We're halfway through the five-part series, and The Walking Dead still continues to amaze.
For those who haven't played any of it yet, this episodic downloadable series is heavy on the harrowing drama stuff, and light on the complex game mechanics. It's a linear point & click style game, but the emphasis is firmly on dialogue and moral choices.
Episode 3's two-hour arc only contains one puzzle, but much like its forebears in the earlier episodes this change of pace breaks the flow of the game. The train yard section towards the end of the episode quickly devolves into a back-and-forth trudge, while the story's carefully crafted intensity slowly leaks away.
And you can expect to deal with some serious intensity. In contrast to Episode 2's sinister build towards a bloody crescendo, Long Road Ahead is slow-burn horror. Twists in the story had us physically reeling, but the darkest aspect this time is clearly foreshadowed, giving your brain plenty of time to brew. Despite the steady flow of horrific events, it's the moments of levity that make it feel special - with pockets of hope and humour bringing the characters around you to life.
We were initially worried that the decisions we were making wouldn't have a major impact on the game, but at this point we simply don't care. The choices you make affect the way people treat you, and there's nothing more crushing than the realisation that you've just disappointed a 10 year old girl. The fact that we're able to say that with sincerity is a whopping indication of how amazing this game is: The Walking Dead is groundbreaking stuff, and we're going to be talking about it for years.
Visual glitches and frame rate problems continue to spoil the great art direction, but neither are enough to stop you from being carried away by the fantastic narrative - you're always faintly aware that you're on a rollercoaster, but you're usually too enthralled to care that you've been strapped-in. The scripted nature of the game allows Telltale almost complete control over the camera work and pacing, both of which are used to expert effect. Fundamentally, though, this a game about people - and despite the comic book caricature style, The cast of The Walking Dead feel more like real humans than people we've met at rural train stations.
Lee is the best protagonist we've seen in years, and his relationship with the group continues to fascinate. Delicate, thoughtful, and unreservedly brutal - The Walking Dead is one of the most mature gaming experiences that money can buy. This is the most exciting game of 2012, and you won't even find it sitting on shelves. Hop onto Xbox Live and buy it immediately, before we're forced to destroy your head and/or brains.
Another bite-sized chunk of impeccable drama
- Incredibly unpleasant
- More exciting than TV
- Clementine is amazing
- Visually rough at times
- No more puzzles, please