Xbox 360
4 stars
List Price
19.99
Amazon
2.94 (85%)
3rd Party
14.32
In Stock. Buy Now»
Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Game Itself
4 Stars
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
4 Stars
The Audio: Rating the Sound
4 Stars
Replay Factor
4.5 Stars

The Walking Dead: Episode 3 - Long Road Ahead

Street Date:
August 29th, 2012
Reviewed by:
Chad Goodmurphy
Review Date:1
September 6th, 2012
Game Release Year:
2012
Platform:
Xbox 360
Publisher:
Telltale Games
Developer:
Telltale Games
ESRB Rating:
M (Mature)

Editor's Notes

This review contains spoilers from previous episodes of Telltale's The Walking Dead.

Introduction

After debuting to critical acclaim, Telltale Games’ third episode of its point-and-click video game series based on Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead has now surpassed its midway point with the release of The Walking Dead: Episode 3 – Long Road Ahead. Greatly anticipated by fans of the print series, its television spin-off and video games in general, it has a lot to live up to. That’s because, in the minds of many, its two episodic predecessors were no less than great, setting the bar quite high for the three remaining episodes.

Those who’ve invested themselves into the game’s first two offerings will most-likely have already made their mind up regarding whether or not they’ll purchase Episode 3; however, for those who’ve yet to do so, this review will offer an in-depth look at the pros and cons of the two and a half to three hour-long experience.

The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

The conclusion of The Walking Dead: Episode 2 – Starved For Help probably left a lot of gamers in awe of what they’d just played through. Well, that, in addition to a worried stomach after finding out what the survivors’ newly encountered farmer associates were actually up to. That reveal was something ripped right out of a horror movie, which was very fitting for something that tells the tale of a group of people who are attempting to escape from a zombie apocalypse.

This time around, we discover that the group has decided to hunker down in its assumed motel, and is trying its collaborative best to keep watch and make sure that supplies won’t dwindle. The latter of those two jobs is put on the shoulders of Lee and Kenny, who happen to be the two most mature members of the cast. With that duty comes the need to go into Macon, Georgia, to raid derelict and abandoned buildings like Lee’s family pharmacy, in order to get valuable supplies such as food and medicine.

Before things actually progress to the motel, players take control of Lee as he and Kenny perform yet another dutiful run to the destroyed southern town, which has become a haven for zombies. There, they’re forced to improvise after a necessary ladder breaks, but that’s nothing compared to what happens once when a young woman runs out of a background building with shambling corpses right on her tail. It’s obvious that she’s going to die, but Lee’s moral fibers result in the idea to shoot the poor woman in order to put her out of her misery. It’s a nice thought, but a dangerous one, because the sound of the gunshot will alert the enemy, and that’s something that Kenny doesn’t want to happen.

It’s moral choices like the one detailed above that really make this licensed downloadable title the memorable experience that it is, in addition to something that you’ll want to play through more than once. That’s because each decision comes with a consequence. Encountered characters and fellow survivors will alter their perception of you based on the touch of a button, regardless of whether that input relates to the use of a weapon or a conversational response, which makes the game’s cast feel real even though it’s only made up of digital designs with human voices. Thankfully, it sure doesn’t seem that way to those who’ve sat down and immersed themselves within the game and its dynamic, ever-changing formula, which changes itself based on player input.

Although the young woman who appears out of nowhere in the above-mentioned scenario is just a stranger, she’s still a human being, which tugs on your inner heart strings. However, saving her will mean that your trip to the pharmacy will come with an intensely short time limit, wherein you must grab and go at a high speed, and won’t have much time to pick and choose. If you falter under pressure and don’t pick up a lot of supplies during that short time, then you can expect to hear about it, and it could have a negative impact upon your overall experience.

Following his morality-filled trip to Macon, Lee finds that his peers are breaking down a bit. Boredom has set in, as has paranoia, with one survivor thinking that another is stealing from the supply stash. Navigating the relationship minefield that exists within the motel and its large parking lot is tough, as is getting everyone to agree on whether or not migrating towards the coast in the refurbished RV would be a good idea. However, occurrences force that decision to be made, and the group sets out in search of a boat, with the idea being that getting away from land and out on a large body of water will offer safety.

For fear of spoiling anything, I won’t talk about the following events in any detail. That’s because a lot of interesting things happen from the time that the group sets out from the motel until the end of Long Road Ahead, and it’d be a crime to ruin those occurrences for anyone who has yet to play through this episode. However, it is still my duty to analyze the experience as a whole.

Generally speaking, The Walking Dead: Episode 3 – Long Road Ahead is more of the same, but that’s a good thing. You’re still searching for items within different environments, with the need to combine weapons, supplies or discovered items with the environment in order to progress. On top of that, you’ll be doing a lot of talking while trying to push the narrative forward in the way that best suits your personality. After all, this game has always been a character study, and its third part delves even further into that territory than its predecessors did.

What starts out as a bit of a rollercoaster ride significantly slows down later on, due to more involved puzzles, as well as circumstantial events. At that time, Episode 3 becomes more of a dramatic character study than a tension-fuelled experience, meaning that those who prefer the game’s more action-packed moments may find that its entertainment factor dips a bit. However, for those who applaud a good study in human relationships, incredible developments and unexpected occurrences pave the way for lots to talk about.

I love both aspects of the game equally, but I did find a couple of pacing issues during the noted chapters, but that wasn’t enough to significantly affect my perception of the full, five-dollar download. Part of that was due to the fact that I knew how important it was for Telltale to slow things down in order to progress its rich narrative in shocking ways, though I wish they would've streamlined the puzzles a bit more in order to reduce the slight lull that occurs.

On top of the above-mentioned pacing issue, rather basic gunplay mechanics affect the impact of certain scenes. Instead of using a more advanced and intuitive system, the development team decided to focus on the left joystick for aiming and a face button for shooting. It works, but presents a rather awkward combination that takes time to to get used to.

The Walking Dead: Episode 3 – Long Road Ahead is another high-quality release from a very skilled development team. It’s gripping, has some great action scenes and also delivers some very emotional character studies. However, the episode’s pacing isn’t perfect, its gunplay is rudimentary and things slow down to a crawl at one point. Still, even though those issues exist, this third part of five should not be missed.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Although The Walking Dead has expanded since its debut, its roots can be found in the rich world of graphic novelization. There, pen and coloured ink combined to give detailed storyboards undead life, and Telltale pays homage to that heritage through this game. All three episodes have been beautiful to look at, thanks to a unique-looking visual style that resembles a combination of a comic book panel and a painting. It’s a great achievement which looks very good in action, apart from occasional hiccups like stilted animations, frame rate slowdown and an overuse of darkness.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The Walking Dead’s third interactive episode really allows its voice cast to shine, and most of them do. However, there were times where mumbled lines affected the experience, because I couldn’t understand what the characters were saying. Kenny’s wife Katja was the main culprit of this, but she wasn’t alone. Additionally, there was one instance where Lee seemed to speak a line that didn’t actually exist, which took me out of the experience for a moment.

Despite the issues mentioned above, the audio found in Long Road Ahead is of high quality – for the most part. Almost all of the voice acting can be classified as being very good, and the presented sound effects are quite loud and vivacious. Combined, all of those factors create a rich audible adventure.

Replay Factor

There’s a lot of replay value to be found in this game as a whole, as opposed to within each individual episode. That may sound weird, but it’s true, because the only true way to replay this downloadable story set in The Walking Dead’s universe is to start a new file and play from its beginning until its conclusion. If you do anything else then the result won’t be anywhere close to as satisfying as it could’ve been, due to the game’s dynamic storyline, which is always evolving based on the decisions that players make. A lot of the fun comes from finding out how each chosen response or action will affect the game’s storyline.

Since each episode offers a basic achievement/trophy list wherein players are rewarded for completing chapters as opposed to performing specific tasks, those who consider themselves as being profile award addicts will not find any extra replay value within The Walking Dead. That is, when it comes to those types of things, because picking different paths will not offer extra Gamerscore or another metallic trophy to add to your collection. I applaud Telltale for taking that route, because it allows gamers to play the game the way that they want to, instead of giving them an option to earn extra rewards for doing certain things.

Final Thoughts

If you ask me, The Walking Dead’s first video game adaptation is a contender for a 2012 Game of the Year award. It’s simply that good, and its third episode adds further proof to the fire. Although it stumbles a bit with regards to its pacing and the use of rather basic gunplay mechanics, there’s a lot to like about Long Road Ahead and its intense narrative. As a result, it’s something that no adult gamer should miss out on.

Tech Specs:

  • Digital

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 720p

Audio Formats

  • Dolby Digital 5.1

Motion Controls

  • No

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List Price
19.99
Amazon
2.94 (85%)
3rd Party
14.32
In Stock. Buy Now»