The Walking Dead: A New Frontier: Eps 1 & 2 ReviewPrice:
PC, PS4, Xbox One
Telltale’s brand of game design is an acquired taste. Some find the hard limits on interactivity and the studio’s peculiar interpretation of the word 'choice' frustrating. Others are happy to overlook these perceived flaws and enjoy the boldly drawn characters and pacey storylines that Telltale is so adept at creating.
Personally, I’ve always been in the latter camp, particularly when it comes to The Walking Dead. I thought the first season was superb, and enjoyed the second even though it evidently struggled to find a focus for its storyline beyond 'bad things happen to Clementine'. With a New Frontier, however, even I’m finding it difficult to ignore the mounting number of problems the series is failing to address.
This is doubly disappointing because the game’s title clearly suggests this is supposed to be a fresh start for the series. But it turns out to be more of a reset, attempting to bring back the glory days of Season One without making any meaningful changes to the game’s systems or the way in which the story is told.
The most significant alteration A New Frontier makes is, after stepping into the lead role for series two, Clementine now returns to her previous position as a side character. This time, the story centres around a young man called Javier, who is living on the road with his step-sister, nephew, and niece. In the absence of his brother (who is presumed dead, although we aren’t told this explicitly), Javier has taken on the role of both husband and father in the family, and seems to be doing a good job, having kept all of them alive and healthy in spite of the danger that constantly surrounds them.
It’s a surprisingly upbeat beginning. Javier is an immediately likeable protagonist, and the unusually genial atmosphere gives Telltale’s talent for wit and warmth a few moments to shine. There are problems, sure. Javier’s nephew Gabe is a teenager acting out in a world that simply cannot allow for adolescent rebellion. But mostly they seem like a typical family existing in a strange bubble of normality that’s somehow untouched by the horrific world they exist in.
This would be an intriguing premise for a new series of the Walking Dead: how a society where everyone has endured terrible loss reacts to a family who are still largely intact. But it isn’t long before Telltale are up to their old tricks. After an encounter with a group of survivors calling themselves The New Frontier, a chain of events causes Javier to be separated from his family and teamed up with an older, wiser, shotgun-toting Clementine.