The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is a third-person episodic story driven point and click action adventure game available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Telltale Games have gradually become more popular with every game having developed the cult classic Sam and Max seasons to episodic games based upon such well known licensed properties as Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, Tales from the Borderlands, Minecraft: Story Mode, Game of Thrones, Batman and more besides with Telltale’s star rising upon every release which has led to a certainly bright future ahead. When The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season originally released in April 2012 on PS3; no one could have predicted the impact it would have had as it went on to win over 90 Game of the Year awards and receive worldwide critical acclaim from the gaming media. How does the third season shape up in comparison to previous seasons of The Walking Dead and Telltale Games’ episodic seasons in general?
A New Frontier’s story begins with a flashback to an emotional family bereavement at around the time of the outbreak; before rejoining the present day were a group of the family is on the road to stay ahead of a vast herd of walkers in hopes of finding a safer place of residence. An incident occurs in which the leader of the group named Javier Garcia meets a teenage Clementine. Clever usage of flashbacks explains Clementine’s initial change in personality within this season and what has happened to her since the end of the second season, while providing separate passages of gameplay which allows for both Javier and Clementine to be playable characters.
A New Frontier embraces your decisions and their respective consequences from not only the second season, but also the first season as you have the ability to import your save file containing all of your decisions from the previous seasons directly into A New Frontier; which is a positive design choice as it affects the story of the third season, while providing continuity to a story that is capable of being influenced.
Just when you thought that Telltale could not possibly up the ante in their The Walking Dead stories; A New Frontier increases the blood splatters of gore with violence and introduces an all-new level of rivalries between opposing groups in a shoot first, ask questions later kind of way that actually contends with the severity of battle between humans and walkers.
The My Choices feature from previous seasons makes a welcome return by providing an entire listing of your choices including the statistical analysis regarding the percentage of players who have made the same choice as you for each moral decision as well as a variety of decisions that are scattered throughout the chapters of each episode such as how you reacted to losing a friend, who you trust and much more besides with the feature being directly available from the extras menu after having completed an episode.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead seasons have always relied upon characters playing off each other in their respective alliances, disagreements and total opposition between family, enemies and groups, while A New Frontier is just as well written and thought out in that regard due to superb character design in harmony with amazing dialogue for every character.
Environment design has a positive amount of variety including a family home environment, travelling on the road to seek shelter from the incoming hordes of walkers, group residences in the form of Prescott and Richmond, outdoor areas and more besides within a realistic interpretation of how a post-apocalyptic world would function and look.
Telltale promised that more of their games would be headed to Vita at some point; until a Vita version of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is potentially released, remote play of the PS4 version on Vita is a consolation. A New Frontier’s remote play performance is on par with the graphics, audio and general performance of the PS4 version, while the remote play control scheme has been appropriately optimised resulting in fighting actions and shooting being re-mapped from R2 to R when prompted and showing selectables has moved from L2 to L, alongside the rest of the controls remaining identical the PS4 version; therefore producing a remote play experience that will keep players satisfied until a Vita version is hopefully released.
The controls are well mapped to the DualShock 4 controller by retaining the improvements from the previous seasons of The Walking Dead with the control scheme consisting of pressing X, triangle, square or O to perform actions, start a conversation with a person in your group or to choose a response in a conversation with the buttons being clearly marked towards the bottom of the screen; pressing R2 to run or perform fight actions when defending yourself; pressing up or down on the d-pad to look at your inventory; mashing certain face buttons such as X, triangle, square or O when in one-on-one encounters with walkers; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move around cover in a tight situation or walking around as you explore the environment during your search to find people and supplies; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to move the cursor around the environment for you to investigate and observe certain objects and items of importance as well as deciding who to start or continue a conversation with or even positioning your aim when you are about to defend yourself from a walker; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu.
The PS4 version of previous seasons have lacked any touch pad, light bar and vibration functionality and A New Frontier is no different in this aspect which is surprising as it would have provided some further improvements over previous seasons. The lack of touch pad implementation is especially surprising as the Vita’s touch screen control scheme was pretty much perfected as it saw the cursor being replaced with icons and consisted of tapping on an icon to perform a particular action, interact with an object, start a conversation with a person in your group or to choose a response in a conversation, while there are certain one-on-one encounters with walkers that require direction focused control inputs such as moving the left analogue stick to the left or right, so it is difficult to understand why such functionality could not have made the transition from the Vita’s touch screen or left analogue stick to the DualShock 4 controller. The lack of any light bar and vibration implementation is also surprising as the light bar could have produced an increasingly darker tone of red as a threatening situation looms to work in harmony with the visual effect of the HUD during such occurrences, while the DualShock 4 controller could have vibrated during any bumps, scrapes, heavy landings or when being attacked by walkers or bandits.
Graphically, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is excellent as it excels beyond the fidelity of previous seasons of The Walking Dead and Telltale’s seasons in general which makes for an even more visually striking comic book cel shaded art style, while the character models and animations are mostly fluent that are complimented by realistic character personas and expressions in relation to the scenarios happening around them in post-apocalyptic environments.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, extras menus, my choices menus, settings menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and the lack of a touch based user interface via the touch pad is disappointing given the fact of how effective and responsive the touch screen user interface is in The Walking Dead on Vita. The background of the main menu focuses upon abandoned streets as the camera pans around as birds are perched upon buildings or fly overhead.
A New Frontier is yet another Telltale and The Walking Dead season that possesses incredible voice-over performances throughout the entire cast that provokes emotional attachments to their respective characters including Jeff Schine voicing the new playable character Javier Garcia having also voiced Danny Burke in Mafia III and Frank Aiello in Call of Duty: WWII, while Melissa Hutchison voices Clementine having previously voiced numerous characters in Telltale Games’ videogames such as Stinky in the Sax and Max seasons; Trixie Trotter in Back to the Future; and Toad Junior and Beauty in The Wolf Among Us. Shelly Shenoy voices Kate having previously voiced SkyBlock Female A and Rebel Female B in Minecraft: Story Mode and various background voice-overs for other Telltale Games such as Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead: Michonne and Batman, while Alex Hernandez voices David Garcia having also voiced additional characters in Tom Clancy’s The Division, Lincoln Clay in Mafia III and Eli Knable in Batman: The Enemy Within. Raymond Ochoa voices Gabe having previously voiced Male Brotherhood of Steel Squire in Fallout 4 and Dash Parr in the Disney Infinity trilogy, while William Christopher Stephens voices Conrad having also voiced various characters in Battlefield Hardline and Mafia III, alongside an extremely talented cast throughout every role including Kelley Crowder voicing Eleanor.
Sound effects include walking, vehicular engines, interaction with objects and ambience such as weather conditions as well as the groans of nearby walkers, flies buzzing, birds tweeting and more besides. Atmospheric and moody music composed by Jared Emerson-Johnson provides further tension to scenes in which Javier or Clementine are in a one-on-one encounter with a walker or bandit and elevates emotion within scenes that are not focused on action. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which is surprising as it could have produced a further layer of atmosphere from sound effects such as nearby walkers, ambient sounds, conversations or music.
The trophy list includes 31 trophies with 15 bronze trophies, 10 silver trophies, 5 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. The trophy list for all five episodes of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is entirely based upon completing each chapter within each episode; resulting in a somewhat easy trophy list in regards to the fact that you will platinum the trophy list if you are able to complete the story with only a single playthrough required. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 10 to 12 hours to platinum the trophy list.
The difficulty curve certainly varies throughout each episode as there are some tough one-on-one encounters with walkers to survive, while there are easier areas that require you to scavenge for supplies such as siphoning petrol from vehicles to be able to keep your group moving or food and water to stay energised and maintain focus, alongside having conversations with the person you are travelling with or your group to plan your collective escape from multiple difficult situations in order to attempt to preserve the group’s survival. The only settings that are customisable in relation to difficulty levels are for the in-game user interface as you can have a standard setting that allows you to have access to more feedback when you make important moral choices and help in regards to highlighting any areas of interest, while the minimal setting will completely turn off any hints, help and choice notifications. The user interface is as clear as it was in previous seasons as the cursor is presented with a colourful and distinctive design as there are icons and colours within the cursor that really differentiate actions from one another rather than mostly being presented in the same way as actions were in the first season which makes for a better experience, while providing an appropriate amount of control inputs to represent your actions. As was the case with the previous seasons; you will find yourself being required to participate in some button mashing during one-on-one encounters with walkers, although you will need to press the prompted buttons quickly within a rather limited period of time in order to ensure that you survive the encounter which is an appropriate design choice as it certainly adds more atmosphere and tension to the mix as you are not guaranteed to breeze straight through a one-on-one encounter with a walker.
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier supports Crowd Play that allows the player to host a Crowd Play gameplay session which essentially offers a local multiplayer experience that could technically support up to thousands of people within a large theatre or 4 to 12 people gathered in any given normal sized room for a party game atmosphere, although the host player needs to have a Telltale account. People can join your game quite simply as a game code is generated when the host player creates a Crowd Play environment; people can enter the game code on a particular Telltale web-address, then immediately start voting on choices throughout the story without any of the people even needing to own the game other than the host player. There is a wide range of accessibility to voting on choices as people can vote from pretty much any mobile device.
However, despite there being no online leaderboards; there is a statistical analysis of the decisions that you have made during each episode in comparison to the decisions that everyone else who has played The Walking Dead: A New Frontier has made which is a positive design choice in the sense that it provides you with an in depth look at if you have made the correct decision or if you were incorrect in the eyes of a certain percentage of people who have played the game. Every decision within each episode is clearly defined in the statistical analysis and it is incredibly interesting to see at the end of the final chapter of every episode what percentage of players made the same decisions as you and to also see the percentage of players that disagreed with your choices.
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier’s replayability has increased over previous seasons of The Walking Dead due to the introduction of the ability for a group of people to vote on moral decisions via Crowd Play which perfectly compliments the multiple storylines that can be shaped by playing the game over the course of multiple playthroughs, while experimenting with different combinations of moral choices to see which direction your decisions will ultimately guide the story regarding which characters will survive that did not previously do so and which characters who survived beforehand that will not survive this time given an alternative moral choice.
• Title: The Walking Dead: A New Frontier
• Developer: Telltale Games
• Publisher: Telltale Games
• System: PS4
• Format: Retail/PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: Yes (Save Import for Story Decisions from Season 1 and 2 to A New Frontier)
• Players: 1 (Crowd Play/Online Moral Choice Comparisons)
• Hard Drive Space Required: 15.58GB (Version 1.01)