Review: The Walking Dead Episode 3: The Long Road Ahead
By George Denison on August 30th, 2012 (7 comments)
The death of a loved one is difficult to handle.
That’s not a message that usually gets presented to us mass murdering videogame players, who have surely orphaned a lot of virtual children, but it’s something that the third episode of The Walking Dead video game, The Long Road Ahead, is keen to hammer home.
And Christ, does it hammer it. Right into the stomach.
If you haven’t played the first two excellent episodes of Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead, A) What rock have you been hiding under for the last few months and B) Go and play them now. They’re good. Really good. And this third episode is really good too, even though it’s a little late on arrival.
Title: The Walking Dead Episode 3: The Long Road Ahead (PC/PSN/XBLA)
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: August 28, 2012 (North America)
I don’t want to give away too much in this review, but anyone who watched the ‘next time’ clip from the last episode will have figured out that the ragtag group of survivors are forced to up sticks from the safety of the motel and take off cross country in an RV owned by Kenny, the group’s family man. From there on, things take a turn for the worse, as it turns out that one of the group can’t be trusted (you’ll kick yourself when you find out who it is) and tensions rise to catastrophic levels in the confines of the RV.
The gameplay hasn’t changed, so if that was what put you off earlier episodes, don’t expect to be persuaded here. It’s the same mixture of adventure-game style exploration and item fiddling with the occasional good-natured quick-time event thrown in. As before, the game’s greatest strength lies in its conversation system, which forces you to make ever more difficult split-second decisions as the pressure cooker of tension created by the survivors mounts higher and higher. One of these decisions had me visibly shaking with anger. I’m not being hyperbolic here. The game really does find a way to dig its hooks into your emotions through its brilliant writing, voice acting, art style and scene direction, and for that it should be lauded.
One thing that may frustrate players about this episode is that it isn’t quite as contained or concise as the previous one. In episode 2, there was a twist, the bad guys died, solutions were found, and the ending left you wanting for more while still feeling the satisfaction of a well concluded, self-contained story. In episode 3, things are a little less focused. The episode concentrates on getting the characters on the move, and while there are definitely twists and turns along the way, the continuous shifting of places and characters causes the pacing to suffer a little, but not enough to spoil the overall experience.
There are two moderate flaws to this episode. If you found yourself frustrated at the number of times Lee would respond to examining an object by saying "that's an object!" in the previous episodes, well, that hasn't really been fixed here. It gets a little absurd at times. In the opening section, Lee is given the option to look at various piles of rubble, only for him to respond with a disgruntled grunt, as though you were trying to interrupt him in the middle of an important phone call. If it isn't important, why give me the option to look at it?
A slightly more serious concern is the death/AWOL toll reached by the end of the episode. If you found the death of plot important characters in previous episodes difficult to handle, I would brace yourself for this one. It creates some perfectly judged moments of sadness, pain and panic, but the more characters get tossed to the wayside, the more its promise that "X character will remember you said Y" start to ring a little hollow. The situation isn't helped by the fact that the episode hastily introduces three new characters who aren't quite as intriguing as the ones who have come before. I'm prepared to believe that they are fleshed out in the next episode, but some players may leave this one feeling as though the series has culled most of its prize winning cows.
This is not to say you shouldn't pick up this episode, because you absolutely should. There's an interactive exchange between Lee and Kenny that is far more dramatic, moving and pertinent than anything the Mass Effect games have ever offered, and as someone who absolutely adores that series, I don't say that lightly. There's another timed choice that the game forces you to make that you may retrospectively wish you had a lot longer to think about. Though it doesn't quite reach the stomach churning highs of the second episode, The Long Road Ahead proves that Telltale Games are still doing an admirable job of driving this series towards what could be (if they finish it off before 2013) one of the greatest games of the year.
80-89%: Great - Only very minor issues get in the way of greatness.
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