Life is Strange: Episode 4 review

Reviews Xbox One Reviews

As with previous episodes in this frankly excellent series, it feels as if it’s taken an absolute age for each episode to be released. I can only relate it to the interminable wait for the next Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Hobbit or Transformers. It’s simply too long, but it’s finally wound it’s way round and Episode four, Dark Room is ready at last.

Episode four then, looks to continue from the ball-breaker that Chaos Theory left you with. It doesn’t disappoint. I was a little late to the Episode four party for one reason or another and I’ve tried desperately to avoid the spoilers that have been hitting the internet, successfully so, and I’d repay that poorly if I spoiled this for you, too, dear reader.

The gameplay, graphics and audio as you’d expect, haven’t really changed much since the review I did of the first episode way back in January. I’m not here to chat about the graphics, though, nor the audio, nor the gameplay. I’m here to heap praise on the writers. This story is a touching, heart-wrenching, powerful and devastating take on life.

Without wanting to give the game away for those who haven’t played it at all, the episode starts with Max visiting Chloe. After spending some time on the beach during the sunset’s golden hour, it’s back for some down-time with Blade Runner. Max inevitably nods off and you’re faced with a good old explore of Chloe’s house post Max’s meddling. It’s here you get reacquainted with the fetch and hunt quests, nothing too taxing. After this, and a conversation with Chloe’s dad, William, you’re faced with a massive choice. What you do here will most likely make you re-evaluate your own personal beliefs.

It’s a topical, monumental decision and I found myself agonising over it for a good 5 minutes, weighing up the pro’s and con’s. I needed five minutes afterwards, I don’t mind admitting.

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This leads you back to the reality you’ve been playing for the last three instalments. To be honest, I’m not sure why the story was given that tangent kick, but it certainly makes you think. I guess life is a series of ‘what if’s’ and this is probably Max’s biggest on that score, so far. Let’s face it, if you had the opportunity, wouldn’t you try to change at least one thing in yours or your closest friend’s life?

Back to the story then, you’re launched back into the task of finding out the link between Kate Marsh’s issues, Rachel Amber’s disappearance and Nathan Prescott. There’s a couple of opportunities to let Max just have a sit down. After the major decision she’s just faced, it might not be a bad idea.

This part of the episode is another search and find task. Firstly, you have to see if Nathan is hanging around. Ask the folk around the dorm, take a handy photograph for some achievement points and you’re in. Find Nathan’s dorm-room and you’ve got another search task on your hands as you look for more linking evidence for Rachel’s disappearance.

With that out-of-the-way, it’s a short altercation with Nathan and off you go to visit drug dealer Frank. Here you have to persuade Frank to hand over his little black book so Max and Chloe can figure out Nathan’s movements. There’s a lengthy dialogue and an important set of choices to make to stop Frank and his dog, Pompidou from getting wasted by Chloe, or indeed, Chloe from getting offed by Frank.

Once you have the contacts book, it’s back to Chloe’s to try to figure out how to link the clues together to try to get some answers. This is, in truth, a little bit hit and miss. There are some obvious links that aren’t difficult to tie together, but there are some that aren’t obvious at all. Once you’ve got them though, it’s not too hard to make the final connections and you’re soon on your way to a mysterious new location to discover Rachel Amber’s last few steps. This new location is an abandoned shack, owned by the Prescott family. All through this episode, you’re guided towards an affliction against the slightly maniacal Nathan Prescott and this new location lends some historical weight to it by painting the same kind of picture for his ancestors. It’s a very clever part of the story, designed to get you in a certain frame of mind for the next sequences.

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In the shack you’ll find a metal hatch with some stairs leading towards a bunker. If you were observant during the evidence linking sequences, you’ll have the code you’ll need already. The smug side of me cannot help but point out that I got the code to enter this secret area first time. Another new area to explore and you’ve hit paydirt.

This helps to understand the title of the episode and you get your hands on some evidence that links Nathan and Rachel Amber, and it doesn’t look good. The worrying thing is, the bitchy Victoria Chase seems to be next. Chloe’s bossy side emerges and you take a devastating trip to the secret hideout you were at in Episode 2. This leads to an inevitable conclusion with Rachel Amber, and that isn’t even the twist.

Max then wants to warn Victoria that Nathan is even more erratic and dangerous than previously thought and she knows where to find her. It’s the night of the Vortex Club party and the moon appears to have replicated itself in the skies above Arcadia Bay. You’re tasked with firstly getting into the party, then trying to find out if Nathan is there already. The usual party basics are there, teens jumping into pools, teens throwing up in toilets and getting loaded in the corners. It’s pretty standard. It won’t take you long to figure out a way into the VIP area and it’s here you’re faced with persuading Victoria that you’re not the enemy she thinks you are.

As the photo competition winner is announced, Chloe gets a text from Nathan which leads them back to Chloe’s secret hideout. Here’s where the story twists and turns like a swordfish in the hands of Jeremy Wade. I’m deliberately not going to give it away, and Max’s powers are useless to the extreme. The scene cuts away to conclude with something that might be a little more familiar to fans of Dexter than an episodic teen video game drama.

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You’ll start out on Episode 4 of Life is Strange with a certain amount of expectation. This turns slowly into a feeling of definite guilt only for that to be turned totally on it’s head. What will happen in the final episode, Polarized, when it’s finally released is anyone’s guess and how does this all tie-in with the catastrophic events that are threatening to end Arcadia Bay as a habitable town? Life isn’t just strange, it’s downright mind-blowing.

 Thanks to Xbox and Square Enix for supporting TIX

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A lifelong gamer, staring at the wrong side of the forties, I'm a huge Halo series fan. Started gaming way back in the days of the Amstrad CPC464. Midlander through birth, married with son, COD virgin, so be gentle. Twitter: @PhilK_TiX