The Walking Dead: Episode 4 – Amid the Ruins Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

The Walking Dead: Episode 4 – Amid the Ruins Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

What Do We Do Now?

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.

The Walking Dead: Episode 4 - Amid the Ruins Screenshot

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?

The Walking Dead: Episode 4 - Amid the Ruins Screenshot

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?

Sarah is paralyzed with fear the whole episode and it feels like you are given a million chances to leave her behind. Leave her behind when you find her, leave her behind when you are running from zombies, leave her behind when you regroup, make your choice. It doesn’t matter because in my three play-throughs of the game, Sarah always died in the end. I know this is supposed to be symbolic of the futility of all things but, why constantly give me the choice? Why keep poking me to leave her behind and feel guilty if I not doing so has no appreciable effect on the game at all? Once again it feels like this whole plot arc was a throwaway and if Sarah was just dead on arrival, it probably would have been a lot more emotionally powerful.

The Walking Dead: Episode 4 - Amid the Ruins Screenshot

Jane’s plotline is equally frustrating. Why are people afraid of her running away? We met her like a few days ago! Of course we don’t know much about her, nor do we trust her much. Why am I constantly keeping tabs on her? So that she doesn’t run away? So that she doesn’t take the 0 supplies we have? What could she possibly do to actually screw us? It feels like the interparty paranoia is really forced here and once again she leaves no matter what! It feels like nothing I did in this episode actually mattered because the writers were obsessed with wrapping everything up an episode before the final conflict.

Speaking of final conflict, the last scene of the game has you held up at gunpoint by a random band of Russians (I don’t know why Russians are out here in the Midwest but whatever) while Rebecca dies, becomes a zombie with her baby in her hands, and then everyone fires at each other as the screen goes black. It feels like it is exactly trying to do what the ending of The Sopranos did, but it doesn’t work. The Walking Dead is always about showing us the brutality of reality. Heck, Episode 3 made a point to show us how horrible it was to actually kill a man. Now we get this black screen magic that shields us from the violence, only so that we can linger in dread that all the rest of our favorite characters are killed, mostly invalidating the rest of the choices we made over the course of the episode?

A similar thing happened in Season 1 Episode 4 , where Christa and Omid were introduced and we started traveling with a whole new group of people that I didn’t like or care about. But even though I felt that episode was weak, I still felt like the things Lee was doing mattered. Lee was trying to make Clementine survive and even if the rest of the world burned down, he was going to make sure that happened. That was my goal. That was my driving force. Here… I don’t know who Clem is supposed to care about. The new baby? Kenny? Luke? What is Clem’s driving force? What is the thrilling conclusion? Lee had to save Clem from the clutches of a madman as he slowly died from a zombie bite. Awesome! Clem… is randomly taken hostage by Russians… eh. Once again, I can’t stop playing the game now and I wouldn’t recommend you do so either. However, Episode 5 will really have to work hard to turn things around and blow me away with a stunning conclusion, or else it might feel that everything I have done so far is for naught.

Then again… maybe that is the point.

Mostly the graphics of the game are good, but I found a couple random camera glitches. Also, Jane has a serious uncanny valley vibe going on. 5.0 Control
You know, at this point I’m not sure the Telltale controller formula could get much better. Point, click, and make your decisions. 4.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voice acting is still top notch, and everyone gives a phenomenal performance. 3.5 Play Value
Honestly, the story felt very empty this time around. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Continuing the story of The Walking Dead where it left off.
  • New characters and new conflicts.
  • The final Episode before the conclusion.

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