The Walking Dead Episode 3 review – zombie survival bites down harder

In the US, The Walking Dead is the number-one TV show in the history of basic cable. Nine million people watched the finale of season two, and the series has spawned toys, soundtrack CDs, it’s own live talk show, and not one but two videogame spin-offs (an Activision FPS is due out next year).

But in the wake of these record-setting numbers and Rick Grimes action figures, it’s easy to forget that the show didn’t start out at the same high quality level that it subsequently hit – season one had some pacing issues, dodgy acting, and went along with far too many zombie clichés.

The Walking Dead Episode 3 PS3 review

Telltale’s episodic downloable adventure started strong but, if latest episode Long Road Ahead is anything to go by, also seems to be on a similarly upward trajectory. After our ever-dwindling band of survivors managed to escape a cannibalistic family of farmers (not entirely unscathed) in episode two, the group is back holed up at their haphazardly fortified motel base deciding whether or not to move on.

Once again dialogue makes up the vast majority of the game: you’re given a variety of choices when conversing with someone, and your responses dictate how your relationships with the various characters evolve (as do decisions you made in previous episodes).

The conversations are excellently voiced and fairly natural, and the characters are becoming more well-rounded and defined with each passing episode. There’s the odd moment when the tone of a particular dialogue choice is unclear – seeing Lee scream “YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO!” when you were trying to be comforting is slightly awkward – but generally this is right up there in terms of depicting inter-character relationships within a game.

What this episode also does brilliantly is step up the level of tension and drama. Whereas before the choices you made were fairly obvious and binary – save the kid vs. save the adult, for instance – now things are far murkier, and despite your best intentions there are some situations that can’t be adequately diffused. It all reflects the cast’s unravelling mindsets, and produces a couple of absolutely brilliant scenes that are up there with anything – PS3 or PSN – in gaming this year.

With action sequences limited to a few brief QTEs and puzzles not exactly MENSA-level – although finding the solutions often has a pleasing echo of old-school point-and-clicks – it would be possible to cry foul about a lack of control, but this is to miss the point. This is more interactive adventure than traditional ‘game’, and a brilliant example of the benefits of narrative-driven gaming experiences. With a cast we’re becoming more and more invested in, and scenarios of increasing moral complexity, the end of the world is fast becoming one of our favourite places to be.

Our Score

Score: 9
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