WARNING; THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FROM THE FIRST SEASON.
IF YOU HAVEN’T PLAYED SEASON ONE, YOU MIGHT NOT WANT TO READ THIS REVIEW.
The Walking Dead is one of the most prevalent zombie franchises around, with media ranging from graphic novels, to television, and even into video games (no kidding, right?). There have been a few variations across multiple gaming platforms, but it’s clear to anyone who has played them that Telltale’s The Walking Dead series is the gold standard.
Set in the series’ fictional post-apocalyptic universe but avoiding the characters used in either the television series or the graphic novels, Telltale’s The Walking Dead is almost an interactive comic book; the style of graphics owing more to the drawn than the realistic. It’s a game of butterfly effect mentality, such that the smallest of choices can have the biggest of consequences – and not always in the way you think they will. Choose to go left instead of right? You’ve just changed the story, causing an outward ripple that can extend even across entire seasons of this game (hence the import save feature). This is a game that’s outlined in black and coloured in with the things you do, making for a different picture depending on the play style while still providing a basic plot that everyone will follow as they advance.
This season starts off pretty much right where the first season ends, with Clementine meeting up with Omid and Christa after the death of former main protagonist Lee. In true “anything can happen” fashion, the action starts almost immediately; keeping you on your toes just as much as the first in the series does, though putting you in vastly different situations (including a shift in location from torn-down civilization to the wide open yonder of the wilderness, and later a small camp not unlike that at the end of Season of the TV show in looks).
As for the actual content of this new season… that’s a bit hard to describe without introducing spoilers, which is something I strive to avoid whenever possible. I will note however, that this season has given me the same emotional roller-coaster ride that the first did; both involving new characters and old (and even some surprises). I’ll gladly admit that Season Two has more than once driven a hint of a tear to my eye, and has just as often caused me to spam “Hug [them]” with a rush of joy and a smile – but that’s what keeps me coming back, the humanity that such a game can instill with just a few choices.
Needless to say, if you’re a fan of story-driven experiences featuring some great characters and an excellent plot, you’ll find what you’re looking for here – and if you played the first season, it’s pretty much a no-brainer.
The game mechanics feature more of the same formula from the first season, subjecting players to tasks such as searching for clues, activating quick-time events and making moral and seemingly innocuous choices (though more often than not, they go deeper than they appear). The narrative and sheer “real” quality the game has – especially for something that doesn’t quite touch the realism scale graphically – is overwhelming, and this one’s definitely not for the easily effected. Have you ever wanted to play a game that leaves a mark on your very soul? Pony up, ’cause here it is.
As for the graphics in this season, they’re slightly improved in areas and not quite right in others – the quality varying by scene and episode. Quite a few times I noticed pixelated artifacting around moving objects, with elements such as the character models receiving a spotty rainbow-coloured connect-the-dots style outline against certain backgrounds. There is also a bit of short-lived (but consistent) frame dropping at the starts of new scenes, and those pauses during scene changes (compounded during points at which the autosave kicks in) are still very much present. While a scene was actually playing out though (and especially while you’re in control of Clem), the game played like a dream – so I really wasn’t too bothered by the small issues along the edges, though for some they may detract from the mystique. They’ve even greatly reduced the transition delay between choices and the scene continuing, though it does hang for a moment here and there.
In episode four however, a new issue cropped up with regards to the cel shading technique in cutscenes where by you could see the under layer through their faces (tearing). This was only visible to me during the latter half of the episode and though it didn’t ruin the game for me or anything, it was a little annoying.
Here’s an example of exactly what I’m referring to;
That said, I think (other than fixing that small graphical issue) their next step in smoothing out the frame rate and pauses is to add some more extensive autosave options. The ability to save manually, less frequently, or only at the end of episodes would reduce the frequency and duration of many of the pauses present – creating a much better experience for those who play the title in chunks instead of bite-sized pieces, or those who prefer to save manually from the start menu.
The audio in episodes one, two and four came off sounding pretty near perfect in my play-through, offering no repeating dialogue (like the bit present in the first season), no glitches and decent sound quality. I played the game both with headphones and without (switching back and forth), and noticed no issues with the sound on my end – though the lip sync could use a little work here and there.
The audio in episode three however, had a small out-of-sync glitch. In the area of the episode in which Clementine is asked to climb the rope hanging from a winch (you’ll know what I mean if you get there), a character by the name of Mike clearly mouths words that are then played in audio over a small transitional loading screen. When the loading ends, the audio syncs itself again and there’s no issues for the rest of the episode – however there’s a very clear few second issue there. Not a big deal in my opinion, but worth noting with regards to transparency.
Episode five has all sorts of audio issues, especially at the start. The biggest issue was that voices aren’t synched properly to the character’s movements at quite a few points through the episode, causing what I like to call “movie dub effect”. It’s not so bad that it’s 100% constant or too far out at any one time – but it’s clearly noticeable when it happens. There’s also the issue of the audio stuttering and clipping during scene interchanges (ie; when someones talking and the “camera” changes), which caused me to miss a few words here and there throughout the episode. Episode five contained the most audio issues of any episode in The Walking Dead’s first two seasons.
The control scheme in this season is much improved compared to the first season, offering both touch and physical controls simultaneously – a crowd-pleasing move if I’ve ever seen one (thanks, Telltale – I love you for this). As for the controls themselves they’re very straight-forward and much more responsive – so there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to master them in minutes.
Things aren’t all praise and thanks however, and I would like to note that while installing the game on my Vita I ran into a problem right away – dealing specifically with transferring my save data from Season One. Upon initial installation, I noticed that the little “Save Transfer” icon popped up on the livescreen tab and quickly activated it. Selecting “OK” when it prompts you, I was excited about continuing my progress… only to be told to insert the PSVita card as no save was found. After a few tries (and around twenty minutes of messing around trying to correct the “issue”), I gave up and decided to start the game anyways – only to be asked if I’d like to import my save data when I selected “Play”. While I’m not sure if this is a glitch or if the “Save Transfer” option only works with game cards (it doesn’t mention not working with digital copies anywhere), the fact that it isn’t clear before you start the game is a pretty bad design choice in my opinion. In the end, I still ended up with a transferred save file – however I very nearly didn’t, at one point seriously considering deleting Season One off my memory card and refilling it with unfinished titles before starting Season Two. It was only laziness that saved me, and I’m sure not everyone was that lucky.
Taking a look at The Walking Dead: Season Two, I’m very much of the opinion that they’re every bit as good as the episodes in Season One content-wise – maybe even a bit better. As for the quality of the episodes; some graphical and audio issues have put a slight damper on my experience, but they aren’t anywhere near bad enough for me to recommend against buying the game
This is one of those times where if you can overlook the rough exterior there’s something truly great inside.
Don’t let a little rust scare you away 😉