Welcome to the end. The Walking Dead Episode 5: No Time Left is an emotional rollercoaster that is full of joy, terror, and sadness. Telltale set the bar very high throughout the series and delivered time and time again. Episode 5 is no exception. Going forward many will reference The Walking Dead as the benchmark for storytelling. It’s just that good.
Note: Spoilers from Episodes 1-4 follow
The Walking Dead Episode 5 picks up right where Episode 4 left off. Clementine has been kidnapped and Lee is missing a chunk of his hand thanks to a well hidden ninja zombie. Now Lee is on borrowed time and has only one purpose –find Clementine and deal with her abductor. If you’ve read my Episode 4 review you’ll remember that it was my least favorite in the series because of its uncharacteristic “spoon-fed” emotions and a stalled narrative. Thankfully none of these problems exist in Episode 5. In fact, Episode 5 hurls you through Lee’s final hours as the narrative bulldozes forward. Previous episodes generally had one or two major decisions with devastating consequences. Episode 5 throws this out the window and gives you major snap decisions at every turn.
One of these decisions is particularly gruesome –will you have your hand chopped off to possibly save your life? Of course I answered with a “hell yes” and it was something to behold. In hindsight that may not have been the ideal choice considering how much time had gone by since the bite, but hindsight is always 20/20. Missing an arm definitely affects what you can do. Climbing a ladder, for instance, is a bit harder. These are the types of game altering decisions Episode 5 is chocked full of, and it is arguably the episode most worthy of a second playthrough. Of course the entire series begs to be replayed, giving you even more variation.
I won’t spoil the ending for you but I will say it was emotional. It’s the kind of emotion that sticks with you and has you thinking about it the next day. The ending was also very abrupt and left many questions unanswered. Sure this leaves room for a sequel, but I felt after all I’d been through I deserved answers. Not really a complaint, more of an end-of-season cliffhanger expletive. On that note, there are also a couple of character “deaths” that were a bit ambiguous. Even one of the dialog prompts is “Maybe they made it”. Well maybe they did make it, and I won’t believe otherwise unless I see a body or their reanimated corpse. This is all part of Telltale’s masterful storytelling and it was meant to leave you wanting more.
Graphics, sound, voice acting, and controls are all consistent with the previous episodes. There was one more instance of that awkwardly controlled first person shooter camera angle, but luckily it was fairly short-lived. Rather than jump into the specifics of each of these categories I will just say they are all fantastic and refer you to my reviews on Episodes One, Two, Three, and Four. Episode Two still remains the champion in the graphics department thanks to its jaw dropping final scene. Buyer Beware: If you’ve been waiting to buy a disc version of the game be careful, both the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions have been experiencing game-breaking bugs. In fact, Telltale has even offered free digital copies to those who’ve purchased the Xbox version. With this in mind a digital purchase seems to be the way to go.
The end of Telltale’s The Walking Dead means a couple of things. One of course, is that I will have to begin reviewing other games and judge their storytelling and narrative. I wonder, after experiencing the finest that storytelling has to offer, if I will be able to judge other games fairly. Has Telltale ruined other videogames for me? I doubt it, but I do feel they’ve made a lasting impression on what storytelling should be. Telltale has single-handedly revitalized the adventure game genre, and I wonder if other developers will begin creating their own adventure titles as a result. Now that the season is complete The Walking Dead has game of year written all over it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it won.
In conclusion, The Walking Dead rewards players who appreciate good storytelling with the ride of a lifetime. The Walking Dead will leave a lasting legacy that others will try to imitate, but never get right. If you just want to kill a few zombies there are plenty of games that allow you to do that. However if you want to experience something truly innovative, something that will change the way the videogame industry views storytelling, look no further than Telltale’s The Walking Dead.