BIG Spoilers for episodes 1-3 follow.
When I closed down Around Every Corner, the penultimate episode of Telltale Games’ fantastic episodic adventure series based on The Walking Dead, my mouth was ajar. Totally ajar. Not slightly ajar, not partially ajar, but my bottom jaw was actually on my desk. It wasn’t perfect, by any means – Lee is still the clumsiest motherfucker in video game history – but Around Every Corner completely fulfils its duty, to provide a brilliant set-up for what is shaping up to be one of the greatest moments in adventure games, No Time Left.
Episode 3, Long Road Ahead, spent what seemed like the majority of its time getting rid of characters. Left, right, and centre, people who’d been with Lee from the very start of his journey were dropping like flies, and you were left to pick up the broken pieces of your remaining companions. This time around, however, new characters are introduced at such a rate that you’re going to have a hard time keeping up with them – initially, this seemed a little counterintuitive, but in retrospect I guess that all depends on where the story ends up at the conclusion of Episode 5. We already know that there’s going to be a Season 2, however, so don’t get your hopes up for a conclusive ending.
Right from the get-go in Around Every Corner, you’re hit with emotionally wrecking scenes that both encourage you to push forward but ensure that you’re not quite enjoying yourself as you do so. Additionally, this episode presents you with the most chances to carve out your Lee – all of a sudden, the character I perceive Lee as having can be completely different to someone else, depending on the choices we’ve made in Episode 4.
In the past, I’ve mentioned my grievances that, for a game that has so much emphasis on the importance of choice under pressure, the decisions you make seem to have little to no impact on the overarching story. At the conclusion of the first episode, you could save either Carley or Doug – however, come Episode 3, that decision was rendered fairly unimportant after whoever you chose to save was shot in the face by Lilly. Up to the third episode, all of the characters I’ve expended emotion and effort trying to keep good rapports with have died/run away/met their fate in some other untimely manner.
It doesn’t hit you until the final scene in Around Every Corner, but when you get there and you need to gather up your support crew, it becomes blindingly obvious how important your relationships with each and every person in your group have been. Whether or not they’re there for you depends wholly on whether or not you were there for them when they needed you. Did you grit your teeth and shoot Duck, or did you force Kenny to? Were you vicious and intimidating to Ben last episode, or were you forgiving? All these choices, which I once dismissed as there to simply force you into an emotionally difficult decision and nothing more, come back to haunt you.
Once again, the quality of the storytelling is nothing short of perfect. Every camera angle is selected for a reason – not a frame in the entire game has been included without deep consideration about how best to present it. The effect this gives, of course, is a sense of tension matched in very, very few video games. It’s not what you can see, but what you can’t see. I’m not sure I enjoyed Around Every Corner as much as its predecessor, likely because it feels like more of a middle episode than the middle episode itself.
You all know of my disappointment in the interface. The puzzles are lazy, the graphics choppy and some scenes just feel downright unnecessary. A number of characters were introduced that just didn’t need to be there, leaving me worried about how it’s going to wrap up in November. Despite all of that, however, The Walking Dead tells one of the greatest stories in video games. Dialogue, characterisation, cinematography, pacing – it’s all damn near perfect, and doesn’t let up for a second in the penultimate episode of the first series. Around Every Corner will leave you on the biggest cliffhanger thus far – yep, bigger than Episode 3’s walkie-talkie conclusion – but if you’re a gamer who appreciates a good story then you’ll get your fill out of The Walking Dead, and then some.
But who am I talking to? I hope you’ve played the first three episodes upon reading this, or I might have spoiled them quite a bit, and if you’ve already played the first three episodes then I can only assume that you latched onto Around Every Corner the hour you noticed that your game file on Steam had an update to download. Regardless of your knowledge of the game, however, know this: it started positive, but it’s now certain that The Walking Dead is an experience that every gamer has to experience, without question. Play it.
Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of The Walking Dead by Telltale Games.