It has been a few years since we last saw Clementine and The Walking Dead game from Telltale and while in-between we have gotten some amazing games, the hunger for more from The Walking Dead was something that has now been sated.
The story for this new game start off with a missed call to Javier, the new main protagonist, as he fights to rush home, before his father passes away, but he does not make it in time. After being confronted by his older brother, the family soon discovers that the dead don’t stay dead and after a brutal moment of taking action, the family makes their way towards the hospital. What makes this even more powerful is that it takes place before the walkers swarm around, people are living their lives, so we get to see what happens to a regular family, as the story moves forward.
Jump ahead several years, Javier, Kate, Mariana and Gabe are travelling down the road in a beat-up van, looking for supplies. While Gabe and Mariana sleep in the back, Javier chats with Kate about the world and the kids, while Kate is their Step Mother, Javier is the Uncle. We don’t learn what happened once the family left the house, only that years have passed. Soon after they make their way into a Junkyard to obtain supplies so they can continue their adventure, but not long after they arrive, another group descends upon them, claiming that it their space. Actions are taken and Javier is knocked out and when he comes too, he is in a truck heading to places unknown, but thankfully after some luck, a tree falls upon the road and that is where Javier meets up with Clementine.
From here, your actions will really define the story, but what I found interesting about this is while every choice you made in the first two games, does impact here, Clementine, at least for now, is more of a background character, with Javier and newcomers like Tripp and Paul providing new interaction opportunities. The new town of Prescott has some interesting characters, like Tripp, but it’s the New Frontier that prove to be the most engaging, more so once the second episode ends, providing a mystery that players will likely want to discover. That mystery though is pretty much the only one, the other surprises that happen, I was able to predict with little effort, which is a shame. Of course, making different choices could lead to different outcomes, so going back and playing it again is something I am excited to do.
The problem with the rest of the game however is that most of it is still hands off, with only minimal control input required and with long sections where you don’t need to do anything, there are times when it feels like you can relax, only for the game to require an action, with no warning. When you are actually able to walk around the world, talking with people, inspecting things and such, the game seems content to deal with tank style controls, something that Resident Evil created back in the 90’s, Javier moves around in odd angles, up does not always mean up, but across, depending on the camera angle. Even when you are just exploring a section of the world, Javier moves slow and even holding down the fast walk option, sees almost no increase to the movement speed and given that Telltale have had years to perfect their formula, this is a let down.
The game still also tries to tell you that your options will craft the story, but that is still only on options that you are presented with. There is one section where you meet an unknown man and the game gives you two options, trust him or tie him up, I personally would have liked to have just left him behind and moved on, but the game does not give you that option. While I know it’s not possible to account for every single possible choice someone might want to make, with a choice that like one, the game tells you that you need to take this person with you, which removes that your choices define the game mantra that they tell you at the start.
Thankfully, one area that the game does do better than those in the past is that it looks better, they have clearly used the years to work on their engine and it shows. The game still sports its cel shaded look, but rather than being hard lines and clipping items, shadows and such will now play off the characters’ action, which in turn moves those lines around. A bad description I know, but when you see it in motion, the game just looks great, in addition they have overhauled their lighting engine, so the various times of day are represented better than ever before, with night now having this extra level of tension added.
The voice work is almost amazing across the board, sadly one character does annoy me to no end and it’s not one element that annoys me, it’s just the overall vibe that they give off. Javier is grounded, even when things to crap, there is this feeling that he knows that things can get worse and in a zombie world, that is saying something. Kate, David, Tripp and the rest all offer great balance, from some of the more whiny voices and characters, helping to keep the game from entering the campy nature that zombie content can easily go towards. Music is nice and simple, the themes from earlier come back through at times, helping to connect you through to the new characters and their themes.
The Walking Dead A New Frontier is bringing back the series with some strong new characters, the lacklustre gameplay in this video game, still holds it down. Given that this is the third entry in the series, a lot of your mileage will come from having played the first two seasons, so be aware of that going in.