By Marty Mulrooney
The Walking Dead: Long Road Ahead is the third episode of a five part episodic video game based upon Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead series of comic books. Convicted felon Lee Everett must once again do whatever it takes to protect the little girl in his care whilst dealing with bandits, zombies and rising tensions caused by a traitor within his group. The Walking Dead: The Game asks players: what would you do? Episode 3 pushes that scenario to breaking point, then stamps on its head until it stops moving.
Picking up pretty much right where the previous episode left off, Long Road Ahead waits approximately two minutes before throwing yet another gut-wrenching decision into the player’s lap. As Lee and Kenny (who haven’t been getting along recently at all, at least during my playthrough) scavenge for supplies, a shrieking woman runs out of a nearby building.
Her panicked cries draw the attention of all nearby walkers – and she has no weapon with which to defend herself. Lee – and therefore the player – has to make a choice: put her out of her misery with a rifle and draw attention to yourself, or leave her to die and use the situation to your advantage. For this reviewer there was only ever going to be one choice – and it is decisions such as these that will not only shape the game for each individual player, but truly show what kind of person is holding the controller.
Lee Everett has been a compelling main character so far – as much because of what we don’t know about him as what we do – but it is in this episode that he truly becomes so much more than just a separate character being controlled on-screen. For those players who have 100% been putting themselves into Lee’s shoes so far – the payoff has begun and it’s both unbearably exciting and genuinely terrifying.
Lilly has become even more unhinged since her father’s death and making matters worse, she suspects a member of the group is stealing supplies. Upon returning to the Motor Inn, Lee is tasked with investigating the missing items. Telltale’s writers and designers take this simple premise and create a web of suspicion, irrationality, betrayal and devastation. Without revealing any spoilers, the action soon moves beyond the Motor Inn and sets Lee and his band of fellow survivors on a journey that not everyone will survive.
The Walking Dead has been so well put together that, despite being a linear experience beneath all of the decision-making with stylised cartoon visuals, it continues to feel incredibly real. The characters – both old and new – are perfectly realised and never come across as artificial. As Lee, you feel like you are interacting with true individuals who all have their own ticks and vices. Lee Everett (Dave Fennoy) and Clementine (Melissa Hutchison) once again knock their performances out of the ballpark, but the standout performance of Episode 3 has to be Nicki Rapp as Lilly Caul, whose character goes to some seriously dark and unexpected places.
It’s difficult to talk about without revealing too much… but there is a moment in Episode 3 that is shocking and horrifying and absolutely perfect in terms of storytelling and evoking emotion from the player. It isn’t a cheap moment – it’s foreshadowed earlier on and feels truly earned when it arrives. It’s a moment that won’t be forgotten by players of The Walking Dead anytime soon – it will set your heart racing and the blood in your head pumping. It will make you angry, it will make you sad… and it will make you realise that you are playing a game that has sucked every last bit of emotional investment that you had out of you. It’s draining and it’s wonderful. Is that a tear running down your face? Probably. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a sad moment… but it’s also a triumph.
The Walking Dead: Episode 3 – Long Road Ahead illustrates, more than any episode in the series so far, how it is the little moments – and what you read into them – that define the experience for each player. The occasional technical glitch – and release delays – can be forgiven. At this midway point in the story, players are defining just how far they would go to save themselves – or to protect the person who depends on them the most. No matter what happens, I know I will protect this little girl. Whatever gets thrown at us – cannibals, bandits, thieves, zombies – I will make sure she survives. Despite video games instilling into me for years that I need to survive to win, I would die for Clementine. Would you?
9.5 OUT OF 10
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – A New Day (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Episode 2 – Starved for Help (PC)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Dave Fennoy (Lee Everett, The Walking Dead: The Game)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation with Adam Harrington (Andrew St. John, The Walking Dead: The Game)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Nicki Rapp (Lilly Caul, The Walking Dead: The Game)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Melissa Hutchison (Clementine, The Walking Dead: The Game)