When episodic outfit Telltale Games’ macabre The Walking Dead adaptation first shuffled its way onto the PlayStation Network way back in 2012, many people were apprehensive following a string of licensed tie-ins that didn’t quite hit the mark. Perhaps this is part of the reason why Lee and Clementine’s five episode first season proved such a pleasant surprise, securing a slew of Game of the Year awards as a result. With expectations now sky high, though, the indie studio is looking to capitalise on its success by furthering its post-apocalyptic plot – but is it able to avoid the sophomore slump?
Arguably one of the most satisfying aspects of the original iteration of the zombie chomp-‘em-up was how the decisions that you made could significantly alter your experience, ensuring that the game was tailor made for you. As such, before you even begin this new instalment, you’re prompted to import your save data, be it from the end of Season One or the 400 Days expansion pack. If you haven’t played the extra add-on, don’t worry, as the game is happy to randomise the admittedly sparse decisions that you may have skipped, ensuring that you don’t miss out. Incredibly, you can even prompt the computer to make every choice from the first season for you, too, if for some insane reason you want to start from scratch.
You’ll then be treated to a painful reminder of the horrors that you navigated during the first five episodes, and it’s here that the developer’s ageing engine begins to show some weary signs. Clips of characters saying important pieces of dialogue are punctuated by animation issues, as the frame rate struggles to reflect your decisions. We’re sure that it’s not an easy task for the studio to upgrade its internal technology at this point, but it’s a real shame as it remains one of the few negatives against the company’s titles.
After wiping away a tear – over the montage, of course, not the engine – it’s time to get stuck in. As you may already be aware from the marketing materials released, you’re now in control of Clementine, who boldly steps up to the protagonist plate for this season. However, this isn’t the only major change, as the interaction interface has undergone a couple of tweaks. You’ll still move with the left analogue stick and aim with the right, but rather than awkwardly hover over a small white sphere to reveal interaction options, a white ring surrounding what you intend to select will appear.
In any given ring, your available actions will be assigned to positions mirroring the face buttons. This tweaked system not only makes it a little easier to choose the desired options in a given context, but also makes the display a little less intrusive, ensuring that there are no clunky button prompts cluttering the screen outside of action-heavy sequences.
And these moments have taken inspiration from Telltale’s other series The Wolf Among Us, allowing for more intense scenes to play out without being too challenging or frustrating. There’s even a brand new style of interaction introduced, which works a little like Heavy Rain as you hold a button and gesture towards objects to set pieces of paper alight among other things. Alright, it doesn’t sound particularly impressive in the example that we’ve just given, but it certainly makes a difference during one wince-inducing scene that we won’t spoil.
Of course, there’s a good chance that you’re primarily coming to this episode for the narrative, and it continues the property’s penchant for engaging and emotional storytelling. This is accentuated by the fact that you already know Clementine as a character, and this established bond helps you to empathise with the heroine from the off. Furthermore, the awful decisions that you’re faced with are magnified because you’re no longer a fully grown man, but a young girl. She may seem more capable, but she’s just as innocent as when former hero Lee first found her, strengthening how fiercely you’ll want to protect her.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of minor niggles. The abovementioned engine issues crop up throughout the episode, though are never quite as problematic as in the introduction sequence. However, there are still far too many awkwardly positioned loading screens, with one particularly jarring example occurring right before an action-heavy event, which completely destroys the tension.
Worse still, we couldn’t help but notice that in the customary statistics screen at the end of the episode that almost everybody made the same choices, suggesting that these either weren’t challenging enough, or that most people have a pre-existing idea of how Clementine operates. Lee was very much a blank slate when you took control of him in Season One, but players have experienced five episodes of the little girl’s personality being shaped by someone else, so you may almost feel conditioned to play in a particular way. This could become a real problem as the series progresses.
While we’ve been eager to avoid spoilers here, know that The Walking Dead: Season Two starts with a bang. As you’d expect, new characters are introduced, the writing and voice acting is outstanding, and you’ll feel more protective of protagonist Clementine than any previous episode. We are a little concerned that the already established character may influence your decisions a little too much, but this is still an undeniably strong opening to another promising Telltale Games series.
I like the Walking Dead as a game but the Vita version of Season 1 was a total disgrace. How Sony approved it for sale is beyond me. Obviously they didn't check it before putting it on PSN!
Never have I seen such an un-optimised mess of a game which is mostly unplayable due to frame rate issues, 5 second delays in gameplay (meaning you die over and over while your input catches up with the action) and not to mention the bug which prevents your save data being carried forward to Episode 3 - you are forced to either stop playing the game or have a random outcome generated for you. When the game is so heavily centred around making tough decisions, that is a major flaw when you don't get the outcome of what you decided.
The fact I was told by Telltale support that there would be no updates to fix these problems also unimpressed me.
I will certainly be cautious about buying a game from them again. While they may be able to tell a story, they can't actually develop very well.
@Dodoo I've heard horror stories about the Vita edition, but I wouldn't let that put you off the second season. If possible play it on PS3. There are still issues, but they're nowhere near as game-breaking as those found on the handheld version.
@Dodoo Huh, that's weird. I just finished the Vita version of The Walking Dead less than a week ago and I didn't find any of those problems, at least not as much as you say they were there. I came across no save data glitch, and the delays weren't that long.
I must have been lucky. It sucks that it didn't turn out as well for you.
@Confused_Dude - Yeah I'd like to play season 2 so will probably take your advice and play it on PS3 or something. Also I think I'll wait until it's discounted just in case!
@moomoo - my friend you were lucky. The problems I had were very frustrating.
There are lots of similar cases written about on the developers forums, however it seems not everyone had issues like me.
However, the save file problem seems to be spread over multiple platforms and isn't specific to Vita version.
Great review Ben! I loved Season One and thought Episode One of Season Two had a strong start.
I even talked my non gaming Dad in to playing Season One. He is a big fan of the TV show and I knew if I could get him to give it a shot he would get hooked and that is what happened haha.
Now if only TellTale could over come the delay issues that seem to happen with all their games...
Great review, Ben. I've only just finished Season One, Episode Two so I appreciate the lack of spoilers here. One day, I will catch up!
@get2sammyb get it down ya, Barker!
So, Vita version of 1st season doesn't worth to buy? It is for 5$ now in US PSN. Want to buy it for plat and 400 days DLC... Didn't play 400 days on PS3.
@Gemuarto The performance is terrible. Like really laggy.
Great Review Ben. I am really enjoying this Season so far and I can't wait for more.
Tap here to load 11 comments
Leave A Comment
Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...