The Dead Continue To Walk...
Posted 7 months ago By DJ Kinsey - DJ Kinsey
Having played the first two episodes of The Walking Dead, a game which feels more like an interactive graphic novel than an actual videogame, I was waiting with nervous anticipation for the third installment. I was excited to once again enter the shoes of Lee Everett in Robert Kirkland’s fictional world as he struggled to protect 8 year old Clementine from the dead that walk the earth. I also felt trepidation knowing that it was unlikely that all of the characters that I had grown to care about would survive the ensuing two and a half hours. The Walking Dead episodic game had already done something extremely rare in a world where body counts and killing sprees are often the measures of success in a gaming experience. The game had made me value every person remaining in its universe.
Episode 3 continues the point and click, choose your own adventure tale with Lee scavenging the last of the available supplies in Macon, Georgia to bring back to his group at their barricaded motel. This provides the setting for a burst of action out of the gate as the quiet streets are quickly filled with the screams of the living and the moans of the dead. In short order the survivors are forced from their motel sanctuary and head for the east coast in hopes of finding safety. The remainder of the episode, which marks the midpoint of the five part episodic adventure, follows the exploits of the nightmare road trip that ensues.
"Overall, in a vacuum, I would have scored Episode 3 higher were it not for the fact that the previous two episodes raised the bar, and my expectations, for how a Walking Dead episode should unfold, along with the subsequent story and tension to expect."
The Long Road Ahead does deliver some of the most engrossing moments of the series thus far. Players will find themselves in multiple situations where there is no right answer, and all of the Mass Effect style dialogue choices seem unpalatable. There are also multiple times throughout the episode where Lee will be forced into making decisions riddled with ambiguity and with consequences which will weigh on the player long after the closing credits have rolled. Episode 3 also boasts more action set pieces than previous installments. This high strung action ultimately provides a very cathartic effect. While the slow burn of character development and story progression are what draws players into the overall Walking Dead experience, it was refreshing to look down the scope of a rifle several times or to drop a refrigerator on a walker who is bent on sinking its teeth into Lee or his friends.
While Episode 3 has its truly great moments, the story suffers from an overall lack of purpose or immediacy that was present in the previous two iterations. The story in Episode 1 was anchored in trying to escape the pharmacy, and Episode 2 was focused on exploring the farm. Episode 3 felt like it lacked direction, and needed an identifiable goal beyond trying to get from point A to point B. While the journey itself provided several plot points, there seemed to be a lack of motivation which fueled the white knuckled tension of earlier episodes. Additionally new characters entered the core group of survivors to the detriment of believability. After all, after almost three full episodes of betrayal and witnessing the worst that humanity has to offer, I wanted to be given the option to be more suspicious of newcomers. I wanted them to prove themselves before I’d let them watch mine or Clementine’s back. Ultimately it felt like a lapse in judgement that the in-game characters didn’t feel the same, which drew me out of the experience.
The visuals continue to flawlessly blur the lines between comic book and traditional third person videogame. The quasi cell shaded graphics have established a distinctive look for the series that does not betray its roots. While the intention of the game’s visuals is obviously not to mimic realism, they do go a long way towards establishing the mood of the game. That mood is further heightened by some of the strongest voice acting and sound editing I can recall this side of Heavy Rain. The dialogue is infused with a lot more humor than would be expected from group struggling to stay alive. Specifically, Lee’s interactions with Clemintine are priceless. Lee’s awkwardness towards a little girl’s intricacies feel genuine and are played for laughs all the while the survivor’s find themselves in dire situations. I made a point to read the acting credits at the episode’s conclusion convinced that I would recognize the names of some Hollywood heavy weights given the quality of the voice work. While the names were unfamiliar I expect that many won’t remain that way for long.
The puzzles presented in Episode 3, and in the overall series, continue to keep the game out of masterpiece territory. Telltale has established a solid control scheme with a reticule that can scan over the environment. When the reticule moves over an item that can be interacted with, options such as picking up, moving, or looking at the object appear and are easily selectable. These tight controls would be perfect for solving intricate puzzles through environmental manipulation. Instead, the puzzles normally consist of simple fetching, or in the case of Episode 3, following written instructions. The puzzles could be so much more, and given the control mastery, feel more akin to driving a Ferrari to the corner store to get milk.
Overall, in a vacuum, I would have scored Episode 3 higher were it not for the fact that the previous two episodes raised the bar, and my expectations, for how a Walking Dead episode should unfold, along with the subsequent story and tension to expect. Even though The Long Road Ahead had multiple gaming moments that stand out and should be applauded for their emotional impact and delivery, the lack of a strong motivation for moving the story forward is what keeps a great game from reaching the upper echelon of what gaming has to offer.
+ Top tier voice work
+ Strong decision making mechanic
- Weak puzzles
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Release Date : 2012/08/29
System : PC
Publisher : Telltale Games
Developer : Telltale Games
Category : Action
ESRB : M
7.0 / 10
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