The Walking Dead: A New Frontier - Episode 1: Ties That Bind Part I (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 29.12.2016

Review for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier - Episode 1: Ties That Bind Part I  on PlayStation 4

Since Telltale's epiphany moment with its original The Walking Dead series, it has been gathering up plenty of licences to incorporate into its engine and interactive story system - Fables, Minecraft, Game of Thrones, and even Batman. Some have worked better than others but without a doubt, the story of Clementine and Lee is definitely some of their best work. Admittedly, though, the second season couldn't live up to the first, so how will the third measure up? With Telltale trying something a little different with the releases of this season, offering five episodes in A New Frontier, but with the first two being released together as a special two-part premiere, Cubed3 delves in to see how well it starts off. For a look at The Ties That Bind Part I on PC, check out this review.

Clementine has been the star of the show in Telltale's The Walking Dead titles, thus far, but here players are not introduced to the erstwhile hero until a decent length through the first episode. Instead, they are whisked way back to the first days of the outbreak and introduced to the Garcia family. Ex-baseball player Javier Garcia's life was already falling apart before the zombie apocalypse, since after getting caught betting on himself his career was cut short and his relationship with his family was not the best. The series introduces Javier - or Javi - on the day his father dies. After being berated for not being there when his father passed, Javi gets to see his first walker rise from the corpse of his father.

Screenshot for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier - Episode 1: Ties That Bind Part I  on PlayStation 4

After that harrowing first experience, the story jumps to four years later where Javi and his Sister-in-Law Kate are travelling across the country with his niece and nephew (Kate's step-children), just trying to survive. This makeshift family makes for a great jumping off point for the series, setting up an interesting dynamic amongst the group. The kids are teenagers and, of course, dealing with mood swings and rebellious attitudes, especially towards their foster family. Strong characters that the audience can connect with have always been the lifeblood of a good Telltale story and this initial episode provides characters filled with promise.

Strong likeable characters aren't the only Telltale mainstay, though, as the Telltale game formula and engine have remained much the same - although this series is made with the slightly newer engine recently seen in Batman - and true to form this new series relies on tried and tested mechanics in the crafting of the game. The player interactions are relegated to QTE events in a number of different forms - picking headshots off against the roaming undead, pressing a face button to quickly interact with the on-screen action, and so on. Telltale's method of gameplay has always been very polarising and those who don't enjoy it will find nothing here to change their minds.

Screenshot for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier - Episode 1: Ties That Bind Part I  on PlayStation 4

Another familiar Telltale aspect returning here is the hard choices to make. Like the best Telltale titles, A New Frontier challenges the player with decisions that often fall into the morally grey area, delivering legitimate drama and surprising moments based on those decisions. There's no way to discuss these decisions without going deep into spoiler territory, but these hard choices, combined with a truly compelling story, results in a quality Telltale release. The cynical out there will go on about how these decisions won't alter the major story beats, and, of course, to some extent they won't, but they alter the story sufficiently enough here to craft a unique experience, at least.

Okay, so there is a makeshift nuclear family thrust into the middle of the zombie apocalypse with just a truck and a few supplies and a herd of walkers four hours behind them. The first and second episodes take that family and put them up against the biggest threat of The Walking Dead universe: other people. A simple stop off at a junkyard looking for some fuel, and hopefully food, puts the group on a collision course with people who don't like to share. Soon enough, Javi is all alone and introduced to the series' heroine, Clementine. She's older and wiser here, after having survived the many traumas and disasters of the first two seasons and the pair unite in a temporary alliance to reunite Javi with his family. These premiere episodes spend most of the time setting up the board and arranging the pieces, starting the relationships and dynamics in Javi's family, establishing a post-apocalyptic Wild West-style town and, of course, introducing a group of antagonists.

Screenshot for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier - Episode 1: Ties That Bind Part I  on PlayStation 4

Telltale's cloud saves mean that Clementine's journey so far can be brought into this new story, and those who don't have a save file for whatever reason can craft a journey by deciding on some of the big choices through the first two seasons. Whether Clem left Lee to turn or put him out of his misery, if she met up with Kenny or Jane - each of these decisions helps in delivering a different Clem here, changing her attitude to some things and showing flashbacks that differ depending on those choices. These flashbacks are a real high point, showing what happened to each of the characters between Season Two and Three and will justify multiple save files to experience every part of Clem's journey. They are also, as of right now, the only place to continue playing as Clem, with Javi the controllable character the rest of the time.

The new Telltale Engine shows itself here in the minor details; the characters are now a great deal more expressive and emotive, which helps in getting across subtle emotional moments without needing constant exposition. Despite this improvement, the engine still suffers from the same old problems as the previous one: frame-rate stutters and animations bug out, along with the usual lip syncing issues.

Screenshot for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier - Episode 1: Ties That Bind Part I  on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

With so many disappointments in recent Telltale titles, it's fantastic to see the team recreate the magic of Clementine's earlier stories in A New Frontier. It manages to introduce a great cast of likeable characters that have their own tale to tell, while also expanding Clementine's saga. This feels like a return to the form of the glory days of the first season of The Walking Dead, or even The Wolf Among Us, so here's hoping the team can keep the quality up for the rest of the series.

Developer

Telltale

Publisher

Telltale

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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