The Walking Dead: Episode 3 – Long Road Ahead (XBLA) Review

I, like so many others, have fallen in love with the Walking Dead TV series.  It is almost to the point where I plan my life around the show.  If it’s Sunday night and The Walking Dead is on, everything else gets pushed aside.  I also find the wait from each season to the next excruciating, as it seems to take an eternity before the next season arrives.  Much like TV series, Telltale Games Walking Dead series of episodic games has somehow managed to extract that exact same obsession out of me.  I now find the wait between episodes painfully long, and once I finish the episode I find myself saddened as I know it will be at least a month or two before I get a taste of the next one.  Well I had a chance to play Episode 3, the latest release in the series, and much like the previous episode, at the end I found myself shouting at the TV yelling “Noooooo” as I just didn’t want this ride to end.

The Walking Dead: Episode 3 – Long Road Ahead takes place a week after the events in Episode 2 “Starved for Help”.  Lee and the other survivors continue to seek refuge at a run-down motel in the middle of nowhere.  After some in-fighting takes place between some members of the group It isn’t too long before the group is attacked by a mob of bandits and walkers (aka Zombies) forcing them to get out of dodge and hit the road ASAP.  Meanwhile, emotions are running high and the tension in the group is at extreme levels.  Once again you play the role as Lee and are forced to be the glue that holds this shattered group together.  Much like the previous episodes Lee is once again faced with life altering dilemmas and painful decisions as he tries to lead this group to the promise land that is Savannah.

As with the previous episode, the gameplay is character driven whereby you are tasked with deciding which direction you want to take the group.  Every decision you make not only shapes the way other characters in the game see you but the way events are played out in the game.  If you (Lee) decide to be a little sketchy with your responses then the characters will remember how you responded and this can factor in some of the events that occur later in the game.  Some of the choices you make in the game are timed while others are not.  Either way, the decisions you make in the game are never easy and you sure do learn some things about yourself along the way.  For instance, I found myself becoming more reckless with my decision making as the group began to reduce in size and when the world seemed more desperate than ever.

In the end, the overall story seems to move in the same direction regardless of the choices you make but the way it all unfolds and the subtle decisions you make really manage to capture your attention making for game that is unforgettable.  Despite the glowing review so far, I am warning you as it is not all roses for the Long Road Ahead.  In fact this episode feels very much like the middle of five episodes in that it does enough to push the story along but those shocking and jaw dropping moments from the previous two episodes do not have the same impact this time around.

In terms of some of my gripes with Long Road Ahead, I have to say I was not impressed with the game’s shooting mechanics. Okay I know you are all thinking “but this is not a shooter you dummy”.  I understand that, but I just felt the shooting mechanics could have been refined a little more. There is a sequence in the game where you have to fend off a wave of zombies with rifle.  In this instance I was nowhere near the target but the zombie would inevitably fall down like a ton of bricks.  That being said, it is easy to overlook this somewhat as the Long Road Ahead is not all about shooting and combat mechanics but rather it is about the storyline, characters and decisions you are forced to make.

Much like the previous episodes there are times where I felt my decisions never really impacted the game.  In fact, in many instances different buttons (aka responses) yielded a similar response from the other characters.  For instance, I replayed a certain area in the game and chose different responses that yielded the same response from the character.  These are not game changers by any stretch but more a subtle reminder that the game will head in the same direction regardless of the choices I make.

Regardless of some of my minor gripes, Long Road Ahead is such a well-told story and the dialogue between each character manages to such you right in.  I found myself hanging on every word and in those instances where a family member would walk into my gaming room and yap away while I am playing the game, I would find myself instantly annoyed as I now had to go back and experience the dialogue all over again free from any distractions.  It is so childish, I know, but I just found myself wanting to soak in every word.

Much like previous episodes, Long Road Ahead can take between 3 and 4 hours to complete. I tend to take my time and chat with all the characters before I solve a certain puzzle, so for me it was more towards the 4-hour mark during two sittings to complete and the time simply flew by.  I would have preferred a longer experience but when you take into account the cheap 400 MS price point, Long Road Ahead is a perfect length for the price.

The game’s visuals stay true to the other episodes and are once again top notch.  That animated comic book style works well for the game.  Sure I experienced a few technical issues with objects floating in mid-air and another sequence where I had to re-start an area after watching the rear of a train for almost 10 minutes, but despite these small glitches the game looks fantastic.  Additionally the audio is equally stunning.  The voice is acting is believable and delivered with some raw emotion.  I really can’t think of a game that featured this level of voice acting.  It is truly something special.  The background noises keep you on edge and the subtle background music helps maintain that dark Walking Dead mood.

Much like the previous two episodes, The Walking Dead: Episode 3 – Long Road Ahead is a fascinating tale of survival and is filled with more gut wrenching decisions.  While Episode 3 does not leave with you with that same “holy crap!” feeling you had during the previous episode, it still manages to throw in enough twists and turns along the way which almost guarantees you will download the next two installments just to see how it plays out.  If you have downloaded the previous two Walking Dead episodes than all I can say is, what are you waiting for?

The Good


The Bad