The Walking Dead is a spectacular comic series that was given a well-deserved (if often frustrating) television adaptation. And when that became a hit, it was only natural that other adaptations would follow. You may recall from my review that I thoroughly enjoyed The Walking Dead Episode 1, and with Episode 2, Telltale Games proved that they were in it to win it by crafting a story that would have been one of the TV series' best. And now with the newly-released Episode 3: Long Road Ahead, the adventure game adaptation of the comic is leaving the TV show in the dust.
The Walking Dead is being broken up in to five episodes, and you can read my review of Episode 1 to find out how much I love the hand-drawn art style of the graphics and the voice acting. I will say that Episode 3 was the first time that I encountered any bugs, though. There was a camera glitch at one point in the game that kept the viewpoint outside so I couldn't see exactly what I was doing. And then when I tried to enter another area, the camera swung down to below everything so all I could see was the ground and trees. I had to restart from my last save at that point, but luckily it had autosaved pretty recently. There was another odd glitch (at least I think it was) that had a character's mouth moving, even though they were not speaking. But aside from having to restart that one time, they're not game-breaking glitches. My only real complaint about Episode 3 is one shooting sequence. It's tense and harrowing, but that mood is unfortunately enhanced by the awkwardness of the controls. You do have to aim directly at the zombies to hit them, but not exactly at their heads. You just have to come close. But only having two thumbs becomes limiting, and reminds you why first-person shooters use the trigger on the controller as the trigger on the gun.
Since the graphics, sound and gameplay remain unchanged from chapter to chapter (aside from new characters with varying voice actor quality), the real purpose of this review is to let you know whether or not this series is still worth playing. And I can safely say that Episode 3 of The Walking Dead is the series' best installment yet. Unfortunately, I can't tell you exactly why it's so good, because I refuse to spoil the events in this episode for anyone who has yet to play it. But they are intense. While the Walking Dead TV series grew a little too attached to characters and refused to dispose of them for a while, the game follows suit with the comic and offers up one shocking moment after another.
The physical animations may be occasionally awkward, but the facial animations on the lead characters are so nuanced they display emotion even when they're not even speaking. The leads are also developed well enough that even characters who act like jerks aren't always horrible people. There's more depth to these animated survivors than many of the characters played by actual people on TV. The writers, animators and actors do such a great job that when someone in your group is in jeopardy, you feel it. I actually found myself caring whether these people lived or died. I genuinely panicked at one point in the game, and later on, performed an action that caused The Walking Dead to be the second game in history to make me shed a tear. This game forces you to make some rough choices, and not just which starving survivor you'll give the last bit of food. And because your choices affect how the game plays out, you constantly second guess yourself. And just as soon as I finish the final episode, you'd better believe that I'm going to go back and see how things would have played out "if only I'd..."
For its compelling narrative, complex characters and powerful drama, The Walking Dead is proving to be a worthy adaptation of the equally-gut-wrenching comic book. Forget the TV series, and the upcoming game based on that. This is the game to play. To be honest, I'm still slightly worried that things could go off the rails in the last couple episodes especially since some of the new characters introduced in this episode aren't nearly as compelling as the previous ones (yet, at least) but based on what I've played so far, I can't imagine that happening.
A copy of The Walking Dead: Episode 3 was provided by Telltale Games for the purpose of this review, and was played through to completion.