The Walking Dead: Episode Five – No Time Left – PS3
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: Nov 21, 2012
Genre: Adventure
Reviewed by Charles Boucher

Review Score: 5 of 5 (Editor’s Choice)

It’s finally over. After months, Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season One is finally complete, and if you were waiting for all the episodes to be released before you played, then go and do it. It’s amazing! If you really want to, come back and finish reading this review afterward, but there’s your summary right there: One of the best games this year, and the best game writing in years.

You’re still Lee Everett, of course, and Clementine’s been kidnapped by a stranger. You have your band of survivors, your mission, and a very short amount of time to complete it. There are tough choices to make, and when there is this much behind you the choices you made in the past come barreling back to haunt you. Everyone has become a monster in the wake of the end of the world, but whether Lee can live with, or despite, the things he has done is up to you.

At this point, Lee is pretty well-defined no matter the choices you’ve made. You might lose your temper, you might have reservations about the people you’re with, but by now you know Lee and all the choices feel right. The game’s writing is just a triumph, showing what can happen when good writing and strong choices work together to help the player discover their own character and make their own path.

The adventure game elements are comfortably tucked away again, forming a nice balance between the extremes found previously, while still giving some room to experiment with the environments and presenting tasks to accomplish that can impact the story. The shooting controls are back, and refined from previous episodes, making the combat segments much more manageable than before, getting your pulse going without inducing a headache.

The game’s controls, and the ways you interact with the world have finally come into their own. There aren’t many cringe-inducing moments in the mechanics compared to previous episodes, but it’s still brutal and desperate, and the choices you have to make are as rough and quick as ever.

Really, it’s hard to say much about the game without spoiling it. The Walking Dead is all about the story of what happens to the survivors, the desperate downward slide, how societies work and how they break. By this point, you’ve basically rolled the dice. Your hard decisions are in the moment, how you deal with new crises and old wounds, both literal and metaphorical.

The game’s graphics and sound are right on the mark. With character designs taken straight from the comic and cell-shaded graphics, the game looks like an animated, colorized version of the graphic novel, and the sounds and voice acting are spot on. Even the little touches are brilliant. When you finish the final episode, you’re presented list of the major choices you made, and how they stacked up to the choices others made, as well as a final season tally board showing all character outcomes.

The game continues to offer optional pop-up clues telling you when an NPC’s attitude towards you has been affected by your response. Telltale really grasps every opportunity to highlight when and where the things you do matter.

Before, I said that the Walking Dead might not be for everybody. At this point, I pretty much take it back: Some people might not like it, but I’m pretty willing to chalk that up to operator error at this point. Telltale has made a game where your choices matter, where you build meaningful bonds with characters that mean more than just raising your relationship stats ever higher, and they’ve even managed to balance tense action and exciting combat into what is fundamentally an adventure game engine.

If The Walking Dead isn’t the game of the year it’s only because 2012 has seen some of the best video games in console history. It’s certainly the best you’ll find on XBLA. Get it now, and be glad you did, or wait for the complete retail release of all episodes coming on December 4th.