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XBLA Review: The Walking Dead – Episode 3: “Long Road Ahead”

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Whatever advantage I got out of meeting with the Telltale Games developers of The Walking Dead game at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles is long since gone.  At the Expo, they played through the beginning of Episode Two – Starved For Help and gave a little bit of insight into the choices players would make and the long term consequences of said choices. Now, in the third episode of five, we are getting more choices, none of which prove easy.

For those who are reading this review and unfamiliar with The Walking Dead game, it is an adventure game based on the comic books from which the TV show is adapted.  The game does borrow heavily from the original comic book art style.  Unlike the comic and TV show though, The Walking Dead game tells a new story that starts right at the beginning of the outbreak.  The game puts players in the role of Lee, a convict who escapes custody during the outbreak and ends up as caretaker for a young girl named Clementine.  A couple of familiar characters have interacted with Lee and his band of survivors in the title, but for the most part, the group Lee is in has nothing to do with the original comic book characters.

Long Road Ahead is paced a little differently than the previous episodes.  If Starved For Help was too macabre or over the top for your taste, Long Road Ahead is a little more languid and sentimental. 

Though The Walking Dead game is mostly an interactive story, there are many adventure game elements to it.  This third episode is the most adventure-y of the bunch so far.  That is not to say that there’s not action but, it’s more rare this time. Less action is a good thing, as the control scheme isn’t the most efficient and the awkward controls are often the culprit when Lee dies.  

 

With the slower pace of Long Road Ahead, the clunky-ness of moving those crosshairs around and then selecting the correct action is magnified.  There are only a few occasions in this episode that require quick reflexes, but they can be a little frantic and frustrating.  The majority of this segment is old school point-and-click adventuring with some puzzles thrown in for good measure.  The rest of it is dialogue decisions.  These, as in the last episode, are starting to become a little frustrating as the choices you’re given regularly don’t provide options that players would actually take.

The funny thing about giving players choices is that once you start, they want more and more of them.  The Walking Dead game has now trained players to take ownership of Lee, Clementine, and the rest of their group. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t–and can’t–always let players choose what they want to do.  In Starved For Help, I figured out what was going on, before the game actually revealed it and because of that, I was led kicking and screaming to the inevitable conclusion, unable to change the path of the group despite knowing exactly what was going to happen.  Long Road Ahead does the same thing, but this time with more severe consequences.  For me, that cheapens the experience.

My complaints about the limitations of The Walking Dead game aside, there really isn’t much out there like this title.  TellTale’s previous efforts, like Back to the Future, fall short of the balance The Walking Dead achieves.  Really, the closest things in gaming are EA/Bioware’s Mass Effect and Dragon Age series, though The Walking Dead is on a much smaller scale and, of course, with zombies.  The comparisons are, however, inevitable and at least for this reviewer, I can’t help but want more from The Walking Dead. Even so, it must be said that the game is still a whole lot of fun.

 
The Walking Dead – Episode 3: “Long Road Ahead” is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Strong Language, Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence. This game can also be found on: PC, and PS3.

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About Lance Roth

Lance Roth has over 10 years experience in the video game industry. He has worked in a number of capacities within the industry and currently provides development and strategy consulting. He participated in all of the major console launches since the Dreamcast. This videogame resume goes all of the way back to when they were written in DOS. You can contact Lance at RPGameX.com or rpgamex@gmail.com.