The Walking Dead: Season 2 review: I guess this is growing up

If Season One was about surviving in the face of the apocalypse, The Walking Dead: Season Two proves to be about loss of innocence, coming of age, and changing relationships. Telltale once again shows glimpses of storytelling mastery, even with some less-than-memorable characters. Check out our full review.

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Nothing ever changes about the undead. Walkers will continue to wander aimlessly in a neverending search for food. Humanity, on the other hand, will continue to grow and change. Even in the middle of the greatest disaster to befall the world, people will continue evolve. That's my main takeaway from The Walking Dead: Season 2. Even if Telltale wasn't quite able to hit that same emotional punch that rocketed the first season to the top of Shacknews' Game of the Year list in 2012, it still stands as an example of fine storytelling and narrative within the context of an adventure game.

If the first season of The Walking Dead was about paternal instincts kicking in during a time of apocalyptic crisis, the second season is about the loss of innocence and forsaking childhood for the sake of survival. This season put young Clementine in a starring role and focused on her lone path into the apocalypse.

Clementine as the main protagonist meant a distinct change in the narrative dynamic. The game was no longer about doing what's best for the group and keeping everyone happy. If anything, the party that Clementine stumbled onto was in a woefully bad situation and there was only so much she could do to help keep things together.

That leads into one of the main issues with this season of The Walking Dead. The supporting cast simply isn't all that compelling, especially the cast we're introduced to in the first two episodes. I've gone over the problems with the supporting cast previously, so I won't belabor this point. However, in comparison to the fleshed-out characters that we see evolve over the first season, this season's cast pales in comparison. There's no reason to care about many of them, often because they're total screw-ups that make their survival situation worse and because it rapidly becomes apparent that Clementine is the smartest and most mature member of the group.

That isn't just a blind observation, either. There are several instances in the game in which Clementine is either approached with an extremely dangerous task or is blamed for making a spur-of-the-moment choice. Somehow, the adults here always think it's the best idea to throw Clementine directly into the fire for tasks that they could just as easily handle themselves (such as talking to an extremely-volatile Kenny) or blame her for taking spur-of-the-moment action in a life-or-death situation. It makes these characters come off as unsympathetic, so when any of those supporting players meet their premature demise, it's hard to drum up the same kind of emotional response that drove so much of the first season.

However, while I can harp on where Telltale has come up short with its characters, they should also be credited for continuing to be masters of their storytelling formula. These games aren't simply about choices and the number of choices you can make. These choices have no teeth if there aren't consequences and this season sees some very real consequences, especially in the latter half. The Walking Dead is built on a foundation of choices, but it flourishes because of what results from them. Never is that more evident than in the final episode's closing minutes.

Without diving deep into spoiler territory, there was a reason that Telltale structured their episodes in the way that they did. It might have seemed curious that they blew off the Woodbury-style camp storyline in the third episode and that's because there was one other character worth investing in: Kenny. With Clementine's story signifying a child's forced journey into adulthood and maturity, it also meant she had a very harsh lesson to learn over the course of her journey. Just like herself, people grow and people change. So do relationships. The person you knew years ago is not necessarily the same person you know now and how one chooses to deal with that change is a very real dilemma in life. The manner in which The Walking Dead deals with Clementine and Kenny's relationship is the true highlight of this season, right down to the final episode's gut-wrenching climax. More than anything, as the story progresses and that relationship changes, it will have many players questioning the choices they made, harkening back to the idea of consequences.

It was pretty clear that Telltale was more interested in telling a story this time around, because the fail states this time around were a lot more forgiving. Whereas I found myself having to repeat a few portions of the first season, because of screwing up a few puzzles, there was no such danger of that happening this time. Yet Telltale didn't forsake any of the interactive elements, managing to keep the tense atmosphere going through all of its walker segments. They still feels organically placed, rather than as tacked-on segments for the sake of adding action.

It took a while for The Walking Dead: Season 2 and its story to find their footing, but Telltale still knows how to pack an emotional punch. Whether it was during the hostage situation at the end of the second episode, the escape attempt at the end of the third episode, or the twist at the very end of the season, there are still a number of heartbreaking moments that promise to touch feelings in ways that few other games can. The difference between this and last season is, there just aren't as many this time around. Perhaps because of that, this feels less like a GOTY contender and more like a game that's simply very good.

Overall, this is the essence of The Walking Dead. It's tragedy and despair, with only that one faint glimmer of hope that keeps humanity going.

Final Score: 8 out of 10.


This review is based on downloadable Xbox 360 codes, all provided by the publisher (with the exception of Episode 3, which was purchased by the reviewer). The Walking Dead: Season 2 is available now on PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Vita now and is coming later this week to iOS. The game is rated M.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
  • reply
    August 27, 2014 9:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, The Walking Dead: Season 2 review: I guess this is growing up.

    If Season One was about surviving in the face of the apocalypse, The Walking Dead: Season Two proves to be about loss of innocence, coming of age, and changing relationships. Telltale once again shows glimpses of storytelling mastery, even with some less-than-memorable characters. Check out our full review.

    • reply
      August 27, 2014 9:26 AM

      Still sad

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      August 27, 2014 10:11 AM

      This pretty much mirrors my thoughts. It doesn't hit the highs of season 1 in how you relate to any of the characters, but it's still a really enjoyable experience that throws a lot of emotional choices at you. It feels like they wanted you to make bigger choices in this season to really push the tension up. But I think that the small choices in season 1 - who to give food to in the trailer park, teaching Clem to shoot - were the things that really made me feel the stress of being a leader in the group, and that built a lot of attachment to the other characters. By the time I finished the last episode, it felt like the lesson for Clem to get out of everything was how to not get attached to the group. At the final choice, I still sat staring at the screen for minutes before giving in.

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        August 27, 2014 11:55 AM

        There was much more bigger picture stuff here. I liked it and all, but it was hard to live up to that juggernaut of Season 1, which just hit every note so well.

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      August 27, 2014 11:53 AM

      I had more time to think about this now since I beat it last night. There are a couple of things about that last episode that kind of pissed me off:

      - That whole scene where you try to save Luke is like drawn out and dramatic and it's clearly super hard to save someone who has fallen through some ice and then... as you're walking away Bonnie just magically pops up and runs along next to you? That was so fucking random I was like trying to tell if I had just hallucinated it.

      - You do almost everything you can to save Luke and then Bonnie acts like a giant cunt in a totally illogical way and a way that isn't particularly consistent with her character afterward if you talk to her in front of the house. At least for me, I chose not to go out on the ice to help Luke but instead to shoot zombies coming after him, break open some ice and then fall and almost die saving him and she still acts like a dumb bitch? It felt like that exchange made no sense.

      - Clem gets SHOT IN THE FUCKING LUNG and they just throw her in a car and wait for her to wake up and are like "oh hey Clem, what's up" and she's totally fine from that point on? I understand this is a video game and that sort of thing happens but it still just seemed lazy and a little too over the top for me to really accept.

      - Jane just leaves a fucking little kid sitting in a car in the freezing cold with walkers around and then says "he was in no danger" and that is supposed to make sense?


      I don't know why I am judging this episode more harshly than the 15 that preceded it, they all have plenty of stuff that is gamey or action-movie-ish but it just felt off this time. I still enjoyed the season but I didn't really love the last couple of episodes and I don't think this was even close to as good as S1.

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        August 27, 2014 11:54 AM

        Your last point is precisely the reason I wound up ditching Jane. Her whole logic was twisted and psychotic.

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      August 27, 2014 12:33 PM

      I'm pretty interested to know what ending you finished the episode with Ozzie. I finished with an ending that left room for more, without much closure.

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        August 27, 2014 12:54 PM

        Was it a scene where Clem walks through a field full of zombies with AJ and smears them both with zombie guts so they won't be detected? I'm assuming if you forgive Jane at the end then that scene includes her (but that's just an assumption). Did you get an ending that was different from that?

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          August 27, 2014 1:05 PM

          That is indeed the one I got.

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          August 27, 2014 2:34 PM

          That scene is not what you get if you choose to forgive. That sounds so much cooler than my ending.

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          August 29, 2014 5:29 PM

          No, I actually ended up with a different scene than that.

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      August 27, 2014 1:17 PM

      This is $10 on Steam right now and I'm real tempted to buy it, I loved the first season.

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