Goon Review: The Walking Dead: A New Frontier: Above the Law

(Submitted by our Ho-rror Ho-mie, Mr. Andrew “Goon” Peters…Thanks, my freaky friend! 🙂 xoxo)

As I read the title for Episode 3 of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, Above the Law, I shouted “LEEEWWWW-AHHHH,” like Armand Asante as Judge Rico from the Judge Dredd movie. Anyone else? No, just me? Anyway, we last left Javi and his group at the mercy of The New Frontier so that Kate, who was just shot in the belly, could get some medical attention and who should come storming out of the gate to meet them? Javi’s brother, David, who they thought to have been dead this whole time and I’m sure he’s thought the same of them. Welp, get ready for an awkward family reunion.

Javi and David are clearly shocked to see each other alive and although David barely notices Gabe, he’s still happy to give him a hug nonetheless and is able to immediately get Kate some medical attention while Javi and the rest of the group get tossed in a cell. Looks like a happy family reunion is gonna have to wait so that the crew can basically recap the story up until this point. I found it odd that this time was just spent rehashing everything we just saw instead of moving it forward, but eventually David shows up to take Javi to meet with the other council members that will determine whether or not Javi’s group can stay and become part of The New Frontier. Hmm, a council of elder like folks that determine the greater good of the people? That never ends with deception and betrayal. I don’t foresee one of them screwing everyone over for personal gain in their own agenda…

But first, it’s time to visit Kate and it plays out about as awkward as you would think. Kate fakes pain to have a moment alone with Javi and of course David walks in at an almost opportune time. I don’t understand why they just don’t talk about it already. Kate’s feelings for Javi and her disdain for David becomes evident when she asks you to bail on this place with her and Gabe. No goodbyes, no explaining anything to David, just up and run. Your response to Kate feels like the first time in this episode that something may shape what happens later. Unfortunately, the rest of the episode feels void of this feeling.

Now that you are finally in front of the council, it’s time to see if you will fit in, but first the leaders; There’s a drug addicted doctor named Paul Lingard who is seemingly spineless, Clint the farmer who also seems spineless, then you have David (who we know) and that leaves us with Joan who is like if Roseanne Barr wanted hair like Rogue from X-Men. She’s a total ball buster and seems to have a power over the others. This becomes more predictable as this scene plays out and identifying the puppet master becomes quite easy, but Max appears to throw a monkey wrench in the situation and your rivalry comes forward. It doesn’t seem like no matter what answers you choose, the outcome is going to be the same; you aren’t allowed to stay… except for Kate and Gabe who are more than welcome, so David sends you packing and the dude doesn’t even seem to care. It was at this point I was starting to notice that there wasn’t any dire choices this episode, the choices I made don’t seem to have any weight, but we’re only about halfway through the episode, so there’s plenty of time for things to completely flip around. David isn’t completely without feeling and sends Ava out to give you a care package complete with a baseball bat and a map that has a location marked on it, so the group agrees to head there.

Along the way you run into someone who’s been missing throughout half the episode, Clementine. En route to this mystery location, Clementine explains to Javi why she hates David so much, via flashback in which you learn the fate of baby AJ as well as a council members drug abuse. Although I can see from Clementine’s point of view and understand why she hates David, you can also see that why David made the decision he made and was only looking for what was in the best interest of the group. This is something I picked up at this point is that David may not be the awful person Clementine has led us to believe. He genuinely seems to care about the people in his group and although his anger leads him to make brash decisions, he doesn’t seem deceitful. This episode rightfully focuses on David’s character and exploring it and even though at times you aren’t sure of ‘did he’ or ‘didn’t he,’ you get the feeling there is a greater evil out there, which we are about to find out.

Seeing as this episode has lacked an action sequence, one get tossed at you that is primarily just button mashing while trying to get a shudder door open. There is a bit of puzzle solving, but I wouldn’t even call it a challenge, but instead a race against a time. It’s supposed to get your heart rate moving, but by this point it’s kind of stale. Once inside the shelter after that close call, David arrives and you have a choice to open the door or not. Regardless of what you choose, it will open and once again, doesn’t seem to have any real effect. Javi and the group notice that the supplies in the shelter are from the Prescott Airfield, where you were previously attacked by The New Frontier, along with other places. David is pressed about the matter, but swears he has no knowledge of this and that’s confirmed once Max, Badger and some other thug arrive and exposition dump the hell out the plot, revealing the true culprit. Wanting some revenge for Mariana’s death, the group attacks. This is another Quick Time Event that requires a quick response seeing that even a split second too late results in your death. But if you die, no big deal, you just start right back where you left off.

The finale of the confrontation leaves you with a wounded Badger who you have the option to kill, let Conrad kill (if you didn’t kill Conrad in the previous chapter) or left him turn. I chose the latter, because fuck that scumbag. I get a feeling this may come back to bite me in the ass later, but I feel at this point, Javi really needs to be showing Gabe that murder isn’t necessary… even though we just shot that guy in the gut in self defense. Again, even though I still felt like this decision may come back around to me, at the moment it feels like it bears no weight and that’s something this episode truly lacks; the intense split decision making and the consequences. Even though the QTE’s were somewhat panic inducing, there was never a feeling if I did something incorrectly or my timing was off, it would affect the outcome of the game. In fact, it just resulted in my death in which case I was allowed to try again.

With this new information, the group forms a plan and splits up while Jesus leaves the group in what is the saddest moment thus far. He was such an interesting character and a lot about who he is or what he knows, what a damaged soul he is, is merely hinted at, but my guess is Telltale wanted to save him for a spinoff on a rainy day. Javi and David eventually confront Joan who in classic vaudeville villain style pours herself a drink and sips from it as she reveals herself to be the mastermind and her plan! I know it was supposed to be a shocking moment, but with how predictable it was mixed with how classically evil the display was, I couldn’t help but laugh.

Above the Law is so far the weakest of the episodes with no feeling of dire consequences and boring, button mashing QTE action sequences that are few and far in between. It does however pull a few punches with David’s character, making him somewhat of a believable good guy who is trying to do the right thing. This does make siding with Clementine against David this episode a little difficult, but ultimately the looming baddie Joan is about as a subtle as a Disney villain and regardless of your choices, you know you’re going to end up in the same position. That position, however, looks like it’s going to be leading to some really difficult choices. Consider this the calm before the storm.

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier- Ties That Bind Part 2

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thank you, Ho-rror Ho-mie! xoxox)

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Part One of Ties That Bind, the first episode of Telltale’s newest season of The Walking Dead, introduced us to a new character named Javi, an ex-baseball player that was trying to reconnect with his family when the outbreak happened and is now on the road with his brother David’s wife, Kate, and her stepchildren Gabe and Mariana. Along the way, shit happens as they tend to do in post apocalyptic zombie stories (how else would you get the plot moving?) and Javi is separated from his group and meets up with Clementine. The two get into all sorts of trouble that ends with Mariana, Javi’s ten year old niece, getting shot in the head by a group of assailants. The first episode tried to play against your senses and against what you would expect, but The Walking Dead  has been pulling that trick for so long, you come to expect any happen moment to end in bloodshed. Still, it was great episode and we’re happy to see Clem back and the story is really taking shape.

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The second episode, Ties That Bind Part 2, picks up immediately where you left off depending on the choice you made. Since I decided to stick with Clementine and bail on my family, Javi awoke after the explosion, the attackers have ran away in defeat, Clem thanks you for sticking with her, so that leaves only one thing left to do; bury your dead niece. Yes, that’s a part of the game and I have to say that I never thought I’d be attending a child’s funeral in a videogame, but here we are. It actually works for some emotional impact and it’s heartbreaking to see Javi breaking down, but luckily with Clem at his side, he keeps it together and the two head back to Prescott to check on Javi’s family. Gabe is still being an annoying brat and Kate is… well, Kate has had better days. Doesn’t look like she’s going to be making it much longer by the sound of things, but at the moment that’s the least of their worries as those jerks who attacked them, the ones who call themselves The New Frontier, are rolling up to the gates and demanding justice! Having Conrad’s girlfriend, Francine, as a prisoner, they snip off one of her fingers to get Javi to come down, but an untrusting Clem opens fire and everything goes to shit once again.

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Seriously, The Walking Dead, enough with the finger cutting offing.

It was during this action sequence, I started to realize how much button mashing was in the particular episode. More specially, the Q button on my keyboard. It seems like every action scene that follows requires you to mash the shit out of the Q key and it grows stale pretty quick. Anyway, the group makes it out alive, well except for Francine, to which Conrad has some choice words to say to Javi. Gabe will raise his gun at Conrad and you have the choice to either talk him down or talk down to him. You might be noticing that this is the case most of the time when dealing with Gabe and I’m just realizing the game is wanting us to shape him into the man he will become. Will he becomes good natured like Javi (if you are playing him that way) or will he become hot headed and dangerous like David, his father? It’s an interesting way to take this character development, similar to what you could do with Clem in the previous Walking Dead seasons. The group decides to head to Richmond, VA, assuming that nothing but good things await them there.

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After the situation diffuses the group finds themselves at a jam, literally. A couple of wrecked cars block their path and now is where you get to do some puzzle solving, kinda like what you did in Telltale’s Batman, only this is much more straightforward, almost like it’s on a rail. That does suck the fun and exploration out of it and makes it feel like a time consuming chore. Wouldn’t you know it, zombies await behind the wreckage and the group has once again fudged things up, but thanks to their new friend Jesus, they are able to find a way through the sewers and breaks the sour news to the group that The New Frontier has overtaken Richmond. Uh-oh, probably shouldn’t have sent Kate and Eleanor ahead. Jesus is by far the best thing about the game so far. Nicknamed after the lord and savior, this simultaneously trustworthy and untrustworthy dude talks like Christian Slater doing an impression of Jack Nicholson and does some near Matrix level martial arts, as he demonstrates once the group yet again makes the worst decision possible and makes the situation worse. But it does get worse for them. Clem reveals to Javi her true connection between herself and The New Frontier to which Conrad overhears and once separated from the others, threatens her with a gun and tries to convince Javi to side with him, using Clem as a bargaining chip once they reach Richmond. To further convince Javi, he puts a gun to Gabe’s head and you have a choice to either shoot Conrad or side with him. Wasn’t a hard decision for me.

Having reached Richmond, the group quickly finds the car with Kate inside and Eleanor missing, they also quickly find the gate to The New Frontier’s headquarters and Javi has a new plan; beg. Yup, walk right up to the gate and beg them to let you in for medical attention for Kate. A familiar face greets you at the gate and has reservations about letting you in, so you are given the choice of acting like a dick to him or trying to appeal to senses. No matter which path you take, it ends with a group of Frontier-ers coming down to take you in when you are greeted by their leader. Someone you know, someone you thought was dead and all the cliched, predictable storytelling moments in this episode lead up to this and I gotta say, I really can’t wait to see where it’s gonna go.

Clearly with the reintroduction to the familiar face at the end, Javi is going to have to make some hard choices, especially if you want to keep Clem as your friend. I think there are also going to be challenges with convincing Gabe to do the right thing, which is gonna make for a cool light side or dark side of the force kind of story arc with him. Although Ties That Bind Part 2 was full of stupid people making stupid decisions to move the story along, once the story got to where it wanted (which was at the end), it kinda made up for it, although I can’t forgive the repetitive button mashing action sequences that quickly wore thin. Nethertheless, episode 3, Above The Law (no, not the Steven Segal movie… although, that would be an awesome tie-in), should be out in about a week – February 7th-ish – and you know things are only going to get a hell of a lot uglier.

Goon Review: The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series – A New Frontier Episode 1: Ties That Bind

(Thanks so much to Mr. Andrew Peters for this radass review…I love all of TT’s TWD tit-les, and I shall be checking this one mout posthaste!! 🙂 xoxo)

Before we get started on the review, doesn’t that episode sound familiar? Like we’ve heard it before. Was this a title for another Walking Dead game or a superhero game of some kind? Anyway, it’s irrelevant. So, the third season of The Walking Dead subtitled A New Frontier debuted not only it’s first episode, but its second one as well, although for now we will only be talking about the first which is called Ties That Bind Part 1 and it does have some relevance into what happens. Personally, I would love a second season of The Wolf Among Us or Tales From the Borderlands, but I do want to see some closure with Clementine’s character, if done justice.

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Being the fourth Walking Dead series from Telltale, I was worried about this season coming off as stale, seeing as how TWD: Michonne was so milquetoast, it may as well not have existed. Not only that, any incarnation of TWD seems to pander to an audience that only wants to see gore and zombies, shaping itself after the television show. Michonne really suffered from having too many characters that had no substance and you didn’t care about them, which was extremely disappointing seeing as that’s what these games are known for. However, we’ve grown with TWD’s main character Clementine over two seasons. We’ve watched the decaying world – both the state of humanity and the physical form of them – tear away at her as she has resisted to become anything less, but the end of the second season saw her and Jane being pushed to the limit by an old friend.

However, A New Frontier doesn’t throw us right into Clementine’s situation yet. We’re introduced to a new character, Javi. The game opens right as the outbreak is taking place, but people aren’t really aware of it, as we see Javi running to his brother David’s home and explains that he’s late because the highway was congested. His brother insults him, even hits him, because their father died and Javi, being the favorite son, should have been there, but we learn that Javi was never really around. We’re also introduced to other family members, like David’s son Gabe, David’s wife Kate, which the two seem to have a mutual interest in one another and there are various other family members, but the only other one that really matters is Mariana, Javi’s younger niece. Suddenly, Mariana is bringing her grandfather’s favorite drinking cup to him as the others tell her that he’s sleeping, to which she tells them he isn’t… dun dun DUN! Not the strongest opening the series has had, but it was really decent, maybe even a little chilling. Javi’s got some potential to be a good character, so let’s see what’s in store.

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As they check the room, zombie gramps bites grandma on the face and another on the hand. David takes them to the hospital and Javi looks after Kate, Mariana and Gabe. We cut to someone time later and the four seem to have been traveling in a van not down by the river, but all over looking for food, gas, maybe even a home. Gabe and Mariana are asleep in the back seat, giving us the players some time with Kate and Javi to get to know them as Kate lights up a phatty and your first big choice is to toke with her or not. Okay, TWD, I get it. Weed’s legal now. This wakes up the kids just in time as you find a junkyard and you decide to explore it. Before doing so, you get a little bonding time with Mariana, kinda like how Lee did with Clem back in the first season. It was a nice touch to call back to that subtly, even if it doesn’t seem as strong. It’ll make sense when you play it.

Things go sour quickly after the group finds a cache of food and Javi is jumped by a group that seems to share a similar mark on their body, like they were branded like cattle. Javi lies about the having others with him and is en route to their base when a tree falls in the middle of the road, blocking the way and crashing the truck. Upon exiting, you have the option to shoot the driver or let him go, but that all depends on how cold blooded you are. Turns out that tree falling was no coincidence as the little saboteur reveals themself as… get ready for it… CLEMENTINE! She’s back and she’s a little older and has a potty mouth and an attitude. Oh Clem, what made you this way? Well, this is something you should know if you are playing with saved games from Seasons One and Two. The game shapes her and her past after what choices you made during your gameplay, which is very, very cool. If you don’t have any previous game saves, the games creates her past at random, so on my PS4 playthrough, I saw what happened to Clem and Jane after the events of the second season and although it was predictable, it was very sad because I liked Jane’s character. On my playthrough on PC that you can watch, I had no saves, so one was created for me and it was just uneventful and only led to Clem missing a finger for no reason. Huh, okay then.

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Clem and Javi pitstop at a safe town where the people seem friendly and you’re even introduced to a few new characters and get a little insight into Javi’s past. Personally, I liked Tripp who’s basically a loveable oaf. It doesn’t take long before Clem causes some problems and lands you in one of their homemade holding cells, but the most interesting thing is that nobody really seems to care about what happened. You’re given the option of sticking up for Clem or throwing her under the bus and if you do that, then I must believe you have no soul. You’re also given the option of sneaking out at night with one of the characters you met or waiting in the morning for Tripp to take you to the junkyard. Now, believe it or not, your choices will seemingly have a vastly different outcome. First time, I chose to sneak out only to arrive at the junkyard with two of my family members dead, so I went back and played again, waited for Tripp and got a much happier outcome… for the moment.

This is where the game really starts to take off. Seeing as how the truck is destroyed, Javi manages to convince Clem to head back to the junkyard to find his family and depending on how you converse with her, you can build a nice budding friendship, which is what I’m doing. I’ve missed Clem and I can’t be mean to her, seeing as we’ve already been through so much and I know what she’s lost. Once you reach the junkyard, it looks as if it’s been turned over and lit on fire, but you quickly find your family and everything seems like it’s going to be alright… yeah, sure. If there is one thing The Walking Dead tries to do way too much, it’s lull you into a false sense of security. I do have to admit, it kinda worked here. As Javi’s relationship was building with one of the characters, it became more clear what was going to happen, seeing as The Walking Dead just can’t help itself from steering away from this one trope, but it kinda got to me, especially as graphic as it happens. Your final choice is to stay and fight your attackers with Clem or bail with your family.

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After a long, overdue wait, Clementine is finally back and it’s great to see her again (especially after the remarkably disappointing Michonne). As gamers, we’ve grown up with Clem and to see her as the teenager she’s grown into is both depressing and you’re proud of her at the same time for making it as far as she has and depending on your choices, you get hints that she’s still the same girl you’ve grown to love. I’m excited to see what else she’s been up to since she’s been gone and at the time I’m scared at what might happen to her. At first, I thought Javi was just gonna be a cliched character with nothing interesting going on and was only going to be a vehicle for Clementine, but he’s actually shaping up into a likeably guy. Even if you decide to be a dick to everyone with him, you’re making the choices, so you still root for him. Javi and Clem make a great pair and luckily it’s not a retread of the father-daughter dynamic Clem and Lee had, but it’s something new altogether. Survivors becoming friends and that’s what The Walking Dead is all about! Part Two of Ties That Bind is looking to be another great episode, so we’ll dive into that one soon.