The Walking Dead Episode Three: review

 

The Walking Dead videogame has earned itself a hugely passionate fanbase already, not to mention rave reviews from the press. That includes us; just check out our verdicts on episodes one and two (there will be minor spoilers for these episodes in this review). The Difficult Third Episode, while gripping the player in a way most games can only dream of, stumbles; just a little.

We need to begin with the quite frankly bizarre relationship one of us has seen develop with baseball-capped hick Kenny. We’re genuinely at a loss to decide whether his psychopathic behaviour in episode three is part of the story, or the result of an imperfect choice/consequence system. When he and Lee first met, they quickly became best buddies. By now however Kenny turns from ‘I’ll confide in ya buddy’ to ‘happy to watch you being eaten by zombies’ in a heartbeat – and back again. This despite Lee now, on two separate occasions, having saved Kenny’s only son and his wife from certain death – on top of numerous less dramatic situations where he’s looked out for all three of them.

Somebody’s been watching Hobo With A Shotgun in the art department…

There’s also a little inconsistency regarding events in episode two. Within 10-15 minutes of episode three getting started, Lee is told to reveal details of his conviction to some or all of the group. He has the option of taking each person he speaks to aside to do so – including whoever you identified as already knowing in episode two, if anyone. Also, remember the end of that last episode, where you were given the choice of whether or not to join in looting the car? Later in episode three, the game pushes you to do something similar, albeit on a much smaller scale. This time around however there’s absolutely no moral umming and ahhing over the theft, whatever you decided with the car.

That’s not to say that The Walking Dead has now collapsed into a disastrous mess. Far from it. Generally speaking the writing remains top notch, as does most of the acting. The trademark difficult decisions are back with a vengeance, too. Several times we agonised over which of the on-screen choices would be for the best, once or twice only reaching a decision at the last possible moment.

In terms of who is in your group and how they’re holding up mentally, episode three rocks the boat harder than ever before. There are plenty of surprises in store for you here, and the fact that the series clearly disregards many of your decisions works (intentionally or otherwise) in its favour strongly here; expectations will be shattered, and the game will lull you into a false sense of security before suckerpunching you with a plot twist you never saw coming. That will happen more than once.

“I see undead people.”

There’s no denying that thus far, The Walking Dead has been more interactive TV show than anything else. More of an effort is made here to offer a traditional videogame experience now and again, with what could kindly be referred to as ‘mixed results’. For instance, the series’ first real puzzle makes an appearance; but as the solution is given to you, in full, by solving one of the usual non-puzzles, you won’t need to worry about thinking too much. There’s also a brief but irritating gunfight sequence. If you’re playing on PC with the luxury of a mouse, this won’t be a problem. Console owners wrestling with the awkward right-stick cursor system, however, may find that they’re forced to replay through trial and error. Even the melee sequences are trickier than they ought to be. We also found a few minor bugs, mostly audio, on the 360 version – though they didn’t make an appearance when we played through on PC.

For every downside however, there’s at least one upside. Any minor annoyance is quickly forgotten as the story barrels down yet another hidden alley, dragging you along with it at full speed. Though there’s some debate at CG towers over whether giving a certain character a gun should have been a player choice, there are surely few in all the game’s audience who will deny the episode’s emotional high point. A perfect marriage of drama dictated by the script and the interactive element afforded only by videogames, we hope to see more of this thinking before the credits roll for the last time. Equally, the story ends here on the most surprising and intriguing cliffhanger yet. The wait for the next episode will seem all the longer.

The Walking Dead continues to be surprising, entertaining, thought-provoking, and utterly gripping. The cracks in the choice system have grown a little wider, but not nearly wide enough to ruin the experience – for now.

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Written by Luke K

He plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. He doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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