look of the series continues in this installment, with solid colors and strong texture work; however, like prior installments, there are some technical hiccups. Apart from some animations not being as fluid as desired, the framerate can still drop during cutscenes as the game engine has to adjust for changes in the narrative based on your decisions. While some of these snags can be jarring, it doesn’t detract terribly from the immersion in the game. The game’s major change in scenery allows for a much more varied approach to art design and a sewer level in particular gets the lighting element right. The bottom line is the game as a whole will never be flawless in the visuals department unless, what now seems like unavoidable, technical glitches are completely wiped from the game engine.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Nothing in the game, save for the voice work, in “The Walking Dead” games fights for the spotlight in terms of being outstanding. As with other titles, the game goes for a realistic, if minimalist sound design with silence or the most subtle environmental sound effects providing handfuls more tension than a cloying creepy score or cheap jump effects could ever dream of. Effects are naturally and cleanly mixed, providing immersion, while the voice work once again is top notch.

Replay Factor

“The Walking Dead” is an interesting case when it comes to replay value; logically, I can’t imagine anyone restarting the game prior to at least one playthrough of the fifth and final installment, solely for the sake of having one interrupted narrative. That said, the game’s strong selling point of decisions affecting future events and episodes is precisely the reason the replay value of the game is already so obviously high. Characters in the game have come and gone and in many instances, characters lost early in the saga might have very well been along for the ride in lieu of those who did make the journey. “Around Every Corner” in particular, has some very interesting and thrilling encounters that make the wait for the final episode all the more unbearable, if only to satiate my desire to do things differently.

Final Thoughts

“Around Every Corner” sets up “The Walking Dead” for an opportunity to not only cement a reasonable argument for its status as 2012’s Game of the Year, but as a strong contender for the finest downloadable and episodic game ever crafted. Like other entries in the series, there are a few technical flaws as well as overall pacing flaws, but the episodic nature of the game is bound to leave some disappointed at wanting more instantly. For my money though, the emotional impact of the game is only heightened by the two-month wait between titles and as long as the final installment delivers, every second left waiting, is time well spent.

Tech Specs:

  • Digital Download

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 720p

Audio Formats

  • Dolby Digital 5.1

Motion Controls

  • No

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Amazon
37.12
In Stock. Buy Now»