Watch Dogs Review

Ah, “Watch_Dogs” as it calls itself- one of the most hyped games in living memory- a game that was thought by many to be the sole reason to buy a next-gen console, and “The first truly next-gen game”, whatever the hell that actually means. Fortunately, dear reader, I’ve been rather successfully (if I do say so myself) ignoring all the immense hype for the game, which I feel will help in this review. Apart from the very first trailer for it, I’ve ignored the other trailers, the apparent graphical downgrade, the delays and the five special editions for the game, partly because I knew I’d end up getting the game (at least to review it) and therefore didn’t care about the press for it, and also because I knew that the final game could ever live up to the sheer hype- said hype was so immense. Question is; is “Watch Dogs” actually any good? Well, read on.

So it’s the near future (I think) and Chicago is home to an operating system called “ctOS” that controls pretty much everything electric in the city as well as having everyone’s personal information (though due to pesky game limitations it can only bring up one piece of apparently “important” information at a time.) on file. This was an extraordinarily stupid idea that lead to people like protagonist Aiden Pearce being able to log into and control all sorts of devices and steal all sorts of personal information with incredible ease. Why was ctOS set up? I don’t know. It may have been mentioned in an audio log somewhere, but as far as I saw it wasn’t justified. Anyway, Aiden Pearce is a hacker whose niece is murdered in an attempt to scare him after a job he pulled, and he’s trying to find out who killed her. Well, I say that, he actually finds out who killed her at the start and has him held hostage for the entire game while the story desperately attempts to find things for him to do. The story in “Watch Dogs” is really nothing special. For starters Aiden is given no real backstory- he’s a skilled infiltrator, marksman, hand-to-hand combatant and driver bordering on military level, but the game never explains where he learned these skills. I’m also supposed to sympathise with him despite the fact he’s brought terror and destruction to his family and is an emotionless, manipulative twat, despite apparently fighting on behalf of the citizens of Chicago. The game has an “inFAMOUS”-style morality meter that didn’t seem to amount to much at all, and certainly didn’t affect the story- throughout the game Aiden was resolute in his own awesomeness as “The Vigilante” despite the large number of police and civilians I had murdered in cold blood. The actual mission-to-mission story is nothing special, but largely in-offensive. Aiden grumbles and murders his way through several break-ins and gang hideouts as he’s blackmailed into various jobs, but none of it ever really had any weight to it. After a while the whole thing took on a perhaps unintentionally dark quality as it dawned on me that Aiden is pretty much just a monster in the “Joel” mold- a man whose only skills extend to violence, coercion and general bastardry, and for a while I quite liked the Nihlistic feel to it. This was then ruined by Aiden’s sister and nephew being pretty much okay with everything he does, but hey-I had it while it lasted.

Gameplay wise, it’s decidedly hit and miss. The whole thing feels rather similar to Ubisoft’s own “Assassin’s Creed”, but with two stand-out elements, which I’ll get to shortly. The gameplay is largely stealth with silenced weapons, with a fair bit of driving, shoot-outs and hacking elements also. I use the word “Elements” because the hacking really isn’t as integral as it was made out to be. Whenever the game forces you to hack things, it’s usually hacking into a camera then jumping from camera to camera to follow someone or get a bead on an area, or just hacking into a computer or box. All of this is done by pointing at something and holding down a button. Outside of the mandatory, hacking mainly consists of making chest-high walls pop-up, or affecting things on roads in order to disable people you’re chasing or being chased by. The one major problem with the hacking is the “Disable Helicopter” move- something that works fine when on foot, but is seemingly impossible while driving. Overall the hacking is nothing particularly amazing, but where it really comes in handy are the game’s optional stealth sections, especially the gang hideouts. These are easily the best parts of the game- you scan the area to find the target that you’re supposed to knock out. You then have to knock them out and either escape or kill all of his henchman, either using stealth or all-out aggression. These stealth sections are reminiscent of “Splinter Cell Blacklist” (also made by Ubisoft. It had fantastic stealth)- the climbing, smooth shooting and melee takedowns all work brilliantly, and these sections are where I had the most fun with the game. When you’re free to do things your own way with a mixture of murder and hacking, the game is really rather decent. Nothing new, but certainly very competent. However, there’s one gameplay element that really sours the rest of it.

Forced stealth sections. Bloody hell the forced stealth sections. Ubisoft have previous for this- the forced stealth sections in every “Assassin’s Creed” game were also bloody awful, and the ones here are no exception- be spotted by anyone, anywhere, for a second and you’re busted. At one point I was tracking a briefcase as it was exchanged among a group of gangsters in a pubic walkway by the sea. I wasn’t supposed to be seen, and at one point a gangster did see me, pulled a gun and asked “What are you doing here?!”. IN A PUBLIC AREA. This was a pretty jarring lapse in logic and common sense, as the game stretched logic to fit in with the mission. During another mission I ran into a guard and he spotted me- the game then decided I had failed, and removed all control from me- the scene faded out as I stood there like a lemon while the guard shot me repeatedly. Now, had the game not removed my control I could have very easily stopped time with my dumb bullet time ability (that’s a point- you have bullet time for no adequately explained reason), raised my silenced pistol and shot him right in the face, like I would do during a gang hideout mission. But no, apparently that just wasn’t feasible. This is not how you do stealth, guys. It’s not enjoyable, it’s not fair, and it makes no bloody sense.

Any other problems? Well, during a mission late on in the game, I was supposed to be guiding someone to safety via security cameras. I instead sprinted into the building, killed a few goons and found the person in question only for them to COMPLETELY IGNORE ME FOR NO REASON. Nice one, guys.

Overall, “Watch Dogs” has its ups and downs. The optional stealth sections are great- the gang hideouts in particular play like a more restrictive version of “Splinter Cell: Blacklist”, which I love. The driving is fine, and even manages to have one rather initiative move where you turn off the engine to hide from the police, the shooting is decent, and although not essential, the hacking is well-implemented. What hold it back are the story being bland and not being affected by the player’s capacity to either be a man of the people or a psychotic bastard, and the utterly terrible forced stealth sections, that are entirely unwanted and very annoying. Is the game any good? It’s alright, yeah. It’s not the revolution people seemed to think it was going to be, and it certainly doesn’t live up to the massive hype. It’s really nothing special, but if you absolutely must pick it up there is fun to be had. There are better Ubisoft games on next-gen, namely “Assassin’s Creed IV” and “Rayman Legends”. They’re much more worthy of your time.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

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Thoughts on: The E3 2014 Trailer for “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain”

The newest trailer for my most anticipated game was leaked earlier today- “The Phantom Pain”. For those who are unaware, I’m a huge “Metal Gear Solid” fan, I’m incredibly hyped for “The Phantom Pain”, and judging by the trailers it could well end up being my faveourite game of all time, should the story be as good as it looks and the gameplay be as good as it was in “Ground Zeroes”. Anyway, that trailer. I’ve seen both the Japanese version and the English one, and I wanted to give my thoughts on what I saw. I will be talking explicitly about what happens in the trailer, so if you want to see it fresh then avoid this piece. I’ll be breaking things down into points- things about the trailer that stood out for me, not necessarily in chronological order.

The Song

“Nuclear” by Mike Oldfield playing throughout most of the trailer provides a suitably somber, dramatic backdrop to events, with the chorus standing out: “I’m nuclear, I’m wild. I’m breaking up inside. A heart of broken glass. Defiled. Deep inside the abandoned child. Of course the song wasn’t written for the game or anything, but it seems very apt, particularly given the tone of the trailer.

Bloody Big Boss and the horrific aftermath

One of the first shots in the trailer, and one that’s returned to later. A scorched, harrowing aftermath of a battle with corpses strewn about all over the place. Snake walks through the landscape alone and bloodied. In the later shot his face is completely covered with blood, and, on his knees, he tilts his head back and roars at the sky. This looks to be pretty late on in the game, and I imagine this will be one of many “tipping points” Snake has in the game. I can’t speak for who Diamond Dogs were fighting, but as I said- a lot of the battlefield is scorched, with many burned bodies, burnt-out cars and helicopters. It suggests some kind of powerful explosive. It could well be a nuke. That sounds unlikely, but Snake has survived three nuclear explosions in his life, and although he was never this close, he was quite nearby the second two.

Diamond Dogs Memorial

A powerful scene not open to much interpretation, this one. Snake, the now-rescued Kaz and a small group of Diamond Dogs soldiers watch over a funeral pyre for a number of coffins draped in the Diamond Dogs logo. The plan is to throw their ashes into the sea, but instead Snake grabs a handful of ash and rubs it on his face. It’s a bold shot, and establishes Snake’s mood during the difficult time. When did the soldiers die? My thoughts are during the ending of “Ground Zeroes”- Snake presumably put any memorial on hold while he rescued Kaz, so this would make sense. This scene is a great one in showing just how hard Snake and his men take the loss of their comrades. It’s combined with another scene I’ll get to later. Also, not only is Kaz present, but…

Outer Heaven

…they’re standing on a whole new Mother Base- now called “Outer Heaven”- Big Boss’ base in games set later. There’s a shot of Kaz and Snake admiring it from ground level, a short clip of Ocelot presiding over three soldiers undergoing target practice (one guy is shooting from the hip), and also two soldiers fighting while a crowd watches. I can’t quite decide whether I think they’re training or genuinely having a scrap, but the next point on the list might clear that up somewhat. I like that they have a new base up and running (Kojima did mention this before hand but it slipped my mind) and it’s nice to see Ocelot helping out.

Self-destructive Snake

A short one, but a very interesting one. That fight I mentioned is broken up by the big man himself- one of the soldiers pulls a knife. Snake grabs the dude’s arm and, much to the soldier’s distress, Snake sticks it into his own chest. Now two theories come to mind for me here. The first one is if it’s an actual fight, and Snake’s making some kind of “If you hurt each other, you’re hurting me, and us all.” demonstration to make them cut it out. The second is if it’s training, and his point is “Knives aren’t welcome here- it could go horribly wrong, like so.” I could be wrong in either case, but that’s what comes to mind. Intriguing, anyway.

Big Boss vs Eli

This is a very big one for me, despite only taking up a short amount of the trailer. Eli, the little boy shown in the “Red Band” trailer last E3, and thought by many to be a twelve year old “Liquid Snake” (one of the men cloned from Big Boss’ DNA and “brother” to Solid Snake) swings at Big Boss with a plastic chair before pinning him against a wall with it and pulling out a blade, much to Big Boss’ seemingly genuine worry. Soon after this there’s a shot of Eli running and then lunging at Big Boss, only for the latter to CQC the former to the floor and apparently slam the blade into him. This one raises a lot of questions for me. Does Eli know who Snake is, or is he just trying to escape from somewhere? If he is Liquid Snake, does Big Boss know Eli is his “Son”? How can Big Boss be so easily overpowered by a twelve year old? Is he in shock from seeing his “Son” for the first time? Is he unprepared what with having to fight a child? What about the apparent stabbing? If Eli is Liquid, it’s unlikely he stabs him, and it obviously wouldn’t be a killing blow. My thought? That blade’s going into the floor next to him, and the next words out of Big Boss’ mouth are some variation on “I’m not here to fight”. Also, this is now the second trailer for “Phantom Pain” in which Snake possibly murders children (the first being the cage full of African kids in the “Red Band” trailer. I’m still really not sure if he’s shooting them or not, but that’s an opinion to be explored at another time.) Also, Eli has what looks like “NEVER BE GAME OVER” written on the back of his top.

Quiet

Firstly, a woman who appears to be “Quiet” (the scantily-clad sniper from the “Red Band” trailer) dressed in battle fatigues limps away from an assailant, only for said assailant to grab her and dunk her head under water while her hands are tied. In a later scene, a woman that definitely is Quiet shows off some impressive hand-to-hand skills; using a downed attacker as a springboard to launch herself up onto another assailant with one foot- bouncing off him to pounce on a third, whom she apparently kills or at least incapacitates with what looks like a blow or slash to the throat, though it isn’t directly shown. If the woman being submerged in water is indeed Quiet, this is probably part of her backstory which Kojima said will make everyone who made a fuss about her clothing feel ashamed, which makes me think: Is she dressing that way to lure people into a false sense of security? I’m really unsure of the reason why, particularly as Kojima said it was partly because he wants people to cosplay her. I’m eager to find out. As for the latter shots, she’s got some pretty slick moves, and I look forward to seeing her in action more.

Even in death we are Diamond Dogs

The really moving part of the trailer: back to that shot of Snake with the ashes on his face, Kaz asks “We’re not burying them at sea. What then?” The following exchange happens: “We’ll make diamonds from their ashes. Take them into battle with us.”
“A shining light to our brothers in arms. Even in death…”
“…we are Diamond Dogs.”
Again, I love this part for showing just how hard Big Boss is hit by the death of his men, and how highly he thinks of them. It also brings a beautifully poignant context to the name “Diamond Dogs”. It’s not just a David Bowie reference.

The trailer has its share of awesome title cards like the rest of the game’s trailers, this time being: “Tormented by phantoms” over a MSF logo, “Spirits of Ground Zeroes” over an XOF logo, “Time for Retribution” over a Diamond Dogs logo and finally “Venom Awakens” over the new Outer Heaven logo

Skull Face and Metal Gear

Snake and a blindfolded Skull Face (the fantastic villain from Ground Zeroes) get out of a jeep inside a hangar containing what is either the recovered “Metal Gear Zeke” from “Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker”, or a newly created metal gear. Either way, Diamond Dogs has a metal gear, and they now mean even more business than they did before. What really intrigues me here is Skull Face- what’s he doing in Outer Heaven with Snake? Is Snake just showing off his arsenal in an attempt to intimidate? Or were his claims about him and Big Boss going way back legit? I love Skull Face as a villain and I’m really interested to see where he fits into everything.

(I also want to point out Snake taking out a knife and smiling at it while next to what appears to be an unconscious Chico, Snake putting a bag over Huey Emmerich’s head and Ocelot injecting him with something, and Snake shooting four soldiers at the end that appear to be on his side. Perhaps they’re under someone’s control or infected with something? Maybe this is after Snake takes the first major step on his road to being a villain? Hard to tell really)

So those are my thoughts on the E3 2014 trailer for “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain”. I’ll be writing pieces on anymore footage of the game that’s released. Suffice it to say this trailer got me very, very excited for what’s to come.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Wolfenstein: The New Order Review

So then. Nazis. Nazis fascinate me, I must admit. They are a group that will almost inevitably be brought up by anyone discussing the concept of “Evil”- they’re remembered as a mighty yet diabolical, heinous war machine responsible for some of the worst atrocities in humanity’s history. So no matter how interesting I find them, I do so love seeing them get killed. As you can probably imagine, I was really rather looking forward to “Wolfenstein”. I must admit my experience with the previous installments is somewhat lacking. I’ve played “Wolfenstein 3D” a little bit and I played quite a lot of “Return to Castle Wolfenstein” but that’s all. As for “The New Order”, I loved the premise, I really like first person shooters, and I love killing Nazis, so this looked like one to pick up. This review will be focusing on the title as a game rather than as part of the franchise; is it any good? Does it do anything new for shooters? Just how many Nazis did I kill anyway?

Answer: I’ve lost count. The story starts in 1946 with long-time “Wolfenstein” protagonist William “B.J” Blazkowicz (Which other people seem to pronounce “Blaz-KO-Vitch” but he himself pronounces “Blaz-kuh-witz”) leading a small team on a desperate, last-ditch raid against the castle base of General Wilhelm Strasse, otherwise known as “Deathshead”, a monstrous Nazi scientist who is responsible for a whole lot of mechanised dogs, humans and robots that are greatly improving Germany’s chance of winning the war. Long story short B.J and friends are captured, he escapes with a couple of them, takes a big piece of shrapnel to the head and goes into a vegetative state; ending up in an Asylum run by a polish family. Losing his concept of time, he is doted on by the family’s daughter Anya until eventually a Nazi squad arrive to shut the place down with bullets. This spurs B.J back into action as he gets up, kills a whole load of Nazis and joins up with Anya to help out any resistance fighters. However, there’s one major twist to all this: B.J was in a vegetative state for fourteen years- the Nazis won the war and 1960 sees pretty much the entire planet run by Nazis. Also The Moon, but I’ll get to that. This was the premise that got me interested in the game, and it really doesn’t disappoint- not only have the Nazis got vastly improved technology in 1960 but you also see the non-military effects of a world run by the Nazi party. It ranges from big things like a bridge from Europe to Africa (which is apparently “The Front” but I don’t know how much resistance is going on there. Probably not a lot what with all the robot dogs and Supersoldaten) and a Nazi lunar base to smaller things like famous songs from the era recorded in German, like “Get Back” by The Beatles and “Nowhere to Run” by Martha and the Vandellas. The back story is largely found in newspaper clippings that are very interesting if you take the time to read them, and the fact that it isn’t out in the open adds to the idea that everyone’s so beaten down by the Nazis- as far as most people are concerned, they won. Early on B.J is told that the U.S was nuked, which is not even treated as anything shocking by those telling him. At one point Deathshead lambasts B.J for being an agent of chaos out to selfishly ruin the efficient, beautiful society the Nazis have created. They won. The smaller-scale story as told throughout the story missions is also good; B.J and what’s left of the resistance fight back against the Reich in whatever ways they can leading to some decent variety in missions, but the real focus here is on character. B.J himself gets some decent fleshing out through his interactions with his team, mainly Anya, and through his narration. Said narration is always a hushed, intense whisper that’s usually poetic but concise as he reflects on what’s happening to him and what’s happened in the past. It’s a nice contrast to his determined but approachable exterior- inside he’s a cold-hearted killer with a burning hatred for the Nazis that runs deep. Other stand-outs are Anya who fills the role of B.Js girlfriend while also being a key member of the resistance who comes across as an actual human being who’s intelligent, determined and warm despite all that’s happened to her, and B.J’s old friend and comrade Fergus- a battered, lethal Scotsman who provides a good amount of abrasive comic relief, and fills out the British part of the team a bit (The UK didn’t do too well in this timeline). Overall the story is really rather good, and definitely not just throw-away filler in between shooting sections.

Now many would argue that gameplay is most important in an FPS, and fortunately that doesn’t disappoint either. If the story is handling the more serious side of things, its the gameplay that handles the fun, cathartic side. Coming across as a mixture of classic FPS gameplay as seen in the likes of “Doom” and the better type of modern shooter like “Resistance 3”, it’s both smart and over-the-top. Almost every weapon in the game can be dual-wielded, including automatic shotguns and assault rifles. Hell, even knives. Most of the weapons feel satisfying and handle well, and well-implemented lean system makes cover a more intuitive option without going too far like “Killzone” 2 and 3. The game is split between shoot-outs and stealth sections, and both are handled well. The stealth works on line-of-sight and hiding behind physical objects rather than in shadow. Knives can be thrown, takedowns can be performed or if you’re in a rush pistols can be silenced. Commanders can be killed to prevent reinforcements from showing up, and the game feels fair in regards to the time between being seen and an alert being raised- basically it’s FPS stealth done right, feeling similar to “Metro: Last Light”. Health does regenerate, but only by twenty points (that was how high mine went, you might be able to upgrade it)- otherwise you’ve got to pick up health packs, just like old times. Health can continuously be picked up even if you’re at your maximum- causing you to “Overcharge” and have extra health that increasingly drops down to your limit. The game also handles “Perks” well, with unlocks being tied to tasks, mainly involving killing a certain number of Nazis in different ways.

I said it mixes the old with the new, and I feel it does it well- the health system, armour and mowing down hordes of enemies with massive firepower from the old days, tight level design and well-implemented stealth from newer games. In answer to the question I posed earlier in the review, it doesn’t really do much new for the genre, besides the health system, which is a pretty cool idea, all told. However, at no point in the game did I think “Oh they took this from (X)”. It feels like a natural step for shooters and not the sum of several parts from games that came before it.

Overall, “Wolfenstein” is great. The back story and premise are really interesting and well-told, the character drama is solid and its characters likable, and the gameplay mixes modern sensibilities with old school massacring rather well. This is definitely one to check out, particularly if you like first person shooters.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

The Walking Dead Season 2 Episode 2: A House Divided and Episode 3: In Harm’s Way Reviews

Okay, same deal as the last two episodes of “The Wolf Among Us”- played episode 2 of this when it came out, didn’t review it, decided to wait for episode 3 to come out. Okay, let’s get into it:

Episode 2: A House Divided

This episode focuses on Clem’s new group deciding they need to get the hell away from the cabin they’re currently staying in after the previously mentioned antagonist “Carver” turns up to recon the area while everyone but Clem and Sarah are absent. A key part of the story is the emotional return of a friendly face for Clementine that I won’t spoil in this part of the review at least, and despite having it accidentally revealed to me it really packed a punch as the stand-out part of the episode. The story in this part strikes a balance between warm, safe (as safe as one can be in this situation) moments with character interaction and more harsh sections when the group are in danger, and here said sections seem to directly alternate, though that’s not a bad thing. As well as the aforementioned returning character I feel this episode and the next one (I’ll get to that) really demonstrate how interesting Sarah is, both as a character and as a catalyst for gameplay elements and choices. Basically she’s a fifteen year old girl who is very sheltered and naive, and has to be constantly looked after lest she get herself or anyone else killed. This responsibility is often passed over from her father to Clem, and it leads to some rather interesting situations. She can often be a burden and you have to decided whether you want to be cold and uncaring with her, or be more sympathetic. Gameplay wise it’s still predominantly exploring and dialogue choices, with quick time events being used sparingly for when zombies attack, which isn’t too often. What’s most important here of course, are the choices you have to make. Fortunately this episode has some pretty strong ones. Though I feel the choices are less one-sided for me than the ones in “The Wolf Among Us” (By no means the game’s fault, I’m just following a pretty clear path that I’ve made for myself), I do still find a lot of them quite easy to make, at least some times. Still, they’re well-implemented as always, and the short amount of time you often have to make the choices still really adds to them.

Overall, a good episode.

Episode 3: In Harm’s Way

This episode is pretty intense, at least after a somewhat slow start. [SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 2] After being captured by Michael Madsen (Carver) in the last episode and losing a few members in the process [SPOILERS END] Clem and the gang are hauled over to Carver’s base- a big, D.I.Y/Garden Centre place. Its residents include whatever “400 days” characters you convinced to leave at the end of the DLC, and I must say it is nice to see where they ended up, even if the majority of them are arseholes now. Clem and friends spend the majority of the episode being forced by Carver to earn his trust through copious amounts of manual labour, all while forming a plan to escape. I said at the start of this section that the episode has a slow start, but I wouldn’t call that a bad thing. The episode has a lot of set-up with the group forming their plan, and it’s worth it for the pay-off at the end. The ending of this episode is fantastic both in content and as a clifhanger, and contains one of the most brutal things I’ve seen in games for a while, and certainly in “The Walking Dead” games. It all hinges on what I’d consider to be one of the most important choices in either series, and arguably the most important choice in Season 2 so far- one that will come to define Clem for however long she has left (and please let that be a long time- I already lost Lee, I can’t lose Clem too). Elsewhere the choices are up to their usual standard, with at least two stand-outs. Something I noticed on a more negative side was that there were a few dialogue options where the time limit went down so slowly it didn’t seem to be moving at all, in fact it may not have been. I don’t know whether this was a glitch or intentional, but if the latter is the case then it’s unhelpful. A key part of the choices in this game is that you often have a short amount of time to decide, which ramps up the panic and makes them harder. Granted the dialogue choices aren’t the most important, but it’s still worth noting. The “Action” scenes are again used sparingly in this episode, which makes sense given the setting for a lot of it.

At this point I prefer “The Wolf Among Us” out of Tell Tale’s two on-going projects, but “The Walking Dead” is not to be sniffed at. It’s carrying on the great work that “Season 1” started, and is really worth looking into, as long as you can take the violence and sheer despair of it all.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

The Wolf Among Us: Episode 3 – A Crooked Mile and Episode 4 – In Sheep’s Clothing Reviews

So it’s been a little while since I’ve reviewed things on a regular basis (I managed to get the last couple out while writing my university dissertation), and during that time I played, though didn’t find time to review, episode 3 of Tell Tale’s “The Wolf Among Us”. I decided it’d be easier to review that alongside the recently released episode 4, and I’ll be doing the same for episodes 2 and 3 of “The Walking Dead: Season 2”. So, let’s get into it.

Episode 3: A Crooked Mile

Now, back in my review I commented on how the apparent reveal of the killer brought an end to the intrigue that had built up over episode 1 and much of episode 2. Turns out, that was a premature statement. Much of this episode is spent trying to A) Track down episode 2’s suspect and B) Figure out if they really are responsible for what happened. Both in terms of story and gameplay this is a tense episode, and shifts the pace quite a bit from the last two episodes. Though there are still fight scenes, they’re rather brief, and far more time is spent on doing actual detective work. All you have to begin with is a time- you have to find out where you’ll have to be at that time, and who your suspect is going to be meeting. You have three locations to search for clues, and a ticking clock reminding you that time is short. I managed to arrive at the location in question slightly late, but still got to the episode’s conclusion, and without any real trouble. Said conclusion is one of the game’s more visually cool action sequences, if one of its less involving. The episode also has some good character moments, particularly with the ever-suffering patrons and owner of the Trip Trap bar. The choices are still interesting and well-implemented, even if I do lean heavily towards the “Psychotic Bastard” side of the spectrum. There’s one moment in particular that stands-out among my usual bastardry in this game, and I’m delighted to report that there are still many opportunities to randomly punch people you’re talking to in the face if the conversation isn’t going your way. Hey, I may be cheap, but dammit if I don’t get results.

The change of pace adds to the already excellent mechanics and story, making this an episode to definitely check out.

Episode 4: In Sheep’s Clothing

[SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 3] After the bloody conclusion to the previous episode in which Bigby Wolfed out and potentially murdered Tweedle Dum (depending on your choices. I jumped at the chance to shut him up once and for all), only to be gravely wounded by Bloody Mary and have Ichabod Crane taken from him and Snow [SPOILERS END] Bigby is fixed up in his apartment by Dr. Swineheart and told to take it easy for a while. No more randomly punching people and needlessly starting fights when simple conversation would suffice, basically. But little does Swineheart know that I’ll be in the cold ground before I stop randomly punching people in the face in this game, and indeed there is no rest for the wicked, so on I go. The whole of this episode is spent trying to track down “The Crooked Man”- the shadowy villain running everything from behind the scenes, and fits back into what TWAU does best- a mixture of questioning suspects and getting into brutal fights. There aren’t really many choices here- it’s said in dialogue that choosing to go to one of the two leads first might hamper your chances of finding anything at the other but that wasn’t the case for me- both locations went very well. Apart from that there are a few interesting conversation choices, but nothing really feels too drastic. It may be because I’ve been clearly following a path with Bigby (Polite and calm with women, to-the-point and often violent with men) and I see no real reason to deviate from it now, but no choices in this episode really stood out for me. Well, except for one, and that was more of picking what I thought looked cool. The episode ends on a cliffhanger, much like Season 1, Episode 4 of “The Walking Dead”, and like in that episode you get to pick a dialogue response here right at the end that will start you off in the finale. For the record, I chose to light a cigarette. It was glorious.

Although none of the choices stood out in this episode (Which is odd given some of the great ones that have been in previous episodes), the episode itself was great. The mixture of story and gameplay continue to show that Tell Tale are at the top of their game, and cements “The Wolf Among Us”‘ current place on my top five games of the year. Can’t wait for the finale.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18