Nobody does a dark middle chapter quite like The Walking Dead. This is an episode where everything you think you know about this series gets turned upside down. Secrets are exposed and lies come to a head. This is a volatile chapter full of incredible moments and explosive action. Buckle up, because Long Road Ahead is a bumpy ride worth taking.
Before we get started, let me spend a minute bringing everybody up to speed. If you haven't played either of the first two episodes, then this review is not for you. For the sake of not being redundant, everything I have to say about the controls and presentation is covered in my review of A New Day
. If you have played the first two episodes, then you're probably already sold on the series and this review won't sway you one way or the other. As such, I plan on reviewing this game with a few spoilers sprinkled in. You have been warned.
Things start out peaceful enough back at the motel. Sure there's the occasional squabbling, but everybody is still alive and, thanks to a recent trip to town, there's enough food to last through the winter. But Lilly, still reeling from the events of the last episode, believes that somebody in the group is stealing rations. It doesn't take long before things start to unravel. And things only get worse from there.
Events force the group to hit the road, where they eventually run into what looks like an abandoned train. Suddenly the goal is clear -- they need to get this train going and ride it all the way to Savanna, Georgia. That's easier said than done, or so our gang of survivors learns. This is the episode where loose threads finally come to a head and secrets come out. And more importantly, your party changes in dramatic ways in this episode. There will not be a dry eye in the house when you complete this thrilling chapter.
Unlike past episodes, this was a slow burn. For the first hour I felt letdown, worried that nothing substantial would happen. Even after the group hit the road, it didn't feel as exciting as A New Day or Starved for Help. And then, completely out of the blue, the story picks up steam. Suddenly you're in the middle of one crucial decision after another. Before you know it the cast of characters has changed in significant ways. What some TV shows do in two or three seasons, Long Road Ahead does in one single three hour episode.
This is the most action packed chapter yet. This time around you'll find multiple reasons to use your gun. And not just your pistol, but a rifle, monkey wrench and other blunt objects. Still, nobody is going to mistake The Walking Dead for an action game. Calling The Walking Dead an action game is like calling Resident Evil 6 survival horror. But be prepared, a quick trigger finger will be required in more than one situation.
It's hard to top the highs of the last episode, and Long Road Ahead doesn't even come close. Still, this is a strong episode with all kinds of tough decisions to be made. It's also a funny episode, with more humor than I was expecting. One of the choices you make involves giving Duck a high five. If you choose not to, the game will ridicule the player for leaving the kid hanging. And it's not just the non-verbal jokes, but also how Duck and Lee seem to bond in this episode. I found myself laughing at several moments, and that's not something I remember doing in either of the first two episodes.
Perhaps it's the change of scenery, but it felt like there was a lot more to do in this episode. The game starts up with an interactive moment, and from there we're treated to train puzzles and a potentially explosive car wreck. There's also some fun investigation stuff in the early part of the game, though I wish that was a little more involved. For those complaining that you never get to control Lee directly, Long Road Ahead is for you.
There are a few jump scares that caught me off guard, but the horror isn't nearly as effective here as it was in Starved for Help. Even using the comic book-style art design, the stuff at the St. John Dairy is as creepy as video games get. There's nothing quite that scary in this episode, which is disappointing. Still, this does move the story along in some interesting (and occasionally gruesome) ways.
You can really see the choices you made in past episodes coming back to haunt you in Long Road Ahead. I can't wait for the series to be over, so that I can go back through the game using a completely different path. This chapter is full of those choices, and I can already tell you that I'm going to have a lot to answer for the next time I play The Walking Dead. Even when I go out of my way to make the "right" decision, I'm finding that every choice leads to sadness and death. By the time the credits rolled, I wasn't sure that anybody in this game was going to survive until the very end.
Long Road Ahead is yet another strong episode in The Walking Dead. This middle chapter is the very definition of bad road trip. Secrets come out and important cast members die, it's that kind of episode. It may not hit the highs of the first two chapters, but I guarantee that you'll remember the events found in these three hours for the rest of your life.
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