The concluding part to Telltale Games' The Walking Dead presents not only an end; but a beginning.
This may seem like a generically vague statement; but its relevance is strong. One of the best games this year has come to its explosive finale, and a revolution of in-game storytelling has been introduced with it.
Lee Everett's narrative in No Time Left is emotional, terrifying, exciting, and tense all at once, making for a fitting conclusion that will affect even the most hardened of players.
*EDITOR'S NOTE:* While the storyline of No Time Left will not be spoiled in this review, I do write about key plot points from the previous episodes. If you have not played any of the series, you may want to refrain from reading, in order to keep it a surprise.
Both the game and story are entirely co-dependent in a truly gripping hybrid, sure to disrupt traditional concepts of in-game narrative. This is not just a set of binary choices laid out before the player to determine his/her experience, it's a tailored collaboration between you and the developers. The end in this post zombie apocalyptic story maybe inevitably similar for all; but it's a deeply personal and highly engaged experience.
The story picks up exactly where we left Lee Everett: in the morgue, surrounded by thousands of walkers on the streets of Savannah, listening to the ominous voice of Clementine's kidnapper on the walkie talkie. With time running out after our hero was bitten, the sole purpose now is to find and save this girl, unwavered by whatever costs there are in getting to her.
My main criticism of the previous instalment was the stalling of progress in the story, to build anticipation for the finale. Now that the stakes have changed for our character and the game, Episode 5 has no choice but to move at an increasingly rapid pace, having the user make a significant amount of major decisions. They can sometimes pass you by rather speedily, so be sure to take the time in appreciating each scenario.
Leading our main protagonist from that overturned police car at the beginning of the season, developing a strong bond with Clementine, struggling to keep a grasp on what humanity you have left in a world without any sense of it. Telltale are guiding you by the hand through a game that references your past decisions (anytime in the past episodes you saw any form of the words 'will remember this,' chances are that will affect your playthrough of episode 5), and truly instills an emotional clarity that is a true rarity in gaming.
You begin to take stock of why you made these decisions. There wasn't any quantitative gain, no mechanical reward or penalize for the choices. They were made on pure impulse, a true attachment Clementine and the cast, pitch-perfectly realised in a way many have never experienced before.
And then you finish. The credits roll and you soak in what has just happened, making these next few hours equally as emotively powerful as the time spent playing. It's something that I feel has been missing from games in respects to technical achievement, unlockable awards and a focus on the 'what' more than the 'why.' It's gripping, and you're not going to forget it for a long time.
Unfortunately, as is the case with all the episodes of previous, expect to see a few bugs including (but not limited to) stutter, freezing, crashing, and the dialogue looping on a scene to create some sort of 'super echo.' But under no circumstances should these stop you from playing.
A complete reinvention of the adventure game is upon us, to the point that the context of individual genre preference does not apply. This dark, gut-wrenching, and incredibly unprecedented experience will be appreciated by anybody, gamer or not. It's simple: this is quite literally a game for everyone.
You have to play The Walking Dead. This is going to change everything.