Ever since Telltale Games' "The Walking Dead" series debuted with an excellent first episode, I've been waiting for a letdown. It seemed inevitable - surely there was no way the developer could continue to push out content in a timely manner without suffering at least a little setback in quality.
But instead of a decline, "The Walking Dead" has gotten better with every episode. And the recently released "Episode 3: Long Road Ahead" is the best one yet.
"Episode 3" finds protagonist Lee Everett and his group of survivors struggling to maintain their meager existence in the face of constant threats from bandits and, of course, zombies. The events of the previous two episodes have taken their toll on the group, and already fragile relationships are now strained beyond repair.
The emergence of a traitor within the group sets in motion a series of events that completely changes the entire dynamic of the game. Without spoiling the story any more, suffice to say that for the first time "The Walking Dead" game manages to capture the unpredictability that makes the comics such an engaging read.
"The Walking Dead" game has had its share of jaw-dropping moments and agonizing decisions over the course of the first two episodes, but nothing that I had played up to this point could have prepared me for what I experienced in the second half of "Long Road Ahead." It's rare that a game can make me feel genuinely uncomfortable, but "Episode 3" did just that.
From a gameplay standpoint, "Long Road Ahead" features a nice mix of conversation, action and puzzle solving. As has been the case throughout the series, the voice acting is stellar even during the most dramatic moments. This was also the most technically sound episode yet, with no sign of any nagging bugs or glitches.
With only two episodes of "The Walking Dead" remaining, I have officially put any concerns about whether Telltale Games can continue the series' momentum to rest. Now my only concern is what is going to happen to Lee, Clementine and the others moving forward.
"The Walking Dead Episode 3 -- Long Road Ahead"
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Available for: Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, PC ($5)
Rating: M for mature