(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)
- The Game Itself
- 3.5 Stars
- The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
- 2.5 Stars
- The Audio: Rating the Sound
- 4.5 Stars
- Replay Factor
- 4 Stars
- Bottom Line
The Walking Dead Season 2: All That Remains
- Street Date:
- December 17th, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Trevor Ruben
- Review Date:1
- February 26th, 2014
- Game Release Year:
- Xbox 360
- Telltale Games
- Telltale Games
Xbox 360 version reviewed. The High-Def Digest review of the PC version is available here. This review contains some spoilers for 'The Walking Dead: Season 1.'
Telltale returns to its critically acclaimed zombie lovefest, 'The Walking Dead,' based off the comics of the same name, with season two's first episode, 'All That Remains.' Taking the series in a new direction, players take control of Clementine, the adorable, innocent little fan favorite from the first season. This first episode of the second season has a lot to live up to as 'The Walking Dead: Season 1' took home more awards and accolades than anybody with a wallet would've bet. The first series took gaming into uncharted territory with its compelling story sprinkled with plot-altering decisions, and now it's up to Telltale to keep the streak going. This may be the most anticipate second season in video game history.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Without Lee, Clementine's zombie-filled world is a very dark place. Before it was merely dark, maybe even just darkish at times, but now it's an absolute hellhole of despair, distrust and calamitous outlooks. I could have told you that after the first scene of 'All That Remains.'
After an entire episode of it I'm inclined to assume the worst for our young protagonist, and that in itself is a deep contrast to the first season's comparatively gray world. Right now that doesn't make the story better, just different, though at a time when dark zombie tales are the norm, I wouldn't call it refreshing either.
Bottom line: Clementine, in the time between the end of season one and the end of this episode, has grown into a capable, much more jaded character. Whereas the riveting core of season one was the relationship between Lee and Clementine, the burgeoning focal point of season two is Clementine on her own, adjusting to independence of mind and survivability. In a mere two hours she goes through some pretty harsh stuff, some of it queasy at the least, and in one way or another she's totally on her own.
And because it's just two hours long, like most of the previous episodes, I can't very much get into specifics without spoiling even the slightest bit of Clementine's lonesome journey. Eventually she comes across a new group of people, a new boiling pot of conflicting morals and objectives that seems a good a place as any to match the best moments from season one. I find it hard to believe that the decisions players were forced to make in season one will ever be matched in season two, whether it's choosing to save Kenny's son or kill Lilly's father, but I'm holding out hope.
As a setup episode, however, 'All that Remains' doesn't quite establish its new characters effectively enough to create poignancy in those crucial decision moments. Only the final decision felt impactful to the story, the rest either ambiguous in their effect or just momentarily intriguing. That said, now I know how I'd treat man's best friend in certain circumstances.
As for the actual gameplay, what's there has the player searching nooks for materials, dodging and killing zombies and, of course, enacting an important decision, this first episode felt oddly linear. My fellow reviewer, Mike Flacy, and I agree on this point. Understanding that every episode of 'The Walking Dead' is essentially linear with only a facade of branching possibilities, I felt more heavily ushered in one direction or another as I guided Clementine through her various hardships. It lacked that feeling of autonomy I had when controlling Lee. Hopefully as the cast diversifies and the scenarios grow more complex this feeling will return.
But there's a flipside. To Telltale's credit, Clementine, a small girl, feels rightfully weak and desperate, which, I imagine, will slowly reverse as season two goes on. Lee was a full grown adult and was naturally more in control of his surroundings. Clementine is in the process of growing. It's clear this is a big element for season 2 and I'm genuinely excited to continue her story. Whether that's a side effect of last season's greatness or can be attributed to this episode's buildup is a question I have yet to answer. It's probably a combination of both.
Still, I'll always miss Lee and his stump.
I do have one essential gripe. There's a severe lack of lighting in many of the scenes, even if most of them take place a night. During one prolonged sequence, where Clementine is tasked with sneaking around a candlelit house, I was traveling from one black blob to another in search of materials. It took me ten minutes to find the stairs. They were in a pitch black corner. The house also felt much smaller than it should have, one hallway inexplicably inaccessible. It was the first invisible wall I've ever encountered in the series. My fear is this is a result of the game's rushed release, but maybe it was a simple oversight. It's also an extension of this episode's decided linearity. We'll see if it's a trend in episode two.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Telltale has done very little to improve or even augment the visual component to the series. While the style is still as intriguing as ever, no one can say the first season was without its technical failings. Now, in season two, we're still stuttering our way past jarring load screens at an alarming rate. It was almost endearingly scrappy the first time around, but I can't forgive Telltale for ignoring these problems when they had the chance to fix them. The developer is clearly more concerned with putting out content rather than improving its tech. I want to be able to say it doesn't matter as long as the story is great, but I just can't. I'm weak that way. I want it to run as smoothly as possible so I'm not ripped out of a scene in the moment that it loads.
There's also the issue with lighting, which needs to improve for nighttime scenes.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Melissa Hutchison reprises her role as Clementine, paving the way once again for stellar audio work and a superbly written script. Even if the focus is a little narrowed this time around, the characters are just as fleshed out as before, and Hutchison has done a great job at ageing Clementine in both her voice and inflection. A fair bit of time has passed in the lead-up to events in 'All That Remains,' yet I had very little difficulty believing Clementine had grown in that time. It keeps the character compelling and believable, which is vitally important to 'The Walking Dead' as a whole.
Five story-altering decisions are made in each episode, 'All That Remains' is no different, so going back will net you a new experience. Even more, choosing different dialogue options can change any conversation. For a game so heavily driven by narrative, the replay factor is off the charts. That said, it's a game heavily driven by narrative.
'All That Remains' is either the start to a great second season or the beginning of the end for a once great series. I simply don't know, and I won't know until getting into the rest of the season. The potential and the set-up is there, which is the baseline for a jumping off point. It could just be so-so, but then that would be a disappointment.
The direction Telltale is taking with Clementine is perfectly logical as stories go, but lacked immediate surprise and impact. The final scene cuts out abruptly, confident in the importance of its final moments, but the characters at the center of this flashpoint were barely known to me. Maybe later on I'll regret the decision I made, but right now I'm just curious if it mattered at all. Hopefully I'll be in tears soon. In a good, manly way.
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