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Games review: The Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 1

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NEARLY two years on from its debut, Telltale’s episodic adaptation of The Walking Dead television series has come to be regarded as one of the most accomplished examples of storytelling in gaming.

The Walking Dead, Season 2, Episode 1 - Xbox 360 (Reviewed) / PC / iOS

Score: 7.8 / 10

Its choice of inspired source material allied to an incisive script saw it gather momentum and critical praise with every installment.

While Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us franchise shows great promise, fans have been waiting nervously to see if the success of The Walking Dead can be repeated with a new season, new storylines and new characters. The first episode, enjoyable though it may be, offers no conclusive answers.

‘Trust anyone at your peril’

Entitled All That Remains, the game’s protagonist, Clementine, is a familiar face. She is only 16 months older, but after a lifetime’s worth of experiences by the side of Lee Everett, has a hardiness and maturity beyond her years.

These qualities are vital for survival and Clementine must rely on them time and again. One early scene in particular offers a jolting reminder that an act of benevolence can quickly segues into a bloodied battle. The lesson is clear - trust any man or beast at your peril.

The new-found steeliness in Clementine’s character feels like a natural progression given her harrowing route into adolescence. Occasionally, an unnecessary monologue outstays its welcome, but for the most part writers Nick Breckon and Andrew Grant do not overemphasise the transition. At heart, she remains a vulnerable young girl being forced to take exceptional decisions, rather an an all-conquering heroine.

This contradiction is well realised in the quicktime action scenes, where Clementine cannot rely on brute strength. Rather than one blow, she must strike foes repeatedly with whatever makeshift weapon is to hand, wearing them down in gory fashion. Such scenes are unrelenting, yet serve a dramatic purpose.

New cast of characters

The dramatic exposition elsewhere, unfortunately, is less successful. The game hurriedly introduces a new cast of characters en masse and concludes without the sense of any significant relationships having been forged.

One uninspired scene in particular sees Clementine sitting down, before a succession of individuals come in one by one to hold conversations; the teenager Sarah, meanwhile, is hopelessly naive and feels like a prop designed to emphasise Clementine’s loss of innocence.

In Telltale’s defence, All That Remains is just the first of five parts. Time will tell whether the latest tranche of episodes achieve a coherent and compelling narrative, and whether the switch in protagonist encourages players to take a different moral route.

Given the way the first season grew in stature over the latter half of 2012, the firm deserves the benefit of the doubt. It may, though, end up being the victim of its own success.

 

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