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The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is the latest season in Telltale's watershed series of adventure games. This game is set further into the zombie apocalypse than other entries in the series, and its first episode hints at exploring some unfamiliar territory for these games. It may just be worth a look, provided you are willing to put up with some iffy performance and the standard Telltale gameplay formula.
The talking dead
If you've played a game made by Telltale since they made first season of The Walking Dead in 2012, the gameplay in A New Frontier should not surprise you. You play the game from the perspective of Javier Garcia–a young baseball player in a former life who now has been living among zombies for four years–and spend a lot of your time talking with your group of survivors and decide what you think is best.
Unlike more traditional adventure games, there is very little puzzle-solving in A New Frontier, at least in the first episode. In fact, beyond a short exploratory section in a junkyard, there is very little for you to do except decide what Javi is going to say next.
Who's the real enemy?
It's no real spoiler to say that during Episode 1 of A New Frontier, Javi crosses paths with Clementine from Season One of The Walking Dead. Once these two characters meet, the standard Telltale “choose-your-own-adventure”-style gameplay starts to feel a bit more dynamic and interesting than usual.
If you have any affinity at all for Clementine from past seasons of The Walking Dead, you might be inclined to believe the things that Clementine says to you or otherwise try to keep her happy. That said, you are playing as a person who has never met Clementine before and who has his own set of relationships with his group that he may want to maintain. This balance of what you would do vs. what Javi might do makes the decision-making in this first episode feel a lot more weighty than it has in other recent games. I hope to see more of this dynamic moving forward into subsequent episodes.
As neat as this first taste of A New Frontier is, it suffers from some really annoying performance issues. In the little over an hour it took me to play through Episode One, I experienced multiple instances of choppy framerate, late dialogue triggers, and even a hard freeze in the game.
I can't say that this is particularly surprising. Many Telltale games seem to have their fair share of performance issues. This is no excuse though. These games should just work better, particularly on modern hardware.
The bottom line
If you have already had your fill of Telltale's adventure game formula, I don't think A New Frontier will interest you much. That said, the dynamic that this particular season seems to be setting up seems to be one worth looking into further if you are up for this kind of gameplay. It's a shame it doesn't run better, but I'm looking forward to seeing what the next episodes of A New Frontier have in store.