Game Review | Life is Strange | Season 1, Episode 3 | "Chaos Theory"
Episode Summary: Max Caulfield and her "partner in crime", Chloe Price, start an investigation into the mysteries surrounding Blackwell students Kate Marsh and Rachel Amber. A new rewind power presents itself to Max, and its use has devastating consequences. (Life is Strange wiki)
*** SPOILER ALERT – Do not read any further if you don’t want any spoilers ***
An alternative title could be: “How Life is Strange was saved by going full-on time travel weirdness.” Honestly, this episode is so far ahead of the others that it honestly does make me wonder what the hell the developers were thinking until this point in the series.
To be more general about why this episode was better, I think the fact that it followed Kate’s suicide meant that everyone being down and miserable was actually justified in-world. Oh, and it actually felt like stuff happened – strange how being able to do something in a game makes it more satisfying, isn’t it?
As for specifics? Well, it’s mainly the ending for just how well it was done in contrast to how snail-paced the characterisation has been in the series until this point. Seriously, major spoilers incoming!
After an argument with Chloe (being an utter pain in the neck yet again), Max goes back to her room at Blackwell Academy and discovers that she can use a photo to travel across a huge amount of time, returning to when she was thirteen years old, on the morning that Chloe’s father was killed.
The cause is a crash that he was involved in, travelling into town to pick up Chloe’s mother from the shops, so Max hides his keys and forces him to take the bus, causing a major shift in the timeline. We see images of Chloe’s original life destroyed and replaced with happier images of Chloe and her family.
Max returns to her own time, still aware of what should have happened and surprised to find herself friends with Victoria, her nemesis, and a member of the Vortex Club – a group of the mean, ‘cool’ kids in the original timeline.
Wondering what else has changed, Max dashes across town to Chloe’s home and knocks on the door only for Chloe’s very much alive father to answer and call for Chloe to come to the door and see her old friend.
Max’s jaw drops as Chloe shows herself: paralysed from the neck down and in a wheelchair. In a matter of seconds, I felt more for Chloe in that one moment than in every single other appearance she’d put in so far. The reason? First off, I actually liked this Chloe. Secondly, her situation was one hundred percent Max's/the player's fault.
Remember the argument I mentioned Max and Chloe having earlier? During it, Chloe came so close to going up in my estimation when it looked like she was going to accept that she was at least partially to blame for her crappy life, but then turning around and blaming everyone else as usual.
Alt-Chloe is completely innocent, and her delighted smile at seeing Max is just heart-breaking as we saw how nice she was as a kid, the better life she’d had growing up and how even being paralysed hadn’t wiped that smile from her face. You feel ashamed about what you’ve done to her, even if she is still smiling – I wanted to just hug her and apologise and promise to make it better if I could.
“Chaos Theory” has almost completely wiped away my negative opinion of Life is Strange so far, and it was the perfectly-engineered feeling of guilt during the ending that sealed it. The pacing, the direction, the visuals, the characterisation, that smile on Chloe’s face… Where the hell was this in earlier episodes? I’m just hoping that this is the new standard.