The struggles of Lee Everett and company to survive in the wake of a zombie outbreak continue in The Walking Dead: Episode 4 – Around Every Corner, the fourth and penultimate episode of Telltales’ adventure game series based on the popular Walking Dead comics franchise. Continuing to offer surprises, tough decisions, and emotional resonance, this latest installment offers a lot of content and quality storytelling, and does a great job of setting things up for the series’ conclusion.
After losing and gaining several new members in the last episode, Long Road Ahead, Lee and his group of survivors finally reach their destination in the town of Savannah. Here, fellow survivor Kenny hopes to find and commandeer a boat and attempt to find a new haven for everyone. Though the town seems devoid of human life at first, things start off on an ominous note when Lee sees a figure running on a church rooftop, with the bell ringing afterwards. The group is forced to find shelter to hide from the undead attracted by the sound, and upon attempting to sneak out and explore the docks, discovers the existence of a sinister group within the town. From here, it’s a struggle to find a way to escape, as well as the culmination of some of the group’s inner struggles that have been growing.
The Walking Dead: Episode 4 – Around Every Corner easily offers the largest scale of the series so far, with a large number of unique and detailed environments within Savannah for Lee to explore. Both the returning and new characters continue to offer well-done development and conflicts in the face of an increasingly bleak existence. Clementine, the little girl Lee has been looking after since early on in the series, plays a greater role here than last time, and the interactions between the two still offer some of the most tender and genuine moments of the series. This is brought to life through impressive voice acting and well-done animation, and while the glitches that have become a series trademark do rear their ugly heads occasionally (A character oddly flashed in and out of existence in one instance), they are definitely less numerous.
The episode definitely feels like it offers more substance than previous installments, likely due to the large amount of new locations and the numerous goals Lee tries to accomplish as the narrative progresses. The town of Savannah, from the streets to the sewers, offers a lot of good detail and opportunities for an ominous mood and several intense action sequences. Several first-person shooting segments return for this episode, and while they control well, aiming properly to score the necessary headshot on each zombie takes some practice.
The majority of gameplay alternates between the traditional adventure gaming conventions of conversation and using items to solve puzzles and the aforementioned action segments. Besides the first-person segments, several intense sequences contain context-sensitive button presses and the ability to aim your cursor to hit zombies at the right time. A segment late in the title involving a climb up an infested stairwell offers plenty of thrills in particular. All of this is done very well. Even when I expected the episode to take a dive in intensity during a sewer-exploring section in the middle, there are still several surprises thrown at you to keep things engaging. Because of this, the episode is able to avoid the downtime the last one suffered from.
The writing, supplied by The Book of Eli screenwriter Gary Whitta this time around, continues to be top notch. Characters go through cycles of hope, despair, tenderness, and anger. The harsh reality that there may be no salvation begins to set in amongst the survivors, to the point that they begin addressing such things as their increasing apathy towards the common deaths of friends. As always, a good chunk of Lee’s dialogue and reactions are chosen by the player, and while there were a few occasions where his reactions came out angrier than I was aiming for, most of it still makes for an immersive and personal experience.
Without giving anything away, the finale of the episode and the teases at what will come next are easily the most intriguing and harrowing of the entire series. It makes sense that Telltale would save some of the biggest events for last, and the final section of the game both begins to set the stage for a final showdown as well as set up what will almost certainly be to some degree a tragic ending. There isn’t even a cutscene offering a preview of the next episode at the end, which previous installments offered. Major stakes are set up, and I can’t wait to see the outcome.
While I complained about the game’s much-touted branching choice system beginning to feel linear in Long Road Ahead, this time around, the system offers more of what I was hoping for. As with previous episodes, a screen after the conclusion compares some of your major decisions to the total of every other player, letting you see if the majority of them agreed with your choices. And finally, without being specific, you’re once again able to impact whether certain characters live or die, and are even able to end up with one of several combinations of specific characters joining you in preparation for the finale.
The Walking Dead: Episode 4 – Around Every Corner is another great addition to what has become a reliably well-done series. While it doesn’t quite match the second episode’s intensity or the third episode’s emotion, it offers a larger scope, professional writing and carefully thought-out character development, along with the most effective cliffhanger yet. It’s going to be interesting to see how this journey finally wraps up, but I must say I am very eager to see it to the end.