Title: The Walking Dead, Season 2
Genre: Adventure, interactive story
Platform Reviewed On: Playstation 4 ($29.99)
Also Available On: Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC, Mac, Playstation Vita
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: August 2014
This game is rated M for mature audiences (over age 17). Some spoilers for Season 1 follow.
Classifying Telltale Games' Walking Dead series would be an exercise in futility. Some don't call it a video game at all. But to miss out on the brilliant storytelling of this series, based on the Robert Kirkman comic book series as opposed to the wildly popular AMC television show, would be a mistake.
Season 2 picks up where the previous season left off. If you didn't play that game, I highly recommend doing so before diving into this season. You'll have a better handle of the gameplay, and many of the characters you'll meet have ties to the events of the highly acclaimed first season. Also, reading this review will spoil some of the events of the first game series, as it's impossible to talk about the storytelling in 2013's release without making passing mention of what happened before.
You play as Clementine this time around. Lee's death at the end of the first season still weighs heavily on you, and the clear theme from these five episodes is growing up. Though she's only 11, Clementine quickly becomes the leader of a new group of survivors, including the return of Kenny from Season 1.
Throughout the 10+ hours you'll spend with Season 2, you'll be asked to make several choices, some of them with wider reaching consequences than others. The Walking Dead plays like an interactive comic book, prompting you with quick time events and conversation choices as the story unfolds. If you were put off by the first season's mechanics, there's little here to change your mind. But if you were as hooked to the brutally violent and morally challenging escapades of the survivors in Season 1 as I was, you'll have a blast with the second installment.
The new characters are a bit of a mixed bag. Michael Madsen shines as William Carver, the megalomaniacal leader of an outpost who will prove your first main foil in the game. Christine Lakin also brings a powerful performance as Jane, a lone wolf type you'll have to recruit to stay with your band. Others, like Sarah, Nick and Carlos, are forgettable.
That's the main gripe I have with Season 2. The first installment of the game created a powerful relationship between the protagonist, Lee, and Clementine. The writers try to establish that same relationship with Jane, but the final episode lacks the punch that made the finale to Season 1 so damn heartbreaking. Also, I played the game on the Playstation 4 (it's available for almost every platform under the sun, with the exception of the Nintendo devices) and there was some stuttering in Episode 4. Also, Telltale hasn't quite figured out how to make the facial expressions of the characters match seamlessly with the decisions you make. You'll make a dialogue choice, then watch as the blank face of another character magically morphs into pleasure, or anger, depending on what you've said. It's a small gripe, but Telltale has had a lot of practice with this mechanic by now (in addition to the Walking Dead, they've done similar adaptations for Fables, Game of Thrones, Back to the Future and the Borderlands video game series), so I expect a little bit more.
Still, Clementine's adventures are an irresistible draw for fans of great storytelling, even if you're not a big video game fan. Waiting for the entire five-episode season to release is still the best (and cheapest) way to experience The Walking Dead, as discounted disc versions are now available. While the final climactic scene was a bit of a letdown after last season's stellar offering, you owe it to yourself to return to Telltale's Walking Dead universe.
Verdict: 4/5 stars