Review: The Walking Dead: A New Frontier
Title: The Walking Dead: A New Frontier
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Android, iOS.
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Wired Productions
Release Date: Out now
Price: £25/$25 (for the whole season), Android/iOS: £5/$5 (per episode)
TL;DR: The weakest season of TWDG yet
Family Focus: Click here for more information.
The Walking Dead is an absurdly popular franchise right now. We’ve got novels, we’ve got comics, we’ve got far too many Funko Pops and we’ve even got shouts outs in Supernatural, of all things. Telltale’s The Walking Dead is a unique beast, in the sense that it’s an entirely different entity from the main, canonical universe, which means it’s got its own set of beloved characters that the fandom are more than a little bit overprotective of.
In particular, Telltale’s version of The Walking Dead, has Clementine, the cute little girl beloved by all. So that’s why it’s too bad that season three of the Telltale Games series has Clementine practically nowhere to be found.
This time around, we have Javier “Javi,” Garcia, a Cuban-American ex-baseball star who’s thrown into the midst of the zombie apocalypse with his family, and because this is The Walking Dead, everything goes tits up about five minutes in. Javi is left alone with Kate, his sister in law, and his niece and nephew, Gabriel and Marianna, both of whom are firmly convinced their dad is coming back for them. David, their father, vanished a couple of years back at the beginning of the outbreak, and they eventually find him, as the leader of this mysterious group called “The New Frontier.”
…Oh yeah, and Clem’s just chilling around and just so happens to make the truck that Javi’s taken hostage in, crash, and decides to trust him, all of a sudden, and take him to Prescott, along with his family. Because after what happens in Season 2, Clementine’s definitely up for trusting strangers again.
Because season two was Clementine’s story, a lot of fans, including myself, assumed until very late in season three’s development, that she was going to be the lead character. This works on a number of levels, most notably because we’ve already become attached to her, and we want to see her story through. Javi, though, is a stranger. Initially, this worked kind of well, because in episode one, it gave us a nice lens to frame Clementine through; this isn’t the cowering child we first met, and she’s very obviously gone off the deep end, like I mentioned in my choices article.
Quickly afterwards, though, it becomes apparent that this is Javier and Friends, all the way through, and Clementine is just a side character. Admittedly, this isn’t unreasonable, but Javi isn’t an interesting character. Clementine has the hardened child soldier aspect about her, appearance at odds with her personality, because you really didn’t expect a nine year old to be hacking off Walker heads. Javi is… bland. He’s basically the every man. The most interesting thing about him is that he’s bisexual, has Cuban heritage, and for some reason seems hell bent on shacking up with his sister in law. He doesn’t have a lot of strength as a character, because “I want to be strong and protect my family!!!” is a very, very tired motivation.
The rest isn’t much better. Kate’s unhappy marriage is her plot-line, and she never even works up the guts to leave and instead lets Javi break the news; she’s pushed by Telltale as the love interest, despite poll results for the choices saying the players really didn’t want that. David’s a full blown psychopath for no good reason, and I didn’t understand why the game kept insisting no, he’s a really good guy, he’s totally not running a corrupt organisation that’s a complete clone of every settlement we’ve seen in the game so far. It’s not even made clear why The New Frontier are so terrible; they don’t start really doing terrible things until later on. So they’re bad because they… raid other settlements? A ton of settlements do that; are these guys really worse than Carver?
I’d honestly say Gabriel is the only character with a decent arc – his fate differs in the final episode, but I got the one that I felt was most fitting for his childish, idiotic character who was trying to show off in the middle of the end of the world. And his “relationship,” with Clementine, which was brought up out of nowhere, and forced them together with no chemistry at all, was awful beyond words. She cried over him. The girl who has been to hell and back and lost everyone she loved, cried over a boy she’d known less than a week.
The whole plot this season is just dull. The other side characters that Javi meets are barely on screen long enough for us to get to know them, and for some reason, family drama trumps zombies, this time around. It starts out as a group struggling to survive as a family, but quickly devolves into Kate and David shouting about their marriage, Javi trying to be a tough guy, Gabriel whining, and Clementine awkwardly planted into the scenario. Plus, it doesn’t seem to be following on from the previous season at all; it’s shifting all the focus on to the Garcia’s, and shifts the AJ plot to “Oh he’s missing,” for the majority of the season, and promptly don’t resolve it in the end, which begs the question of why I played it in the first place. Maybe this is why it was called A New Frontier as opposed to Season Three? Because this felt like a stand alone title rather than a sequel.
It’s also incredibly short. The first season was around fourteen hours long, with actual replay value, because your choices were more weighty. Whilst the choices are a little better this time around (there’s multiple endings with different factors, and certain characters will have different arcs depending on your actions), stuff like the Kate/Javi and Clementine/Gabriel romances are insistently pushed on the player. The first couple of episodes can take as little as thirty minutes to complete, which is criminal considering the season pass disc costs £25 alone. The gameplay has also been really stripped down; before, you had optional conversations and actions, as well as general exploration and viewing options. Now there’s absolute minimal exploration, dialogue options, and quick time events, and nothing more.
Graphically, it looks a little smoother, but the lip sync was really, really off this season. Barely any of it matches up to the actual mouth movements, and it always seems like it’s half a beat behind. Honestly, there’s nothing really I can praise about A New Frontier; it may as well have been a DLC that has no impact on the main game whatsoever, since we learn very little about the overarching plot. It’s definitely the most disappointing season to date.
- The graphics look nice
- What little there is of Clementine is decent
- Episodes are far too short and stripped of content
- Javi is a bland character
- Little to no continuation from The Walking Dead Season 2
Family Focus – The Walking Dead: A New Frontier
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is rated PEGI 18 and ESRB M, for violence, strong language, gore, strong language, and drugs.
This review is based on a PS4 review code of the game purchased for the purpose of this review.