By Marty Mulrooney
All That Remains is the first episode of The Walking Dead: Season Two – A Telltale Games Series. Following on from the award-winning first season (which AMO named Game of the Year 2012) and DLC episode 400 Days, players must guide and control returning character Clementine as she fights for survival in a zombie-infested world with little hope… and no Lee Everett.
All That Remains begins a short time after the sudden cut to black of the final game in the original season. Truth be told, these initial moments are somewhat anti-climactic – Clementine is with two of her fellow survivors and nothing particularly exciting seems to be happening. She enters a dark and grimy bathroom. She checks the stalls. She cleans her face with a bottle of water. She forgets to keep her gun close by at all times.
What follows turns a routine opening into a punch in the gut that will make your eyes water and your head reel. How can a closing door be so final? Damn it Telltale – only 5 minutes in and you’ve already done it again. 16 months later, Clementine is slightly older, much more miserable and has never been more alone. After successfully building a fire as night fast approaches, she becomes separated from her group and her increase in height and slighter deeper voice don’t matter one bit – she’s still just a little girl lost in the woods.
Lee tried to prepare Clementine for this terrifying new world – his absence haunts the entirety of All That Remains, always floating on the outskirts – but nothing could have prepared her for this. She doesn’t have a group, she has no one she can trust… and the world has gone to shit so much by this point that nobody can really trust her either.
Clementine has become a child of few words and this new rural environment, shunning interior locations for the majority of the episode, is her state of mind incarnate. She’s surrounded by zombies and bandits, out in the open and exposed, but nobody – not even the friendly dog that crosses her path – can truly be relied upon.
Every time you might think Telltale is re-treading old ground, the game is changed and the current situation is turned on its head. Decisions still need to be made that will tailor the experience for each individual player, but it’s more about Clementine’s reactions to the situations she faces, rather than actually changing the situations themselves. The open location of the woods actually betrays the ultimately linear nature of the series if you go against the obvious path the developer has set for you, with invisible walls shattering the illusion of freedom.
Don’t try to do the opposite of what’s natural – go with the flow and you’ll be treated to 2 hours of hugely enjoyable despair laced with only the merest dash of hope. Clementine is battered and bruised both physically and mentally, but her good nature and kind soul still manage to shine through the endless clouds of rain and blood-drenched grey – it’s what will keep you going.
Melissa Hutchison returns as Clementine and successfully moves the character up from sidekick to protagonist with her beautifully nuanced performance. It never sounds like she is whining, even when she would have every right to do so. She may scream out in pain or cry out in despair, but there is always an edge of defiance to these sounds. She is often victimised but never allows herself to become the victim. She’s incredibly real and without her, The Walking Dead wouldn’t be half the game it is. The supporting cast is small but likewise professionally voiced and it is to Telltale’s credit that they can write such convincing characters without the need for endless exposition. It’s a cel-shaded world that feels all too real and close to the bone.
The gameplay (decision-making aside) is the usual exploration, conversation making and quick-time events. The action sequences certainly get the heart racing and although the point is being drilled home hard that humans can be dangerous too (!), it’s nice to note that the zombies still feel like a major threat to Clementine and the people she meets, even in smaller numbers. The graphics look great and even when the occasional groan comes from the game engine rather than the shambling undead, the presentation (both audio and visual) is of such a high standard that it can be easily overlooked.
The Walking Dead: Season Two – Episode One: All That Remains ultimately offers fans more of the same – and that can only ever be a good thing. Players who kept hold of their original save games will find previous decisions from Season One and 400 Days imported, although those starting from scratch will instead find that Clementine’s past has been randomly generated. It’s a shame that Telltale didn’t include a way for players to simply tick some options when starting a new game if their original save isn’t available.
It’s no small feat to follow the heartbreaking and tragic story of Lee Everett with a tale equally as compelling, but Telltale has not only made Clementine’s story genuinely interesting, they’ve made it emotionally engaging without being manipulative. It feels natural rather than forced. If you cared for her during Season One, you’re going to care even more after playing this Season Two opener. The fact that Telltale is also currently working on the next episode of The Wolf Among Us, with neither series suffering as a result, speaks volumes about their growth, quality and professionalism as a video game studio. With Lee Everett gone, all that remains is Clementine – and she desperately needs your help.
9 OUT OF 10