Telltale shocked the gaming world in 2012, with a digital point-and-click adventure distributed in a episodic format. The game didn't have a big budget, it didn't have a big marketing machine behind it, and graphically it was below average. Even so, against all odds, it won several Game of the Year awards. Backed by an extremely powerful script, inspired by the universe of the Robert Kirkman's comics, The Walking Dead managed to thrill and captivate players like few games had before.
That first season, consisting of five episodes (six if we count the 400 Days DLC, which is now included in The Complete First Season), was recently followed up by five new episodes. Altogether there are 11 episodes, divided into two seasons, that have now arrived at the new generation of consoles. You can acquire both through PSN and Xbox Live, or in stores for £25 a pop.
The Walking Dead: Season Two is a direct sequel to the first season, and although you can play the new story without knowing what happened before, it is highly recommended you do so. Season Two will read your save file (there is no way of importing the PS3 or Xbox 360 version before you ask), but if it does not detect any save, the game will game starts with random choices, which seems a bit lazy. A system in the style of Mass Effect, which combined a summary of previous events would allow the player to make their decisions at key moments, would have been a more interesting choice, but the game doesn't miss the opportunity to try and sell you the first season before you set out on the second.
In this second season you will take on the role of Clementine, the girl you had to protect in the first season. Though not much older in terms of age, the events she witnessed during recent months forced her to mature. She is now fully aware of the reality of the situation, and she is able to fend for herself.
Her importance throughout the narrative is tremendous, sometimes to excess. As the player has to make many important decisions, the group typically looks at Clementine for answers, and that's not very credible considering her age. Similarly, there are some situations that seemed slightly forced, where characters had exaggerated attitudes to create tension or surprise. Still, neither of these two elements is severe enough to ruin what is, overall, a tremendous script and a gripping narrative.
The story has an overall arc to follow, but each episode takes place in a different location, and follows a specific event. As you can guess, being The Walking Dead, some of these events are related to zombies, or Walkers, as they are referred to as in the game. However, what drives the game and the story is the relationships and conflicts between humans.
Although this is an adventure game, The Walking Dead is not really about solving puzzles, but rather taking part in dialogues and making choices. Sometimes, the consequences of a decision might not be immediately clear, and they can come back later to haunt you. Other times you will be faced with seemingly impossible choices, and regardless of the decision, something will always go wrong. The game also creates some tension in the way it presents these decisions to players. In a quiet conversation you usually have time to think about what to say, but in situations of danger or emergency, you have two or three seconds to make a decision that could have major repercussions on how the rest of the story unfolds.
The Walking Dead: Season Two, like its predecessor, is a very emotional experience. The characters are memorable, the script is generally superb and the performances of the actors are brilliant. We're just sad to realise some decisions don't actually have the impact we first thought, as we replay the story. There are some decisions that have a massive impact on the story, but others end up having the same result, regardless of what the player chooses.
As for specific additions to the new generation, there isn't much to talk about. The game is more polished, but as mentioned above, The Walking Dead is not impressive in technical terms. It is however necessary to emphasise the quality of the facial animation of the characters and the effectiveness of the soundtrack, which exemplary fulfills its role of enhancing emotions.
Which is better, Season One or Season Two? We'd have to go with the first if pushed, but the second season is also fantastic. This is the story of one of the most cherished characters in gamer hearts - Clementine - and is one of the strongest narrative experiences of the year, regardless of the medium, with the added bonus of it being interactive. If you like a good story and appreciate the concept of The Walking Dead, go and play Season One and Season Two consecutively. That could easily be your best gaming experience of the year.
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