- Format: Xbox One (version reviewed), PS4, PS3, 360, PC
- Unleashed: Out now
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
- Players: 1
- Site: http://lifeisstrange.com/agegate.php
- Game purchased by reviewer
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD! This review will contain mild spoilers for previous episodes, but nothing to ruin the finale itself. You can’t play episode five without having committed to buying the whole season; but we’ve come this far reviewing each instalment separately, so we’ll finish off in that vein too, thank you very much. And besides, each episode is a work of art in and of itself. So – let’s begin.
Well, well, well. Max has found herself in a bit of a pickle, hasn’t she? Episode five picks up directly from the end of episode four, meaning that she is entirely at the mercy of the now-revealed killer. In storytelling terms, this unfortunately means that things get off to a slow (though not tedious) start. There’s plenty of bad guy posturing, delivered with what is thankfully an extremely good performance. It’s also not long before the choices that you’ve been making throughout the series come echoing back.
In all honesty, the effects of your choices are very minor; but they are here more numerous than in any other episode or, indeed, possibly than in any other similar game. Who did you accuse in the principal’s office? Did you save Kate? Have you been encouraging Warren’s advances, or dodging them? These elements and many, many more are all brought back – and the consequences of your choices made clear – to varying degrees.
Once you find a way to wriggle out of your creepy and dangerous situation, thereby avoiding certain death, the game delights in taking you on a surreal road of time-travelling twists and turns (with a sprinkle of reality twisting thrown in) that has maximum impact due to the fact that the first four episodes pulled nothing like this on you. We previously worried about how strongly the supernatural would take hold. While there’s a sad lack of quiet human moments here, the balance of the dramatic and the magical is sublime.
There is another series misstep here though, in the form of stealth sections. Yes, you read that right – stealth sections. They come right at the end of the episode just before the crescendo, and aren’t huge. They’re definitely longer than they should be though, and their very presence is unwelcome and out of place. Ironically, a winking in-joke is made in one of these areas about the irritating bottle hunt from episode two…
All is forgiven once the credits roll, though. The ending had one heck of a lot to live up to given the quality of all that comes before – and it doesn’t disappoint. Your final choice of the series is an either/or one that is affected to an extent by your previous behaviour, but the results will broadly speaking be the same for everybody. As you would expect it’s not an easy choice to make, with neither option offering an ideal result. So far as we’re concerned only one choice can be considered the ‘true’ one – and this ending, much to our surprise, reduced us to uncontrollable tears. The only other game to ever have managed this is the beautiful masterpiece To The Moon.
Yes, it’s a real shame that the game wasn’t given the time and budget for more polish. The lip synching is as embarrassing as ever, and the character models are years out of date – though that said, they do a great job of being expressive in both face and motion. These undeniable technical failures however merely serve to amplify the roar of the sheer, unstoppable quality of the writing, direction, and acting which has made this world and the people in it so real.
Life Is Strange is unmissable. Buy it. You’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t.