|System: PC*, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Release: July 22, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
Before I even begin this review I want to warn you that it will contain spoilers for The Walking Dead: Episode - 4 Amid the Ruins. If you don’t want to be spoiled, I will give you a short version right now: The Walking Dead: Episode 4 is still a fantastic game, and if you enjoyed the season so far you would be a jibbering madman not to continue playing, but compared to the other Episodes in the season I feel that Episode four breaks tone, theme, and characterization in ways that make the series feel like it took a sharp left turn somewhere. It’s hard to talk about exactly why without giving plot specifics.
Episode 4 picks up right where Episode 3 left off, with you covered in guts trying to worm your way through a zombie horde. Prepare yourselves for spoiler 1… You have just chosen to either cut off Sarita’s arm or attack the zombie that was biting her. However, no matter what you do things end up the same way. The group gets split, you end up with Rebecca and Jane (the crazy girl from Episode 3) and you all have to meet up again.
This is where the episode originally lost me. The cliffhanger at the end of Episode 3 was “what will happen as a result of your choice to dismember Sarita or not.” Coming to the realization that this didn’t actually matter all that much actually cheapened the end of Episode 3 for me. This is the same game that allowed me to make one simple decision in Episode 1, whether or not to save Nick, and had ongoing consequences of that decision up until this very episode. Completely invalidating that decision made the intro to Episode 4 feel sloppy at best.
It felt like they were trying to wrap up everything that happened in Episodes 1-3 in a nice little package and forget about it, but that’s not what makes The Walking Dead a great game. The Walking Dead is about remembering your actions and suffering the consequences of them.
There is also a huge tonal shift in the game which came across as a bit forced. Up until now, the whole focus of the game was Carver. Carver was on your tail, Carver was causing you problems, and Carver was going to be the death of you because Rebecca was carrying a baby that may or may not have been his. But then Carver dies at the end of Episode 3, and we are left trying to wonder what the driving force will be in Episode 4. I thought it might be some of Carver’s leftover contingent. Maybe it was some people from 400 Days? Unfortunately, I was left hanging as there ended up being no driving force, other than the fact that Rebecca was having the baby soon.
As a result of this, you spend a lot of the game looking for supplies and talking, which is par for the course for a Walking Dead episode, but I never felt a pressing sense of urgency. I never felt like trying to provide for this baby was a priority. Rebecca never looked like her water was ready to break at any point in any other episode, and she ran and fought just as well as everyone else did. Now, suddenly, she can’t move and the baby is coming any second? Why wasn’t this foreshadowed in any way? Why wasn’t this a pressing concern when we were quite literally being held captive not but a day ago?
Then there is Jane, who in Episode 3 was portrayed as a crazy loner. She wouldn’t even talk to me until she told us how to smear zombie guts on ourselves to avoid the horde. Now, suddenly, she is opening up to Clementine all over the place. There is a major plot point where Clem talks to Jane about her past and Jane and Clem bond, but this feels forced because it comes completely out of nowhere. Supposedly it’s because (prepare for spoiler 2) Clem reminds Jane of her sister, but then why wouldn’t Jane open up in Ep. 3? Why the gigantic change in character all of the sudden?
One of the central themes in Episode 4 is doubt. Everyone is doubting everyone else. People think Kenny is off his rocker now that he’s lost Sarita (spoiler 3). Sarah is too paralyzed with fear to do anything. People are doubtful that Jane has our best interests in mind, but also afraid that she will leave us. These all might be compelling if any of these claims had any weight to them.
Sure, Kenny is a broken nut at this point, but the person who is claiming that is Bonnie, who kidnapped us in the previous episode, and Mike, who I still don’t know crap about. Not to mention their evidence for “he is off his rocker” is “he is killing zombies more violently than usually. Well this is the zombie apocalypse and he just lost his wife! What do you want him to do, gently caress the zombie’s skull until it caves in?