Walking Dead Episode 4: Around Every Corner | Review
Episode 4 is possibly the best Walking Dead episode yet.
There’s one thing The Walking Dead is consistently good at doing, and that’s playing my heartstrings like a well-tuned violin. A violin that occasionally needs to pause the game to breathe a little after the most recent crazy thing, but a metaphorical violin nonetheless. It should come as no surprise that, much like its predecessors, Episode 4: Around Every Corner is very good at this.
It’s also the easiest release to review so far, mainly because it’s the most video game-y of the episodes. There are now sections of the game where you have to shoot zombies in first person, in addition to more puzzles, action sequences, and story things that make you wonder how the act of clicking a mouse (or pressing a button) could be so powerful. More action in these games is really no bad thing, considering it’s still harrowing as ever. Frantically trying to move a cursor while zombies are shambling towards you is surprisingly effective at creating tension without being too frustrating. In fact, I’d say that Around Every Corner has the best action of all four episodes.
Much like the previous episodes, Around Every Corner adds some new survivors to the mix while still managing to develop the old ones. Even though I harbor a deep love for most of the old survivors, Molly, one of the newbies, is one of the most complex and well-developed characters in The Walking Dead as a whole. I won’t spoil her arc for you guys, but I went from actively trying to kill her to genuinely worrying about whether she would make it or not.
You also come across two more groups, one of which is developed in a very interesting way. I’m not sure how it came about – whether the story came first and the designers made some gameplay scenarios that fit or vice versa – but it’s still a fantastic mix. It definitely reminds me of Episode 2’s look at the different ways a society falls apart in the face of an undead apocalypse. The other is a bit more disposable and seems to be more a collection of plot devices. Plot devices with great dialogue and voice acting that are cogs in a genuinely fantastic story, but plot devices nonetheless.
The series’ hallmark of difficult choices is certainly intact here. In fact, I’d say a few of them are even more taxing than before. Around Every Corner marked the first time in the series where I let the timer run down as long as possible while my brain frantically tried to pick the “right” option. Most of the time, they weren’t even based on logic. I never found myself thinking, “So if I do Option A, will that net me any gameplay benefits?” Instead, my decisions were solely based on making sure everybody made it out alive. For example, after certain things came to light and I was all set to kill a character, I was given the opportunity to do just that.
And yet, I couldn’t.
In the back of my head, I knew this was a fictional character; technically nothing more than ones, zeroes, and a great character model. But the writing on the survivors has been so flawless that, even when I (and Lee) was furious with a character, I still knew who that survivor was and the motivations behind why they do what they do. It’s hard to kill off such fully realized characters, and completely kills replay value for me. Even if I started a new game in order to see how the other decisions went, I still don’t think I could go about things any differently. Character deaths are actually weighing on my conscience. I even went through the five stages of grief after playing Around Every Corner.
That’s not a joke; when I was at the grocery store hours after finishing the episode, I caught myself in the ‘bargaining’ stage. After I looked back, I realized I had gone through ‘denial’ and ‘anger’. No other game, hell, no other anything made me feel that way before.
One last thing, and I feel this is more a disclaimer than anything else; it’s worth noting that Around Every Corner is perhaps the most technically troubled of the episodes released so far. I encountered one problem where my cursor lagged to an almost unplayable level and one semi-lockup during an action scene. That said, I fixed the cursor just by switching mice, and the lockup was a non-issue considering I started a few seconds ahead of where I left off. So far, I haven’t seen any other issues, but I would recommend at least having another mouse standing by just in case.
Technical blemishes aside, I don’t think I need to sing the praises of Around Every Corner any longer. The Walking Dead has always been proof positive that writing in video games doesn’t have to be mediocre. In fact, and this is especially true in this case, it can be pretty damn good.
(Notes: Around Every Corner was played on the reviewer’s one year old MacBook Pro through Steam and ran perfectly fine on the highest settings. We’ll also have a special Walking Dead episode of the podcast, where we talk about this episode and the previous ones in great, spoiler-filled detail. It’ll go up sometime this weekend.)