The Walking Dead: Season Two, Episode Three Review (PC)
We’re getting deep into the meat of The Walking Dead: Season Two with the release of Episode 3 - In Harm’s Way. If you haven’t completed any of the previous episodes in Season Two, or if you’ve yet to complete Season One, there are loads of spoilers ahead. If you’re all caught up and want to know what you’re in for with this latest adventure in Clementine’s tale of survival, then read on and prepare your heart.
Clementine and the gang are in quite a pickle and have become “work release” prisoners of Bill Carver, voiced by Michael Madsen. This sinister psychopath takes “survival of the fittest” to heart just a little too much and silently views himself as a messiah to his group of survivors who, under his guidance, have set up a functioning community in an abandoned home improvement store. If any of you are at all familiar with large communities in The Walking Dead universe, then you know right off the bat that none of this is going to work out for any parties involved, least of all Bill.
The setup is the same as usual for previous episodes in the series: you’ll work through the story by watching in-engine cutscenes, interact with the environment to complete tasks, choose dialogue options that subtly affect the narrative and even get to control Clementine every now and again as she explores her surroundings. Nothing really new or exciting has been added in terms of gameplay, save for a few differently-flavored quick-time events that will have you wondering if your keyboard has crapped out on you. Instances like these help spike your heart rate and keep you on your toes as you fight to keep Clementine out of harm’s way.
Some of the best parts of Episode Three are the weightier choices in dialogue that you can make. While it might often feel like you’re on a set track headed for a singular destination, a lot of your choices will affect those around you and even the growth of Clementine herself. Now, more than ever, you’re reminded of the fact that Clem’s been surviving in this broken world for quite some time and its effects on her growth are really starting to show.
While you might be in charge of choosing what she says, the words that come out of her mouth might surprise you, or an attitude she takes on might shed light on the harder, more wizened Clementine. It can be shocking to see the transformation, especially when you have to make certain choices during the climax that cement the kind of character you want Clem to become. And we thought Lee had a hard time of prepping her for the new world.
The game looks as good as ever, with framerates running at a solid clip and facial expressions more subtle and nuanced. It’s remarkable when you can tell all that a loudmouth, boisterous lug like Kenny has to say just by looking at his face in silence for a few seconds. There seemed to be a lot more detail in background objects as well, helping to flesh out the world even more. A few graphical hiccups here and there would break up the tension, usually during transitions into different scenes, but these aren’t game-breaking issues that take away from the experience.
Unfortunately, while everything looks good, the sound could have been more on par. Since The Walking Dead is best played with headphones on, you’d expect the sound quality to be tops every single time. In this episode, the voice quality wasn’t thrilling and often had a bit of a muffled, fuzzy quality. It wasn’t terribly distracting, but hearing some characters sound like they’re lisping kind of took me out of the tension I had been feeling during certain scenes. Choices for background music, when it was present, felt weird too. It feels as if a lot of the music is being recycled and every time I hear that swelling, emotional violin track during what appeared to be just normal conversation, I had to raise an eyebrow. Otherwise, all of the sound effects and other bits of the score worked out fine.
The Walking Dead: Season Two, Episode Three - In Harm’s Way might be the most intense episode yet, with new characters being mixed into the fold, the addition of some of the crew from the 400 Days downloadable content, an breakout attempt of ‘The Great Escape’ proportions and choices that further cement Clementine’s attitude and personality as a survivor. Tread lightly as you play through the game, because you should know by now that even the simplest of choices can have massive, overarching consequences -- a lesson that is explored early on in the episode. But make no mistake, the crew might be in trouble, but the complications have only just begun.
This review was based on a digital version of The Walking Dead: Season Two, Episode Three provided by the publisher for the PC.