We knew we were looking at something special when we reviewed the first episode of The Walking Dead, but we had concerns nonetheless. With the season finale still months away, there was plenty of time for the story to flop, or the game to let itself down with technical problems.
After the less than stellar Episode 4, we're pleased to reveal that the closing chapter doesn't disappoint. Learning from the mistakes of its previous segments, No Time Left ties you into a glorious rollercoaster and then repeatedly smashes you into the ground. The obligatory puzzle section is gone, and there's far less in the way of meandering group conversations.
Despite the hurried pace, No Time Left still squeezes in some fantastic character development, twisting a pressure-cooker situation into a cathartic mess. Telltale has used cheeky tricks in the past to ensure that the decisions we made in The Walking Dead didn't have as much impact as we'd like, but the finale goes a long way towards resolving that. Skeletons get dragged out of the closet, and fresh situations open old wounds. Some elements of the conclusion won't change, but the events along the way most certainly will.
The decisions you make in The Walking Dead have never been about branching narrative, though - it's all about feeling accountable. In contrast to games which let you carve your own path, there's a realism to The Walking Dead that the rest of the industry could definitely learn from. People you care about are going to die, and there's nothing that you can do to stop that.
All you're left with is the memory of how you chose to treat them. More often than not sadness is accompanied by a lingering sense that you could have done better. Death plays a central part in most videogames, but very few have ever managed to engineer grief. Regardless of shortcomings elsewhere, The Walking Dead is a spectacular achievement in this respect.
It's not a perfect resolution, however. No Time Left lets itself down a little with sequences that don't feel true to the characters. One moment sees you frantically trying to find a weapon in a location you've already scoured, while another sequence shows a wounded character struggling to climb up onto a roof while the rest of the group stand back and watch. Moments like this don't ruin the story, but they don't make any sense.
Minor inconsistencies like these raise eyebrows, but No Time Left remains superb. Rainbows and sunshine might not be on the menu, but that doesn't stop the ending being a blinder. While most zombie games try to shock you, The Walking Dead taps into a far darker reservoir of terror - poking a fork into the back of your skull and digging out all your well-hidden fears.
Responsibility. Consequence. People you know and love will one day die. The flesh-eating corpses are just window dressing for an experience you'll carry with you long after you've turned the console off. By the time the final credits roll, you'll need a stiff drink.
Now that we've played the whole story arc, there's no reason to evade the hyperbole. The Walking Dead offers a level of narrative quality that outshines anything else currently available in gaming. It makes the TV series of the same name look dull, poorly paced, and insignificant. These are the most important games released this year, and we simply can't recommend them enough.
Download the episode here for 400 MP.
A fantastic end to a superb series
- More nasty plot developments
- No compulsory puzzle section
- Strong direction & pacing
- We're crying like a baby
- Slightly-off character motivation