The Walking Dead video game series has seen plenty of success over the years. Telltale Games has decided that this will be the last journey we take with Clementine, with the release of The Walking Dead: The Final Season. Has the wait been worth it? How does this final season kick off? Time to find out in our review of Episode One.
Welcome Back Clementine
Clementine has aged, in more ways than one. Protecting AJ, who was only a few years old when we last saw him, has certainly not been easy. When The Final Season begins, AJ is around the same age that Clementine was when the whole series launched in 2012. Since he’s at such a malleable age, a certain points in the story, the two of them are presented with difficult decisions, which inform AJ on how he should behave. As a growing boy, Clementine’s lead results in AJ making some snap decisions, which could have ominous ramifications depending on the player’s choices. One decision in particular, at this first episode’s climactic finish, is jarring to say the least.
The story in The Final Season has a very strong start. Without going into spoilers, a brand new cast of characters becomes involved with Clementine and AJ. Overall, the writing in this season is some of the strongest yet. Characters have emotional statuses, which are revealed at the end of the episode. For instance, in my playthrough, a character by the name of Louis felt heartbroken. Hopefully, these statuses change dialog options and character behavior in future episodes. We’ll hold judgment for those until later, of course, but it seems Telltale Games has introduced some true variability in how other characters will react, long-term.
Speaking of length, this first episode of The Final Season is a tad longer than episodes of past seasons, clocking in at around 2.5 hours. There’s plenty of exposition setup and tense moments between Clementine and zombies, as well as other humans. Heck, there are even collectibles to discover within the episode, which can be put on display in a room that may or may not end up being a longer-term residence for Clementine and AJ.
Quicktime events are nothing new for The Walking Dead, and of course they make a return in The Final Season. A tweaked version occasionally pops up, where a reticle must be lined up with a target circle, and R2 is pressed to fire off an action, use an item, etc. The aiming area is generous, resulting in progress more than challenge, which, in a game so story-driven, is generally a desirable trait. Zombies can also be either stunned or killed when Clementine has a sharp object in her possession. Stunning zombies is used in groups to break them up, while killing is obviously permanent, but does take longer, making Clementine vulnerable to attacks from behind or her sides. It’s an interesting mechanic that we will hopefully see more of before this final season is done.
An Improved Engine
The Telltale Tool game engine has certainly had its fair share of issues over the years (Jurassic Park: The Game anyone?!). But things are finally starting to click, it would seem, as The Final Season is far and away the smoothest-running, best-looking iteration of The Walking Dead to date. Stuttering is not an issue during any action sequence, and failing a quicktime event is simply due to a failure to react in a generous amount of time. Graphically, things still have a cel-shaded kind of quality to them, while remaining realistic-looking. There is also an aesthetically-pleasing effect wherein certain aspects of the background are drawn in a sort of sketchbook method, in black and white. Besides showing the player (or observers) where to look, this likely also doubles as a technical shortcut to free up resources for the engine to dedicate to more important aspects of the game.
I’ll be the first to admit, the last couple of seasons of The Walking Dead weren’t nearly as strong as the first. Finally, it seems, Telltale Games has figured out how to send the series off with a bang. It’s still in the early days, but this first episode will have fans chomping at the bit to see how their choices affect others, and of course if Clementine and AJ will make it out alive. The Walking Dead: The Final Season is a great start, and is hopefully a sign that fans will receive the finale the series deserves.
The Walking Dead: The Final Season Episode One review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.