Under The Radar – The Walking Dead Episode 3: Long Road Ahead Review
This game was reviewed on the PC.
As this is a review of an episode of a much larger game, I want to warn you straightaway that there are massive spoilers ahead, and for a more thorough review of the game’s basic mechanics and playability, refer to my review of Episode One, here. For more story review, my review of Episode Two can be found here.
Business out of the way, let’s move on to the meat of the episode.
Long Road Ahead starts right after the spectacular end of Episode Two, with the survivors holed up inside the motor inn, and tensions have not eased. Lily, still shocked by the death of her father at Kenny’s hands, has sealed herself up in her room. From there, her building paranoia gets the best of her and she corrals Lee into snooping around the group to find out who’s been allegedly stealing medical supplies. Lee reluctantly agrees, and before he can start the investigation, he’s cornered by Carly (or Doug), who pressures him to reveal his past to the rest of the group (or, at least, to those whom Lee has decided to trust). If Carly’s the survivor you’d chosen to save earlier, she opens up to you and indicates that she might be interested in a relationship of some kind. Doug does not.
These two tasks dominate the first half hour or so of the game, and eventually your poking around – ably assisted by Kenny’s son Duck, who plays Robin to Lee’s Batman – leads you to find a cache of medical supplies stashed outside your compound. When this fact is revealed, Lily immediately accuses Carly/Doug, but the argument that starts is cut short by bandits raiding the compound, inevitably bringing Walkers along with them. Lee covers the group’s retreat into Kenny’s RV, and they’re able to tear through some of the barriers around the motor inn and escape.
Following the IPs style, though, the tension never eases for a moment. Lily continues accusing people inside the RV, even going to the point of throwing an accusation at Clementine and Duck. While she continues to scream and gets even more hysterical when she assumes Lee isn’t listening, Kenny quietly calls Lee up to the front seats. Katjaa, Kenny’s wife, cradles Duck, who’s been bitten. This isn’t exactly surprising, given that the writers decided to give Duck a humorous, humanizing moment earlier in the episode.
Duck’s bit is an example of the game’s continuing weakness. While individual moments are pulled off with flair, such as Kenny’s murder of the not-yet-undead Larry, or Lee’s fight with Andy St. John in Episode Two, The plot-at-large is unfortunately pretty formulaic. As soon as Kenny calls Lee up to the front of the RV, it’s pretty obvious what happened. What makes or breaks the episode is how moments like this are handled in the future.
And of course, it’s right after seeing a predictable moment that the writers once again surprise us. Lily demands that Kenny pull the RV over, and gets everyone outside, where she resumes her high-pitched accusations against the entire group. Lee’s attempt to calm everything down backfires spectacularly, with Lily pulling out her pistol and shooting Carly/Doug in the head.
Like the saltlick on Larry’s head, this moment is terrifically surprising. I expected a confrontation between Lily and Carly/Doug, but I didn’t expect it to be quite so soon, quite so shocking, or quite so final. Lee slams Lily’s gun hand to the side of the RV to prevent her from shooting anyone else, and at that point you get to decide whether to leave Lily to her fate with the Walkers or allow her back into the RV to deal with later. If you leave her, you simply drive off and the last time you see her, she’s standing in the middle of the road while a group of Walkers emerge from the woods. If you keep her with you… more on that later.
The group, after that, is subdued, to say the least. Miles later, they find the road cut by a broken-down train engine, and after scavenging for supplies (all while poor Duck gets worse) and meeting Chuck, a homeless man who’d been using one of the train cars for a home. The group lets him join them, and with Kenny distracted by Duck’s failing health and Lily either gone or indisposed, Lee gets to make the decision. It’s at this point, if you let Lily live, she takes off with the RV and leaves Lee to try to get the train running.
Eventually Kenny and Lee get the train engine running, and the group feels much better about the whole thing. Lee gets a breather in which to do some talking with Chuck, Kenny, or Clementine, and tensions ease somewhat. After the madness of the last few hours of gameplay, it’s a nice relaxing moment.
Of course, a Walker bite waits for no man, and eventually Kenny stops the train to deal with Duck. It’s an emotional moment, yet the writers still somehow force Lee to make a critical decisionL should Katjaa take Duck into the woods and kill him, or should Kenny?
The choice turns out to be moot. Katjaa takes it upon herself, marches into the woods with the rapidly expiring Duck, and a gunshot is heard. Followed very quickly by a cry of anguish. Katjaa shoots herself instead of Duck, and it still leaves the problem of whether or not to de-animate the poor kid or to leave him to turn. That decision – surprise surprise – is left up to Lee. You can force Kenny to do it, do it yourself, or leave him to turn.
The remainder of the group, now down to just five, including new-guy Chuck, loads back up into the train and keeps going. Following up on some of the conversations started before the mess with Duck, Ben reveals that he was giving medical supplies to the bandits, which gives Lee another opportunity to be understanding or angry.
The long trip on the train is a great contrivance on the writers’ part. It gives the group a sense of relative safety, and it gives the player time to acclimate to the huge changes that have taken place within the group dynamics. This also allows for more time for slightly less intense character development. A conversation over a bottle gives Lee some face time with Chuck, and on his advice he teaches Clementine to shoot, which is as cute a character moment you can ask for and simultaneously a symbol for exactly how messed up the world is.
One last hurdle to clear before the end of the episode has Lee trying to move a gas tanker that’s hanging down from a highway overpass, which introduces Lee and Co. to Omid and Christa, two more survivors who demonstrate their worth pretty rapidly in helping to move the tanker.
The only critique I can give to this episode is one that’s come up before: the prevalence for predictable action scenes. Toward the end, when solving the tanker problem, Lee and Clementine investigate a small railyard office, and after sweeping the place for Walkers, the moment they’re separated, Walkers pounce on them.
Now, Walkers, zombies, biters, whatever they’re called, are hardly fleet, and they’re not sneaky. But there’s an overwhelming number of times, across all episodes, that The Walking Dead jams a few walkers your way in illogical and predictable ways.
However, it’s a small complaint and easily overlooked by the rest of the episode’s quality and violent charm.
The Walking Dead, Episode 3: Long Road Ahead earns a 4.75/5, and is another reason any fan of the comic, show, or both should be playing this game.
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