The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is the fourth instalment of the popular Telltale series based on the Walking Dead graphic novels and is the third season in the story that follows Clementine on her path to surviving the apocalyptic world filled with infected walkers while scavenging the limited resources and secure shelter. In this instalment though there is a shift in direction as players take control of a new character called Javier Garcia who crosses paths with Clementine in what could be described as a more action oriented story compared to the more emotional driven rollercoaster that both seasons one and two portrayed so prominently which is a good change of pace for the series to adopt. There are a few occasions where emotional decisions have to be made but the overall experience feels slightly more intense than what has been done before in this series.
With the main focus being on the events that are set a few years after Season Two, there is a fair amount of backstory added in there too in the form of flashback scenes and the game throws you in to one of these straight away where our new protagonist is introduced at the very start of the outbreak, which sets the tone of the main story in present day seamlessly. The flashbacks play a big part this time around though, occurring throughout the main story at random times and acting as an in depth insight into the new characters, telling the back story of Javier and his family, but it also covers the events of what Clementine had to deal with between the end of season two and up to the point that she meets Javier in Season Three. It all works really well and keeps things flowing nicely and by switching back and forth, it gave me a deeper insight into the characters, giving me a sense of compassion towards them and that had me rooting for them to get through the hell they’re going through because of their past and what they had already been through to get where they are.
One of the things that really stands out though is the character development of Clementine and how the previous seasons have made her into the character she is in A New Frontier. Her experiences and decisions from the previous two seasons really shine through with personality traits and survival instincts that she has learnt from past encounters with survivors such as Lee, Jane and to a point Kenny as well. The overall story is well written which doesn’t come as a surprise considering Telltale’s reputation and form for their story telling, particularly in their Walking Dead series, so it should come as no surprise that the standard we have come to expect from Telltale is present here. There are many decisions to be made throughout all five episodes and some have severe consequences whereas others are less impactful, but there were a few moments where I was completely torn in which decision I should make, especially in a tense situation, but this is something that Telltale have always done well and it’s no different here.
Anyone familiar with Telltale games will also be familiar with their art style for their games and A New Frontier is no different and is probably their best looking game to date. Visuals are sharp and refined, recreating the look of a graphic novel faithfully but unfortunately it doesn’t come without its issues. Some animations are jerky and dated with some clipping and a mild case of pixels stuttering on occasions but It’s something that has appeared in most Telltale games in some form previously and it doesn’t seem to be going away. The engine that they use feels tired now but with current generation consoles and with the impending release of Project Scorpio I think it’s time that Telltale create a new engine that can utilise the ever increasing power of consoles and call it a day on the very dated one that they are currently using. It certainly isn’t a bad looking game in terms of the art direction that they utilise, it just has issues that really shouldn’t be appearing that have been ever present since titles released on Xbox 360. As always though the performances of the characters are really good, with convincing voice acting that compliments the well told and well written story. There isn’t a single weak performance in the cast and it is all accompanied by the signature musical score and the atmospheric tone that The Walking Dead games are known for.
I found the gameplay to be very quick time heavy in this season, more so than in the other two seasons that’s for sure. This could be because of the faster pace that I mentioned earlier and the more action packed tone that the game adopts. There is some exploring to do but doesn’t happen as often as I would have liked with the focus mainly being put on dialogue choices and surviving the intense action sequences. All of the quick time events are well done and really add to the tension that this season is focused around and there were a few occasions that had me sitting forward to concentrate on at certain points, making sure I hit every movement I should of and not dying in the process. Just like past games in the series, it’s definitely worth playing through again to make different choices that impact how the story changes, particularly towards the last two episodes. As with the visuals though the gameplay engine overall feels dated and clunky particularly in the few exploration parts where player movement around areas feels quite stiff and lacks fluidity, but again I think this is down to the dated mechanics that Telltale have been using for quite some time now but the game doesn’t play badly overall it just feels very dated and certainly needs freshening up for the next season.