Review

Life Is Strange 2: Episode 4 Review - Gotta Have Faith

  • First Released Sep 26, 2018
    released
  • XONE
  • PC
  • PS4

Barking up the wrong tree.

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Life Is Strange 2's most compelling moments revolve around the unconditional love between Sean and Daniel Diaz. The road from Seattle to Puerto Lobos has been a long one, but watching the brothers adapt and ultimately thrive together regardless of their circumstances is a satisfying constant within the series so far. Enter Episode 4, where Sean finds himself alone in a hospital bed just a day away from being sent to a juvenile detention facility for something he didn't do. While the central plot stumbles with some overwrought villains and an uninspiring environment to explore, Sean's genuine characterization and relationships with nuanced characters continue to elevate the narrative. His singular drive to find and rescue his brother propels him, and you, forward in the chaotic penultimate episode of Life Is Strange 2.

Reality comes crashing down right out the gate in stark contrast to last episode's trundling pace. The ramifications of the brothers' fatal encounter with a Seattle police officer have caught up with them, but the more pressing issue is Daniel's absence. This is as much a problem for Sean as it is for the dynamicity of the plot. With Daniel taking a backseat, his character development takes a hit, and the episode's interactivity suffers from your inability to use his powers. Additionally, there's less general decision-making, and there are only rare occasions where problem-solving is required, which is a shame for the puzzling-inclined.

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As expected, Episode 4 pulls on the heartstrings just as much as its predecessors. One encounter features Sean facing off against an angry racist landowner, demanding to know why Sean is parked on his property. What transpires is unsettling and heartbreaking. Sean once again has to choose between his safety and his self-respect, and either decision will result in him screaming as he speeds away with tears streaming down his face. It's a heart-wrenching moment, made all the more painful by the consistently stellar voice acting of Gonzalo Martin.

This event is followed by one where you must make a choice: trust a truck driver to give you a ride or continue Sean's painful trek on foot. The choice is inevitably informed by Sean's fractured trust in people, which you find yourself sharing as a result of his immensely sympathetic character. Life Is Strange 2 continues its theme of the best and worst of humanity living side by side. The grander implications of racism, politics, and what's to be done about either aren't questions the game attempts to answer (nor should it)--but seeing the impact on someone trapped in a hostile and divided world continues to be an illuminating and empathy-inducing experience.

While these plot moments are strong, the central storyline revolves around an evangelical cult that Daniel has become caught up in. The figures who head up the church--a manipulative, science-averse Reverend and her brainwashed muscle--are irritating and two-dimensional. The cult plotpoint feels oddly out of place from the road trip you've been taking so far, and it's over almost as soon as it begins. Aside from serving as the impetus for some great character-building moments for Sean, it feels like a pitstop we didn't need to take, bringing the narrative progress to an unnecessary halt.

The episode shines brightest in its well-written interactions between fascinating characters. These explore themes of independence, family, religion, and fear with the deft touch we've come to expect from the series so far. While many lack context, these interactions are delivered beautifully, and what they inform about the central characters is worth the bizarre circumstances that brought them about. One hugely important character drops into the story suddenly and without any kind of foreshadowing, for example. They kick off an important emotional turning point for Sean, but it's borne out of such an absurd situation that the moment doesn't carry as much weight as it would have under more sensible circumstances. The result is a series of truly engrossing conversations without the interlocking threads to weave them seamlessly into an equally engrossing larger narrative.

Unlike from the villains, the new characters and their backstories are compelling and authentic. This is also because the impact of choice takes a backseat--there is only one major moment this episode that will change as a result of your decisions in the story so far. This is equally delightful and frustrating. While only be able to make choices within the framework of how Sean would act can be disappointing, it ultimately allows the characters and their personalities to shine more, and that makes for a better story overall.

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Life Is Strange 2 illustrates how self-interest can trump family values, good people make bad choices, and no matter how you feel about someone, you can't control the person they are doomed or destined to be as a result of their choices. That goes not just for people around Sean, but Sean himself. It's a palpable and universal message that Life Is Strange 2 continues to convincingly deliver on a mechanical and thematic level.

The supernatural collides with reality under the guise of radical religion in a way that feels too cliche, but spending more time with Sean and his confidants remains a delight. Whether you're heading into the final episode in much the same place you were at the beginning--or under the chilling implications of a certain late game choice--watching Daniel wrap his arms around Sean in either circumstance exemplifies what makes the series work so well. Your Sean can be kind or standoffish, thieving or righteous, but your actions don't change the love and adoration between the Diaz brothers--and that love is still the heart and soul of Life Is Strange 2.

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The Good
Character development is exceptionally strong, especially in the case of Sean
Gonzalo Martin's stellar voice work drives home important emotional moments
Restricting the player's agency in controlling the narrative and its characters serves a meaningful thematic purpose
The Bad
The central storyline feels cliche, and new villains are two-dimensional
The breadth of interactivity takes a hit without the ability to control Daniel and his powers
Strong character moments and dialogues are less impactful as a result of the lackluster main storyline
7
Good
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About the Author

Jess spent around seven hours trying to make good choices (and deliberately making bad ones to see what would happen) in Life Is Strange 2: Episode 4 across multiple playthroughs. Review code was provided by the publisher.
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Slinqy

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Disappointed with Season 2. Season 1 and BTS were MUCH better.

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texasgoldrush

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It may be cliched, but its realistic. People like the villains here actually exist in the real world.

The cult was also featured in the last episode which in this episode, continues Jacob's story. They also call Chris's house in Captain Spirit. Also, the game already had religious themes, especially episode 2, so a plot tackling a cult is not out of place.

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RaftersAndSynergy

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This is a good assessment of the episode and the series so far. The only suggestion I'd make is that you can start to find a bit more coherence (or just throughline) in the story if you think the antagonist as being America itself. I don't mean to get political, actually, I'm just saying this makes some sense of the otherwise weirdly disjointed story. Perhaps America is also the protagonist, in the form of the Diaz family. In any case, it's hard to love this game as much as LiS1. If there were some cop chasing Sean the whole time, some consistent story, it would be easier. And if the (or any) game mechanic were better realized.

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gamingdevil800

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This season definitely doesn't feel as tense as the first. Like at this stage in LIS we were in the dark room and discovered the villain of the story. Yet in LIS2 a random cult shows up and I have no idea how it's going to neatly conclude next episode. Unless I missed it but Lyla has pretty much disappeared since episode 2 as well?

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Edited By Downloadpilot

@gamingdevil800: Lyla made a little cameo in the car/dream sequence with Sean and Esteban during the phone call.

I like season 2; but in the particular case of this episode, I felt like it was missing that something to make it hit as hard as season one's fourth episode, as you mentioned. It felt to me like the story peaked at episode 3 with on the Weed Farm... but I still have high hopes for episode 5. DONTNOD definitely has a lot to live up to though--and still a lot of questions to answer.

Life is Strange 2 More Info

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  • First Released Sep 26, 2018
    released
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • + 3 more
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    7.1
    Average Rating44 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    DONTNOD Entertainment
    Published by:
    Square Enix, DONTNOD Entertainment
    Genre(s):
    Adventure, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature