Video Game Review: The Walking Dead, Episode 3
You know things get bad when little girls pack heat.
Note: The Walking Dead series looks, sounds, and plays the same from episode to episode. For a review of those series characteristics, please see our Episode 1: A New Day review. This review will only provide an overall score for Episode 3: Long Road Ahead.
When we last left Lee, Clementine, Kenny, and whoever you chose to save (by now, the cast will be based on several of your key decisions), they’d just escaped a horrific scene at the farm of a surviving family. Now they’re back at their fortified motel, and as The Walking Dead, Episode 3: Long Road Ahead opens, food and supplies are getting scarce.
Episode 2 saw your choices based on literally dividing up survival — who should get the food? Episode 3 starts off with similar themes but quickly accelerates into a tangled web of mistrust, betrayal, death, and — of course — zombies. We’re getting into dark territory here, and without providing spoilers, your cast of characters will be very different from the beginning of the episode to the end. Shocking events will occur triggered by seemingly innocent things you do, and it’ll leave you second-guessing whether or not the honorable thing to do was the right thing to do.
That’s the beauty of Telltale’s version of The Walking Dead — it doesn’t matter what you think is right or wrong anymore because the characters have stopped being nice to each other; instead, they’ve accepted the reality of surviving a zombie apocalypse, and that means that everyone’s a little (or a lot) tense and reactions don’t necessarily make sense. It seems like Telltale wants to take us further and further down this path with each episode, and that heightens the tension in just about every segment. There are, though, a few shifts in formula for this episode.
Episode 3’s controls are exactly the same as the previous episodes. However, there is a little difference in implementation, as one shootout sequence demonstrates that Telltale should never, ever create a cover-based shooter. In this sequence, the left analog controls Lee behind cover while the right analog is the targeting retical. The problem is that the fire button is on the controller face, not a trigger. Unless your fingers are extremely flexible, that means that you’ll have to take the thumb off the targeting retical to fire your gun. For shooter veterans used to firing on the move, it’s impossible to do. I’ve spent my entire Mass Effect career as an N7 sniper and I still had to replay the segment several times.
Episode 3 also pulls back some of the pacing of the previous episodes. The main drivers from last episode — timed conversational choices and quick-time zombie events — are still there but they’re not quite as prominent. Instead, more of the game focuses on conversation and exploration. In short, it’s less interactive graphic novel and more adventure game this time around. For some fans, they’ll get a kick out of the old-school explore/talk/solve format while others will miss the extremely tight pacing of the past episodes.
Mind you, it doesn’t deviate too much. You’re still going to get the same overall feeling of bleak helplessness which is the signature of The Walking Dead in all aspects (well, except for the somewhat cartoony Facebook game). Episode 3: Long Road Ahead is the darkest and most intense episode yet. However, some technical issues weigh down specific moments. In addition, a little deviation into standard adventure game tropes may briefly test the patience of some gamers — but others may enjoy the old-school throwback. Take away a 1/4 rating point if you’re in the former and add a 1/4 rating point in the latter, but regardless, this episode — like the series — is worth your time.