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Developers: Telltale Games
Producers: Telltale Games
Plot: When the motel is overrun, the group is forced on the move, painfully aware that there could be a traitor in their midst.

We were all aware that the Walking Dead game had potential to be one of the more successful gaming franchises to come out of 2012, but I don’t think anyone thought it would be this good. Episode 3, the midway episode of this five part series, is, without a doubt, the best yet.

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After a few opening scenes, allowing the player to get their bearings with the game, we are treated to a swift recap. The Kenny/Lily situation is about to blow, after Kenny murdered her father. Kenny is set to leave with his wife and son, taking the RV with him. Lily is losing control of the group, her sanity wavering dangerously. She seems to believe that someone is taking medication from the group, suggesting that someone among them is not to be trusted. On top of that, Lee and Carley (if you let her live way back in Episode 1) get closer, suggesting a romantic subplot. The opening sequences of Walking Dead always have this air of comfort, the deep breath before you plunge yourself into the cold waters of emotion.

It even has the sense of fun. Sure, one of the characters you have befriended is stealing from you, but as you embark on something akin to a detective mystery, you cannot help but enjoy it. Your character wanders around the camp, uncovering various clues, humour injected into the sequence from Duck’s character. However, as the mystery thickens, you learn that this fun atmosphere is just misdirection. This episode is the most heart-breaking yet. Spoilers: Telltale Games are going to throw some devastating narrative devices into the mix here.

It is also the most action-packed. You come to grips with bandits this episode. Sure, we met them before in a little shoot-out sequence, but here we have our first gun battle. You take cover and provide supporting fire for your allies. This might dissuade some. The Walking Dead has done well, giving the non-gamer a fun experience, yet here you need to tackle a basic shooter model. You rely on aim and reflexes, something that could become a struggle for those not used to the genre. However, this is a small hitch – for a shooter, it is fairly easy and it never falls back onto the action. Besides, the game did well moving away from the fighting for this long; it needed to come to grips with it sooner or later.

The most impressive thing here is the script and story. Bearing in mind that each game is pretty much individual, so the writers will struggle to predict what the gamer is going through. However, they manage it superbly. There’s a certain psychological competence here, as the writers figure out exactly what we feel towards each character and use that against us. It also does well with new characters. By now, we have grown mistrusting of strangers (the St. Johns betrayal was a pretty nasty one), so Telltale Games need to find new, inventive ways to lower our barriers, or if not, use our mistrust against us. The story takes some incredible, heart-breaking routes, making it, out of all five episodes, the one that makes you want to suffer temporary amnesia just to play again for the first time. I envy those who haven’t gotten around to experiencing some of the sucker punches Telltale Games have in store.

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There is one sequence that might annoy some. You find yourself in possession of a train, the best news in a while. Getting that train off the ground is a frustrating task though. The instructions aren’t clear, the angles are useless and you will end up retreading the same ground a lot. Some might rush through it, while others will spend far too long, trying to figure out where the correct tool is hiding. The moment sticks out like a sore thumb in a nearly perfect level. However, it feels petty to punish this episode on such a small annoyance.

This episode succeeds, because there is something for everyone. If the shooting, mystery and train-moving sequences don’t please you, the emotional shocks will. If the emotional shocks fail to hit you, then you will be unable to avoid a smile at some of the best Clementine quotes yet. In a world full of shocks, deaths and betrayals, the smaller scenes between Lee and Clementine remain some of the most heart-warming, crowd-pleasing moments in gaming history.

Final verdict: This franchise climbs from strength to strength. With this instalment’s unpredictable nature and powerhouse twists, this episode will be tricky to top.

Five stars

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