The Walk­ing Dead: All That Re­mains

EDGE - - PLAY - Pub­lisher Tell­tale Games De­vel­oper In-house For­mat 360, iOS, PC (ver­sion tested), PS3 Out now

The cast of The Walk­ing Dead’s TV in­car­na­tion may have spent most of the sec­ond sea­son hun­kered down on Her­shel’s farm do­ing lit­tle more than fall­ing in and out of favour with each other, but Tell­tale takes no time at all to re­as­sure you that it has no in­ten­tion of its story fol­low­ing suit. All That Re­mains, the first in­stal­ment of this episodic ad­ven­ture’s long-awaited Sea­son Two, is barely five min­utes old be­fore Tell­tale punches you in the gut. It’ll find room to do it an­other cou­ple of times dur­ing this opener’s two-hour run­time, too. Noth­ing has changed.

And yet ev­ery­thing has changed, be­cause (spoiler alert) Lee’s gone. The lens through which we played Sea­son One, which ce­mented Tell­tale as one of mod­ern gam­ing’s finest sto­ry­tellers, suc­cumbed to the zom­bie virus in the fi­nal episode, leav­ing his adopted charge on her own. Sea­son Two opens with con­fir­ma­tion of the first run’s cli­mac­tic tease: Clementine’s now un­der the care of Christa and Omid, the bit-part cou­ple ex­pect­ing their first child. Within min­utes they’re pushed apart, and Clem finds her­self back where she started: alone in a world dev­as­tated not just by a zom­bie apoca­lypse, but also by the ef­fects of ter­ror on ev­ery­day people. Yet while Lee’s ab­sence is felt keenly – any game would suf­fer for the loss of such a finely crafted re­la­tion­ship – at least we’re still here. Now, in­stead of giv­ing Clem guid­ance through Lee, we’re do­ing it di­rectly.

Clem’s a lit­tle older now, but still sport­ing that base­ball cap, still keep­ing that hair short. She’s still lug­ging that back­pack, too, and an early rum­mage through its con­tents un­earths a torn pic­ture of her de­parted sur­ro­gate fa­ther, as well as a crude sketch of Kenny and fam­ily, both of which we’re given the op­tion to burn in the hope of keep­ing a fire go­ing. We refuse, nat­u­rally. Lee may be gone, but our de­sire to keep Clem safe from harm – phys­i­cal and men­tal – en­dures.

Me­chan­i­cally, lit­tle has changed: this is the same blend of point-and-click ex­plo­ration, di­a­logue choices and fraught, QTE-packed set-pieces, al­though the but­ton prompts have been re­designed in line with the new house style Tell­tale laid down in The Wolf Among Us. Yet this frame­work is given fresh con­text by the per­son you guide through it. Where Lee’s gait was cau­tious yet con­fi­dent, the walk of a man afraid of what was round the cor­ner but sure he could over­come it, the mere sight of Clem in mo­tion sets the teeth on edge. She creeps gin­gerly through a for­est, jump­ing out of her skin when a cou­ple of crows fly out of a nearby bush. She tip­toes, ter­ri­fied, around the out­side of a house she knows holds much-needed med­i­cal sup­plies. And when she comes to a high ledge, it takes her a cou­ple of tries be­fore she can jump high enough to reach it. It’s a smart way of mak­ing you feel vul­ner­a­ble, re­in­forced by sub­tle cin­e­matic fram­ing – a long shot of her alone in the for­est; a close-up of her panic-stricken face.

The com­bat, how­ever, pre­sents a con­cern. Lee’s bat­tles were clumsy and im­pro­vi­sa­tional, and Clem was clearly pay­ing at­ten­tion. She knows that, in a pinch, she must look off to the side, be­cause there’s nor­mally a brick or a rake with which to keep an un­dead ag­gres­sor at bay. She’s learned, too, that you keep swing­ing a claw ham­mer un­til the groan­ing stops. Yet it’s hard not to think of Square Enix’s Tomb Raider re­boot, where the scared, frag­ile char­ac­ter of the open­ing mo­ments be­came an un­stop­pable killing ma­chine by the game’s end – and, worse, a will­ing one. Main­tain­ing Clem’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity over the course of the next five episodes might just be the tough­est chal­lenge Tell­tale faces.

The stu­dio’s best chance of over­com­ing that ob­sta­cle is its choice sys­tem. Through­out All That Re­mains’ twohour run­time, you’ll have am­ple op­por­tu­nity to shape Clem’s char­ac­ter. Our Clem was by turns snarky, sin­cere and out­right hos­tile to those she met, but if you want her to be re­lent­lessly un­pleas­ant, a girl em­bit­tered by heart­break and loss, you can make her so. Be­fore they’re sep­a­rated, Clem tells Christa they need to find a group, and you sus­pect that’s as much about the needs of Tell­tale’s writ­ing staff as it is about safety in num­bers. Clem dis­cov­ers one soon enough, hun­kered down in a house in the mid­dle of the for­est, and they’re nat­u­rally sus­pi­cious. Par­tially, of how a girl made it so far on her own – sev­eral of them speak of an an­tag­o­nist named Carver as if he’s Lord Volde­mort him­self, sus­pect­ing Clem of work­ing for him – but mostly of the bite on her arm, her claims that it wasn’t the work of a walker fall­ing on deaf ears. They come round even­tu­ally. Most of them, any­way.

It’s early days for this group, of course, but we’ve al­ready got our Kenny. You’ll think it’s Nick at first: with his mul­let and base­ball cap, he’s a dead ringer for Sea­son One’s bête noire when viewed from be­hind, and his first ap­pear­ance sees him loose off a shot­gun blast inches from Clem’s midriff. Yet this is an­other Tell­tale red her­ring. The true vil­lain of the piece is Re­becca, a sour-faced, heav­ily preg­nant woman who’s hos­tile from the off. By the episode’s end, you’ll have some dirt on her, and it’s sure to come in handy.

All That Re­mains, like Sea­son One open­ing salvo A New Day, does a fine job of set­ting the scene while pro­vid­ing enough ac­tion and story beats to en­sure it feels like more than a teaser trailer to drive sales of the sea­son pass. Yet at two hours, it’s short even by Tell­tale’s stan­dards, and its cli­max is dis­ap­point­ingly abrupt, fad­ing to black with a set­piece in full flow. Cliffhanger end­ings are fine when the next episode of a TV show is days away, but less so when the wait is likely to last a cou­ple of months. Yet Tell­tale has al­ready achieved some­thing re­mark­able, prov­ing – to both Clem and to you – that there’s life af­ter Lee.

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