The Walking Dead: Season 2 – Episode 1: All That Remains (PlayStation 3)
Developer/Publisher: Telltale Games
Released: December 17th, 2013
MSRP: $4.99, $19.99 (Season Pass)
“Previously, on The Walking Dead.”
It’s a phrase we’ve heard several times before, followed immediately by a wince-inducing recap of the previous episode of Telltale Games’s point-and-click adventure. As the Season Two opener, “All That Remains” serves up what is essentially a supercut of an entire season’s harrowing events. Emotionally speaking, it’s kind of the pits, but don’t worry — things are looking much worse from here on out.
“All That Remains” offers you no emotional quarter; you’re thrown into The Shit mere minutes after you’ve choked down the lump in your throat. With much of the previous cast dead, Clementine is left to take the reins as the playable protagonist. It’s uncertain whether you or Clem are less prepared for what’s ahead after the opening moments, but you both press on.
Unsurprisingly, playing as a child affects how one handles life-or-death situations. There are obvious physical limitations, of course, but where an adult such as Lee could command a base level of respect from strangers, kids like Clem are often marginalized. With limited opportunity to have your voice heard, words must be calculated.
That last bit about calculated phrase might be the most disturbing of all. The bulk of “All That Remains” takes place well over a year after the events of Season One, and the many months have clearly taken their toll on Clementine. When she meets a new group after Nerve-Wracking Experience No. 2 (a doozy, let me tell you), there’s an inherent distrust going both ways. Clem can be as kind as ever, but there are flashes of a deep-rooted toxicity in some of her dialogue choices that weren’t apparent before. It’s unsettling coming from the sweet kid that we spent so long protecting, proving once and for all that a total societal collapse ushered in by the zombie apocalypse would erode even the best of us.
And how could it not, when there are no right answers and death loiters at every corner? Even as the first episode of a new season that spends most of its time establishing new characters, “All That Remains” is disinterested in easing off the accelerator even a little. There are plenty of adrenaline highs and seeds of deception to go around, and you’ll be mentally spent by the end of the two-hour ordeal. This is indeed The Walking Dead, through and through.
The Walking Dead’s comic book aesthetic was never meant to strain your PS3, but Season One still looked a bit muddled and flat in parts. While Season Two isn’t a powerhouse either, it’s an improvement. Textures are a bit more detailed, and a warmer color palette gives it a very distinguishable look. Facial animations still leave something to be desired in regular conversation, but overall everything looks fine.
As always, the strength of The Walking Dead’s characters stems from the writing and voice acting. There are some genuine weirdos and creeps hanging around our beloved Clementine, and I’m anxious to see how they’ll grow on and/or repulse us all in the coming episodes. I’ve got my eye on the off-puttingly friendly and terribly abrasive alike.
The Walking Dead: Season Two has an awful lot to live up to, and “All That Remains” is a frenzied if slightly disjointed opening act. How your decisions from the previous season factor in aren’t apparent just yet, and there a couple of combat glitches that, while ultimately harmless, caused a couple of unwarranted deaths at points.
It’s not the caliber of the rip-roaring start from Season One or even Telltale’s other project, The Wolf Among Us, but there’s plenty being laid out — including some distressing art in the chapter select screen — that anyone playing through “All That Remains” will want to see the new season through to the end.