Please note that this review contains spoilers for previous episodes of The Walking Dead. It is highly recommended that you play through the first four episodes before reading this.
With No Time Left, the episodic adventures of Lee Everett’s zombie-fighting group has come to their conclusion. The four episodes leading up to this have been well-received by critics and audiences alike, and the last episode ended on a major cliffhanger. Fans of the series will be pleased to know that not only does this deliver some answers and wrap up some plot threads, but also that it keeps with the level of quality that has become the series’ standard.
Episode 4, Around Every Corner, ended with some major revelations, mainly the abduction of Clementine by a mysterious stranger, and Lee being bitten and possibly infected by a Walker. The clock is ticking, and Lee is determined to keep the child he’s been protecting throughout the series safe, no matter the personal cost. Depending on decisions made earlier, Lee will band together with various members of his group to save Clementine.
Something players will notice upon completing No Time Left is its length. While previous episodes generally took four to five hours to complete, this only took about two. It does feel like some fat has been trimmed, mainly in that there are barely any real puzzles, and what’s there is very basic and straightforward. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, as some of the most intense and engaging action sequences in the series are found here. Without giving anything away, there’s a point where the music swells, and it will make you want to pump your fist and cheer Lee on. It’s all done very well.
With the game’s trademark choice-based system for dialog and key actions, there aren’t as many major choices here. There is a big one at the beginning that I will only say I took the less gruesome route with, and there may be some differences based on who’s in your group, but there is definitely a preset path for how things ultimately turn out a the end. There are some interesting callbacks to some of the more questionable acts Lee may have committed towards the end, and the way that they’re delivered is actually quite effective.
The controls stick to the standard that the series has established, with a mix of traditional point-and-click gameplay and action scenes full of context-sensitive button presses. Thankfully, the cumbersome first-person shooting section from the previous episode has been discarded. The action scenes here are also very effective, with the series culminating in both the most epic set piece of the whole story as well as the most tense standoff.
The technical issues that have plagued past episodes still rear their ugly heads here, albeit in less serious ways. Characters occasionally jitter and the action often freezes for a split second after each player input, but it’s better than characters appearing or disappearing out of nowhere or the game freezing for six seconds after certain actions, which past episodes suffered from. The fact that this was never completely fixed over the course of the series is probably due to the limitations of the engine they stuck to, and with any luck, future Telltale games in this vein won’t suffer the same problem.
As for what I thought about the way everything wraps up, I found it mostly satisfying in terms of plot and extremely effective in terms of emotional involvement. The last moments had me choking up, and were able to alternate between various moods quite skillfully based on whatever was happening at each given moment. The downside is that players looking for an ending that wraps everything up in a tidy fashion might feel disapointed that some major plot elements are left hanging, as well as the fates of certain major characters. I will say that everyone should wait through the credits for a bonus scene that brings up more questions, but provides some answers as well.
Of course, Telltale has already confirmed that a second season of the game is in the works, and there’s always the possibility that some of these questions could be answered in that. I can say now that it’s all said and done, the first season of The Walking Dead has been a real treat. Telltale deserves major props for changing up the adventure game formula in some quite successful ways, as well as delivering a solid story and cast of characters. If you haven’t tried the series yet, start from the beginning and enjoy your journey through the zombie apocalypse. You’ll be glad you did.
This review is based on a PS3 copy of the game.