The Walking Dead: Episode Five – No Time Left – Xbox 360
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: Nov 21, 2012
Genre: Adventure
Reviewed by Mahamari Tsukitaka

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

Based on the Eisner award-winning comic book series with an AMC television adaptation of the same name, The Walking Dead is an episodic horror action adventure game by Telltale Games (of Sam & Max fame), taking place at the onset of the zombie apocalypse and preceding the events of the comics and TV show. The story arc of Season One winds to a close in Episode 5, and for those reading this review, I’m going to go ahead and assume that you’ve played the previous four episodes. If you haven’t, this is your spoiler warning.

At this point, anyone playing the The Walking Dead games has probably learned to take emotional pain and like it, too. By the end of Episode Four, darling Clementine — possibly the most loveable child character ever written — has gone missing at the hands of a mysterious kidnapper; our protagonist, Lee, was bitten by a walker; and, depending on your earlier choices, some or all of Lee’s friends may have deserted him. Things seem like they can’t get much worse: an ideal setup for a climax and denouement.

Episode Five finishes off the season a bit quietly, but with dignity, some surprises, and not without epic and gruesome “are you serious?” moments. The control scheme remains the same, and I can’t tell for certain if I’ve just gotten more used to what’s expected of the player, or if Telltale’s continued to refine the mechanics, but the action scenes seem to be easier and flow smoother than before. My favorite is a particularly liquid combat sequence involving Lee and a cleaver that brought back memories of the legendary hammer scene from the Korean action flick Old Boy. That is to say, it’s beautifully done.

Understandably, as the season ends with this episode, there are fewer game-changing choices to make, and perhaps because of Lee’s condition, it’s harder to feel true suspense from the situations arising this time around. Nevertheless, Telltale shows they still really know how to wrench some guts, especially as Lee deteriorates and any friends he’s made along the way react to his state. I can’t say more without spoiling the ending, but it’s satisfyingly bittersweet, poignant, and left open to player interpretation. I also dig how this episode forces the player to review and justify Lee’s actions since the beginning of the season. Not only does it refresh our memories of past events, it’s an opportunity to solidify Lee’s character or show any change of heart he’s had since we met him.

Besides a few moments of lag and odd sound balancing at the beginning of the episode that made dialogue difficult to hear, I honestly can’t think of much to say in criticism of Episode Five. The textured and expressive art style, understated musical score, creepy ambient noises, stellar voice acting and writing, cinematic camera angles, and event timing are exceptional, as always.

With Episode Five — No Time Left, Season One of Telltale Games’ highly acclaimed The Walking Dead games draws to an end on a strong note. It’s a bit shorter and less eventful than the previous four episodes, taking me only about two hours to complete, but it’s full of the delicious punch-in-the-gut, make-a-grown-man-cry goodness we’ve come to love in these games. Like the other episodes, it’ll run you 400 Microsoft Points ($5.00 US dollars), but if you’ve loved the series so far, you’ll consider this money well spent. I’m already sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for Season Two, currently slated to hit next spring.