Every day of our lives we make decisions. What tie do I wear to work today? What should I have for tea? Which film should I watch tonight? While none of these is particularly life-defying, The Walking Dead presents gamers with tougher decisions and the latest instalment, In Harm’s Way, sees players face their biggest moral dilemmas to date.
For those unfamiliar with the series, The Walking Dead combines point-and-click with elements of an adventure game. Developed by Telltale Games, the series follows the adventures of a young girl called Clementine as she attempts to survive a zombie apocalypse.
The third episode in the second series follows directly on from where the second one ended, as Clementine and her friends find themselves in a hardware store along with another group of survivors, led by the sadistic William Carver (voiced by Michael Madsen – best known for his role in Reservoir Dogs).
Right from the start, In Harm’s Way is not only the darkest episode to date but also one of the most action-packed and the most violent. This makes a welcome change as the previous two episodes have been incredibly slow-paced and low on action. The quick time events and the faster pacing of the episode will have gamers on the edge of their seats, as they attempt to escape from the hardware store.
In previous episodes the player’s choices haven’t had a dramatic impact on the storyline. It was clear that the developers were trying to build tension, saving the drama for later on in the series. That has all changed within In Harm’s Way as each decision and each line of dialogue can be the difference between a fellow companion living or dying.
Interestingly, a number of characters from 400 Days (a one-off episode which bridged the gap between the first and second series) make an appearance in the latest instalment. While they aren’t essential to the storyline and their appearances are incredibly brief, the references to previous episodes are a welcome implementation in the series that demonstrate the high level of scriptwriting that we have come to expect.
Something that particularly stands out about the writing is the character development, which has seen Clementine go from an innocent, defenceless girl to a strong, independent character that her companions heavily rely on. It’s another example of the game’s brilliant scriptwriting.
In terms of graphics, Telltale Games retains the comic book visuals – a unique style that brilliantly replicates The Walking Dead in its true form. As for the audio, the voice acting is to an excellent standard and the soundtrack compliments the dark tones of the game fantastically.
However, In Harm’s Way does contain some flaws. The length of the episode is approximately an hour and a half and the lack of replayability means gamers are unlikely to play through it again. Nevertheless, with the episode priced at just under £4, you do appear to get your money’s worth.
Furthermore, Telltale Games has failed to iron out the bugs that have continued to plague the series ever since it debuted in April 2012. While they don’t make the title unplayable, the regular frame rate drops, stutters and lag distract players from the excellent storytelling and ever-building suspense.