The Walking Dead Ep. 5 Review: The Way It Had To End

So there’s a degree to which I found Episode 4 more compelling than Episode 5, if only because the former managed to be much more surprising, and even a little more dangerous. The stakes are high for Lee in Episode 5 as he goes looking for Clementine, but one wonders if he’s actually saving anyone, given his situation. After all, he ended Episode 4 by being bitten by a walker, his friends have managed little in the way of positive motion or safety throughout the course of the story, and Savannah is now overrun with the undead. Does Lee really have much to offer Clementine anymore?

Even still, there’s something … wrong about the guy who has grabbed Clementine, and the personal connection we’ve developed with her throughout the game is incredibly strong — another area in which Telltale has excelled. We players are drawn forward to help her just the same as Lee, in a way he can’t shake. In fact, Telltale conveys that feeling to players by removing a lot of our capabilities in these final moments. There are several sections of the game that act as simple corridors, in which Lee can move in only one direction and at only one speed, driven as he is toward his goal.

While the story of Episode 5 remains great, from a gameplay standpoint, it’s the weakest entry in the series. Though The Walking Dead has been light on puzzles all the way through, Episode 5 has none of which to speak. There are a few harrowing set piece moments, but primarily your job in Episode 5 is to click on key areas of the screen at key moments to slam a cleaver into a zombie skull, or to notch a headshot before a walker gets over a barrier. There’s not a lot of skill involved — it’s mostly twitch reaction but without any need for aiming, and it’s hard to screw that up. In fact, I found the lack of challenge in the gameplay, and really, the lack of any real role in the episode except to click as directed and to push the W key, rendered the whole thing a touch anti-climactic (except at a few key moments I won’t spoil).

But there’s the story, and it can’t be oversold, and what you lose in agency you make up in conversations and Lee’s relationships with his friends. Episode 5 is the perfect end to The Walking Dead’s first season, and while at times it feels like autopilot, it’s only because Telltale has done such a tremendous job creating its characters; everything that happens feels right. Episode 5 is heart-wrenching, but it’s also a joy to play through (although it is significantly shorter than previous episodes).

I mentioned above that The Walking Dead is ultimately a story about how people hurt one another, and it is that. It’s also a story about redemption, and about love, and in seeking Clementine, we, and Lee, find both. You should absolutely play it, because, minor weaknesses aside, The Walking Dead may well be the best game of the year. It’s certainly the one with the best story.

Pros:

  • Phenomenal conclusion to the story; Telltale really stuck the landing
  • The emotional power of the story can’t be overstated — a brilliant, sad, heartbreaking concluding episode
  • Does a great job of keeping the past episodes important and poignant
  • Some great set pieces, and some of the biggest zombie-fighting moments
  • Gives players the feeling of having a real effect on the characters and relationships, if not all the events

Cons:

  • Feels somewhat like autopilot, with several areas in which the player can’t do much but walk forward in a straight line
  • No puzzles to speak of
  • Very little actual challenge, which renders things a bit anti-climactic
  • Shorter by about an hour than other episodes

Final Score for Episode 5: 80/100

Final Score for all episodes: 90/100


Read more of Phil Hornshaw’s work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

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3 Comments on The Walking Dead Ep. 5 Review: The Way It Had To End

Patches

On November 26, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Spot on score… And analysis…

I’d have to actually monitor the time spent in episode 5 to see if it is really shorter than the other ones, or it only feel shorter because you spend less time in aventure/puzzle-solving mode and more on WASD/conversation choice/straightforward story mode…

As for the story as a whole, it’s a serious contestant (and in my mind the winner) of the game story of the year…

Telltale showed us that they can do exceptional story games… Now, for their next game, if they could only…
- Stop using the Episode formula… I hate it having to wait for the next one to see how the story goes… Exactly for the same reason I don’t follows Series on TV… If they do Episodes again, then I’ll wait when all Episodes are done before buying it…
For The Walking Dead, I waited when the 3rd Episode was released… 50% discount on Steam also helped make me buy it before all Episodes where done… A mistake, in retrospect…
- Make more choices and decisions carries from previous to future Episode… Only one is a bit weak…

***Light Spoilers***
I really hesitated when I had to choose on who I should put the handcuffs… I had to think the pros and cons of each options…
As for the last few ‘W’ mashing… Unexpected results that had a very strong significance…
Another proofs of a great potential for storytelling…

dee23

On November 28, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Episode 5 was much shorter than the other episodes. It’s probably half the length of most of the episodes in the series since it is a 90 minute episode. Episode 2 didn’t have any puzzles either so episode 5 didn’t just seem short because it didn’t have puzzles in it. The only episode that really had puzzles was episode 3 and to a lesser extent episode 4. I don’t consider putting batteries in a radio a puzzle I think that was a device to show the level of interaction in the game.

Rigo

On December 3, 2012 at 10:56 pm

I LOVE the show. Total fan, but I wouldn’t call this a ‘game.’ It’s more of a motion comic where you get to choose left or right. As far as it’s gaming value, I’d rate it less than a game of solitare. Making a radio work, by installing batteries, or beating off a zombie by hitting one key over and over, is not really a game. That beings said, if you’d like to watch a somewhat lengthy motion comic of the Walking Dead, you’ll like this.