Before you read, please know this post contains major spoilers for No Time Left, the fifth episode of Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Play the game first (or watch it on YouTube like I did) and come back!
If you learn anything from Telltale’s extraordinary rendition of The Walking Dead, it is to never lose faith in games to provide heart-wrenching moments. The continuous threat of something popping around the corner, quick time events that determined life or death — it all amounted to what could be the most emotionally charged game ever made.
Watching the fifth episode, No Time Left, on YouTube, I sat anxiously as Ben fell into the alleyway and both Kenny and Lee went to help. After surviving everything they have, Kenny sacrificed himself to stop Ben from turning with the last bullet in the gun.
Alternatively, if Ben isn’t with the group, Kenny knocks the radio into that hole the group comes across, and Christa blindly jumping in. Of course the place is layered with zombies. Kenny follows to give her a boost, sacrificing himself as well. Telltale were incredibly determined to Lee approached the hotel alone.
Crossing some rooftops, the group approaches a rickety sign curled over a zombie-infested road. Lee opts to go alone to let Omid and Christa escape the city. Entering the hotel, all hell breaks loose: the mysterious voice is actually the station wagon owner, from whom the group steals many supplies. He’s only a father, he coaches little league, but steals Clem to punish Lee.
The gentleman has clearly lost his sanity, as he begins talking to a bag presumably holding his wife’s remains. Clem sneaks out of the closet and whacks him with whatever Lee stares at, and they escape. Discovering the walkers aren’t able to distinguish survivors if they’re covered in gore, Lee lathers Clem up with muck.
Leaving the hotel, Clem notices her parents were bitten and almost freaks out. To top everything off Lee passes out, beginning his little transition. Somehow, Clem drags him to an abandoned building with one walker inside. Lee’s skin turns white as Clem encourages him to press forward. For her safety, Clem handcuffs him to a heater. That wasn’t happening, and what follows are the scariest 15 seconds: reaching for the walker’s gun, Clem falls as the walker unloosens itself. Beside Lee is a baseball bat, but he can’t reach, so he kicks it over. Clem then bashes the walker’s head a good seven times.
While that last sequence left me horrified, the ending left me weeping. Lee and Clem have the most dispirited conversation as she bemoans reality. She will need to go forth alone, without Lee’s guidance, for the first time. Clem doesn’t want Lee to turn, and Lee can persuade her either to leave or shoot him. Her raising of the gun is where emotion piles on hurriedly, and if she shoots, the screen fades out. If she doesn’t, the vent acts as her gateway out.
But we know she leaves Savannah: an after-credit scene shows her in a field. Two silhouetted figures, probably Omid and Christa, catch her glance.
The five episodes combine fluidly to create a powerhouse in emotional interaction, and Telltale’s storytelling ability is unparalleled. In the midst of a zombie apocalypse, the series is perfectly chaotic and emotionally dispiriting at proper spots. It’s a benchmark for how interactive entertainment should create tension without adrenaline-fueled explosions or other cheap gimmicks.
And, most importantly, the greatest achievement is conveying the right use of quicktime events, a mechanic that resides swimmingly in a zombie-infested experience. Not lumping it in to provide “variety”.
Thankfully, a season two is on the way. I hope it does a time lapse, jumping forward a couple months, to where Christa, Omid and Clem are more established. Maybe to come across familiar settings… The Prison, Alexandria? I am excited regardless.
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