The Walking Dead: Season 2 — Episode 3 Review
** This review contains mild spoilers for the Walking Dead: Season 2. If you do not wish to read some minor spoilers, turn back now! **
Boy. That escalated quickly. The second season of Telltale’s Walking Dead series has had somewhat of a slow burn, but with Episode 3: In Harm’s Way, the tension is raised to another level. With spectacular character moments, talented voice acting, and story altering decisions that will undoubtedly leave the players second guessing themselves, In Harm’s Way is one of the best Walking Dead episodes Telltale has released.
Episode 3 picks up right after the events of Episode 2. Clementine and the group have been captured by Bill Carver’s gang and are being transported to a new stronghold. Carver is a man that will go to any length to get what he wants, as was displayed by his relentless hunt for Clementine’s group in Episode 2. What transpires in Episode 3 will do nothing to change your opinion of him, but with much more screen time during this episode, you get a chance to see a different side of Carver. He is a sick individual who has brainwashed his group into following his command. Those who don’t, find themselves in a concentration camp of sorts, forced into labor until they prove their loyalty. The story provides a plethora of character moments. I laughed, I cringed, and let out an audible “Hell yeah!” during various points of the episode. The story Telltale provides is so tremendous that it should be played, if not at least viewed as a spectator.
The voice acting in Episode 3 is the best it has ever been throughout the series. That being said, Clementine, a fan favorite of Walking Dead fans, is unable to carry the emotional weight that Lee had in Season 1. To be fair, Melissa Hutchison does her best to give Clementine the voice she requires, but it ultimately falls short. Fortunately, Michael Madsen provides the voice for Bill Carver and delivers a performance that is truly memorable. With villains like Carver, it can be very easy to fall into cliche territory, but Madsen doesn’t overdo it. At times, Bill Carver feels like he could be a real person, and as much as I hated him during my playthrough, I was thoroughly entertained during each of his scenes. Gavin Hammon shines as Kenny yet again. Hammon gives Kenny a voice unlike any other in the game, and with each major decision the player is faced with, Kenny is your best friend, or an obnoxious fool. Kenny can make you laugh out loud, grind your teeth, or cheer, and all of it is credited to Hammon’s performance.
It’s a challenge to call Telltale’s The Walking Dead a game. So much of the experience is put into the story that judging the games controls would be an injustice. If you’ve played the previous episodes of the Walking Dead, nothing has changed. At certain points throughout the episode, you will be able to walk around and interact with a few objects, but the meat of the gameplay is in the conversations. With Episode 3, the choices the player has to make are quite possibly the biggest they have ever been. Each decision feels like it can make an impact, especially those with Sarah.
Sarah is a new character introduced this season. She is a fragile girl who’s father shielded her from how ugly the world has become since the outbreak. When presented with opportunities to interact with her, they are usually black and white, and often had me questioning which choice I should make. Do I befriend Sarah and help guide her? Or do I give her a heavy dose of tough love? While not all of the answers are clear at Episode 3’s conclusion, I can’t help but feel each decision I made will have a heavy impact on these last few episodes.
At this point, I expect to have technical issues while playing a Telltale game. It’s dissapointing that after so much time, the series continues to be plagued by choppy frame rate and tremendously long load times. Usually, before the game could load the next scene, the audio would start playing. I would spend the first few seconds trying to guess what was happening before a picture would appear. Additionally, the game constantly stutters and, at times, feels as if I’m back in the early 2000’s waiting for my internet video to buffer. While this could just be a side effect of old hardware (I was playing on Xbox 360), it does damage the experience. It can be hard to stay engaged in the story when you are constantly aware of the technical shortcomings. Perhaps if the title were to ever be released on the new hardware, these issues would be nonexistent, but until then, a choppy experience is to be expected, and Episode 3 provides no exception.
Overall, Episode 3 is a tremendous experience. While there are technical problems that can be a hinderance, the game provides an excellent story, and boasts a voice cast that delivers the emotional fortitude this type of game needs. Each decision I made throughout felt like it carried great weight. Episode 3 is not only one of the best this season, it is also one of the best episodes Telltale has released throughout the entire series.