Once you've finished the fourth chunk of this excellent story, you're only one episode away from the end. We've got high expectations for part 5's finale, but in many respects Episode 4 feels like the series' weakest link. New characters fail to shine as brightly as those we've seen in the past, and some of the aesthetics feel a little bit slapdash.
In the past we've forgiven the game's technical shortcomings simply because the rest of it burns so brightly - but this time some moments fall a little short. The animation quality in particular feels very inconsistent, creating a fantastic melee set-piece with an axe yet failing to convey realistic body language in a scene that had every right to be properly heart-wrenching.
The emphasis on action doesn't define the episode, but it does highlight most of the game's shortcomings. The first person shooting elements that first showed up in Episode 3 appear much more frequently this time, but the aiming is still jerky and unpleasant to manoeuvre. Being able to use the right trigger when firing guns feels like a nice touch, but it's frustrating to find a zombie chomping your guts when you then forget to switch back to melee by hitting A.
The sections in which you can move Lee around usually feel like little more than a way to pan the camera to new locations, and the attempts to make things feel more engaging don't always work out well. One attempt at a mild stealth-section only highlights the shortcomings of the game's controls, adding complications that make you notice the strings.
It's weird to find ourselves writing this in a videogame review, but The Walking Dead always feels strongest at the points at which the game retains most of the control: the camera framing is excellent, the story is engaging, and despite the minimal inputs you still feel very much involved. It still has moments of genuine brilliance, but lacks the raw impact of Episode 3. Things don't heat up until right at the end, and even then a lot of major plot stuff is left untouched or unresolved. In this case it feels like the developer has taken too much inspiration from TV, setting up an explosive finale with a weaker filler episode to help set the scene.
Being the weakest episode in a series that's been so consistently amazing is hardly massive criticism, though. We'd felt quietly confident about it for a while, but the cliffhanger at the end of Episode 4 leaves us in no doubt: the final episode of is going to be an absolute corker. If you've not started playing, it's time to catch up.
Far from perfect, but sets the scene for a grand finale