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Hard choices make for a hard Clementine

Editor’s Note: In order to avoid spoiling events from previous episodes in this and the first season of The Walking Dead, the language will remain as vague as possible. That being said, some situations may still be specifically referenced. Thus, if you don’t want anything spoiled, we recommend you play previous episodes and then return to this review. Consider yourself warned.

After a less-than-stellar outing in Episode 4, the final chapter in season two of Telltale’s The Walking Dead does a fine job of bringing the stories of each remaining party member to a head before leaving Clementine with an awful decision that will change her forever.

This episode is, in many ways, the best of the season. Here, it becomes clear just how many moments that seemed innocuous at the time were actually more important than some of the more action-driven sequences over the first four episodes that led up to this thrilling conclusion.

As tensions rise, the ever-present rift in the group opens wider and wider, with Clementine stuck in the middle trying to act as the lone peacekeeper. This adds some high anxiety to what would’ve been more casual conversations earlier in the year, and it makes each vocal choice for Clementine all the more harrowing, since you didn’t know where it might steer the characters.

This focus on dialogue and character growth makes No Going Back feel more akin to the TV show than any of the preceding episodes in the series, and it’s a refreshing change of pace. There’s a minimal amount of puzzle-solving that doesn’t require Clementine to just be quick on her feet and react physically or verbally as you’d like her to, truly making her decisions feel more like your own. You don’t have the time to contemplate most answers and just have to go with your gut, which helps fix some of the haphazard pacing we’ve seen throughout much of this season.

This also allows Episode 5 to continue to add layers to Clementine, who almost seems to be growing up in front of us like a child star would on a TV show—and that only adds to the intrigue of what may happen with her in the future. My decisions continued to mold her into a character unique to my particular playthrough, and that’s a prospect that has me only looking forward to more Walking Dead.

That said, a few moments in the episode feel a little gaudy. In particular, a dream sequence seems wholly out of place, like the writers were trying to force even more drama in for no good reason. There are more than enough moments in this chapter that pull on your heartstrings as it is, and the dream simply destroys the flow of what’s otherwise the smoothest-running episode until that point. No Going Back’s already the longest of the season at just over two hours, so that particular sequence easily could’ve hit the cutting-room floor.

With that in mind, No Going Back serves as a microcosm of the entire season itself, with highs and lows that mimic the previous episodes and continue to put this season in stark contrast to the consistent greatness seen in the first. At the very least, however, the episode ends on a high note that not only serves as a fitting conclusion, showcasing the huge character growth for most of Clementine’s remaining group, but also leaving the door open for more than enough new storylines in season three.

Developer: Telltale Games • Publisher: Telltale Games • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 08.26.14

A few unnecessary sequences hold back the episode a bit, but as a whole, No Going Back serves as a fitting conclusion to season two. And thankfully, it also leaves enough room for more intrigue and drama in season three.

The Good The story takes unexpected turns when heartrending decisions need to be made.
The Bad Like much of the season, there’s an up-and-down quality to the episode, and some moments make you question their inclusion.
The Ugly Sometimes, you never truly know someone until it’s too late.
The Walking Dead: Season 2: Episode 5 – No Going Back is available on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and iOS. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360. Review code was provided by Telltale for the benefit of this review.

Decisions, decisions…

It’s not easy living in a world plagued by the zombie apocalypse, but Lee, Clementine, and whomever else you’ve saved up to this point in Telltale’s The Walking Dead are making the best of it as they continue to carry out their plan to get out of Georgia by boat and hopefully find a place they can start anew. But when they finally arrive in Savannah in Episode 4: Around Every Corner, their lives go from bad to worse as they now have a very live stalker following their every move with his eye on Clementine. All the while, the gang must uncover and then deal with a dark Savannah secret. Soon, it’s evident to Lee, Clem, and the rest of the group that the live humans aren’t as bad as the undead ones…they’re worse.

By now, fans of the first three episodes of The Walking Dead should instantly recognize the formula for how things work as Lee and the crew scavenge for whatever they can to keep surviving. Still, that doesn’t mean that the story has lost any of the qualities that have made it the achievement in game storytelling it is, and this new episode will suck you in just as easily as the others as new problems arise and require…inventive solutions. Lee and Clementine definitely have their work cut out for them this time, as the action ramps up significantly when desperate times begin to call for desperate measures.

The added action sequences also leave a few more lulls in the pacing, but rest assured, folks—these quieter moments are just as critical as Lee grabbing a shotgun to carve a path through a horde of walkers. The added drama is palpable, as it’s clear Episode 4  is all about setting up the series’ epic conclusion series in Episode 5. Although it may at first seem like a come down from the insane emotional highs of the past episode, you can bet that the groundwork laid out in this section of the story will result in a payoff that makes all the work you’ve put in so far well worth it.

The game is still mostly a point and click adventure, although there are a few more action sequences that’ll put your trigger finger to the test this time around. Aside from those moments though, the star here is really the story, especially with regard to Clementine. As she’s matured more and more with each new episode, she’s slowly become one of the most enjoyable characters I’ve ever seen in a game. The fact that you actually develop affection for this little girl you’ve been trying to protect shows just how well thought out and deeply written this story is.

When this episode concluded with the most epic cliffhanger yet, I actually stood up and clapped. Sure, there are a couple of glitches, an occasional minor plot hole, and the annoying fact that the button prompts break Zombie Media Rule #1 and explicitly label the Walkers as “Zombies,”but overall, this is one of the best written video game works I’ve ever seen. I cannot recommend this series more highly to anyone who enjoys good drama, zombies, and the mayhem they cause. If you’ve managed to miss out so far, go back and download Episodes 1-3 and get to work. You won’t regret it.

SUMMARY: The Walking Dead: Episode 4: Around Every Corner continues the landmark storytelling of the first three episodes as the situation takes a drastic turn in order to ramp up for the final episode. Fans will not be disappointed.

  • THE GOOD: Maintains the tension and epic consequences of the first three episodes.
  • THE BAD: A couple of minor glitches and plot holes.
  • THE UGLY: A barricade made of zombie flesh.

SCORE: 9.0

The Walking Dead: Episode 4: Around Every Corner is available on XBLA (Xbox 360), PS3 (PSN), and PC. Primary version reviewed was for XBLA. 

Originally Published: December 6, 2010, on Youtube.com/CGRUndertow

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed South Park: Let’s Go Tower Defense Play for the Xbox Live Arcade.