I am what some might call a zombie aficionado. If it has zombies in it, there’s a great chance hat I’ve seen it or at the very least am aware of it. The same can go for a number of other people, and zombies have become a staple in not only games but movies, too. With all this experience, and I use the term lightly, I traditionally thought that if a zombie apocalypse were to occur, I would be able to handle myself. All those nights yelling at the bewildering choices that survivors had taken and numerous Left 4 Dead sessions with friends have to pay of for something, right? But if Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead has taught me anything, it’s that I was completely wrong. I couldn’t be happier, actually, as my complete ineptitude in trying to survive in a zombie apocalypse continues in the newest installment: Long Road Ahead.
The Walking Dead: Long Road Ahead
Systems: PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac (reviewed)
Developers: Telltale Games
Publishers: Telltale Games
Release Date: August 29th, 2012
MSRP: $4.99 (Long Road Ahead), $24.99 (full season access)
Picking up sometime after the conclusion of Starved for Help, the group finds itself once again low on supplies and fracturing over the future. The growing disputes between Lily and Kenny continue as they argue on whether to leave the motel in the hope of finding better east at Savannah or stay within the confines of the motel, considering it has kept the group alive until now. The cooperation between members of the group was already at a breaking point, but once suspicions rise that someone has been stealing supplies, it provided the perfect spark that could blow off the roof of the group.
Without delving too much into spoiler territory, the group is forced to leave the motel and Macon behind, and although Kenny may have gotten his wish, it doesn’t come without a cost to him and the group. This episode in particular has a number of breaks from the stress of living in a zombie apocalypse, such as having Lee and Clementine reminisce of life before the events of the three episodes and playing detective with Duck. These serve to strengthen the bond between the player and characters so that the horror that will undoubtedly follow will truly affect the player. The group is the focus of this episode and their paranoia, fears, and conflicts are all heard and felt by the player as the RV and train road trip east continues.
I can’t stress enough how great a job Telltale has done with the character of Clementine. Too often the inclusion of a young, noncombatant character brings thoughts of escort missions and terrible AI, making it difficult to build any sort of positive emotions or relationship for a character we’re supposed to care for. This is before you add that these characters are often the most unlikable. However, Clementine is anything but and serves as the driving force of every decision I make, and I applaud what Telltale has been able to do with her character.
Long Road Ahead is the most typical point-and-click adventure in the series, sporting a number of puzzles and different locations than the previous titles with a dash of light investigation work to boot. Despite this, I found that this episode falls short of the lofty achievements of its predecessor, Starved for Help, for a couple of reasons.
Bugs and performance issues have been present in every installment, and this episode is no exception. In my two playthroughs, I found stuttering and complete freezes to my game to be quite common, with audio either cutting out entirely or falling out of sync. The first two issues danced upon that line of how bugs affect one’s enjoyment of the title, and unfortunately, this one most definitely crosses that line.
My second biggest qualm with the title, however, is that despite providing some of the toughest and most heartbreaking choices and moments thus far, the story falls slightly flat in comparison to Episode 2. The story and writing is still quite good, but it’s in the cliffhanger ending that I felt the most disappoint. Although it left me highly anticipating the next episode, it felt disjointed and thrown together in comparison to the tone of the rest of the episode.
Despite that these issues have kept this installment from not quite reaching the standard achieved by Episode 2, Long Road Ahead is more of what Walking Dead fans love and another great episode by Telltale. I have been taken back by the quality of the series thus far, and now after passing the halfway point, I can’t help but feel saddened that our journey will be coming to a close soon. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to see what Telltale has left up their sleeve in what appears to be foreign territory for the genre. Looking back, my skepticism was most definitely misplaced in what has honestly become a genuine game of the year contender in my books.
* Continues the great standard of storytelling
* Difficult decisions that matter and leave players questioning themselves
* Inclusions of more traditional, quality point-and-click gameplay
* Disjointed ending
* Significant audio and visual bugs
FINAL SCORE: B+
Disclaimer: The reviewer played through the entire episode twice and made different choices each time. The first playthrough had the UI turned on whilst the second had it turned off.