Episode 5 of Telltale Games' The Walking Dead arrived on Steam last night and as soon as the Twitterverse mumured that it was live, I booted up Steam, watched as the client updated then clicked play as soon as I could.
About an hour-and-a-half later, I had finished, not quite teary eyed, but shocked and quietly contemplative over what I had witnessed in the closing moments. Without spoiling it for anyone who hasn't played it yet (which will be, unfortunately, a lot of you as it's not available to New Zealand or Australian console gamers at the moment, it's a fitting finale to a series that was compelling and engaging.
Telltale didn't bother submitting The Walking Dead for classification to Australian authorities, hence the reason why it's not available to console users in our region, but I'm really hoping that with Australia edging ever closer to its R18 rating for video games, the developer will reconsider and get it reclassified for Kiwi and Ozzie console gamers so they can experience the rollercoaster ride of emotions that the series will generate.
I'm a fan of the TV series, although haven't read the comic books, but Episode 4 of Telltale's game left me an emotional wreck - heck, the emotional wrecking started with Episode 3 where the plight of the three main characters - convicted killer Lee, eight-year-old Clementine and hillbilly Kenny - took dramatic and disasterous turns.
And while I could see where Episode 5 was heading, especially after what happened to Lee in the closing moments of Episode 4, it still didn't make the events of Episode 5 any easier to stomach.
My playthrough of The Walking Dead will likely be very different from the playthroughs of other people because how the story progresses depends on decisions made on in the heat of the moment: and you don't have much time to perform an action or respond to a question from another person.
And while the decisions I made might not have been the right ones - actually, were there any right or wrong decisons? - they were the ones that felt right at the time for me and the ones that I would probably have made if I found myself in the situation that Lee and his companions did. I'm not sure how I would have coped if I'd found myself in those situations.
Episode 5 is a lot more thought-provoking than previous episodes, too, and there's a lot more dialogue between characters, many of them contemplating the journey that they've been on and how the experience has affected their lives. There's still action but it's not action heavy this time. This is a more sombre, more serious episode.
I plan to play the series again but this time making different decisions from the ones I did during my first playthrough: just so I can how differently things end up from the first playthrough and how it imapcts on things. If you do play Episode 5, keep watching after the end game credits. Just do.
The Walking Dead got off to a slow start but it soon found its momentum and has become one of my most treasured gaming experiences of the year. It's thought-provoking, it's brutal, it's hard-edged but ultimately, it's a tale about human survival against the odds.
I know Telltale Games won't read this but if by some miracle someone from the company does, I have a plea: you have to get The Walking Dead reclassified for New Zealand and Australia so console gamers in our region can experience how good this series is. You just have to.
While I was writing this, I stumbled across an email exchange from earlier this year I had with Telltale's PR man Job Stauffer. I've emailed him to see whether Telltale will now reconsider it's position on getting the game classified for our market. I'll let you know whether I get a response. I also understand there is going to be a disc-based version of the game: let's hope it'll get classified for us.
Anyone else played The Walking Dead? Did it have an emotional impact on you like it did me? If you haven't played it, what games have impacted on your emotionally the most?
Other stuff you might be interested in: Game Junkie is on Twitter and you can email him here. He'll even answer your emails, not get some smart robot to do it. He also has another gaming blog here, which was actually updated recently. You should check it out.