GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: The Telltale Definitive Series (PlayStation 4)

By Marty Mulrooney

The Walking Dead The Telltale Definitive Series

The Walking Dead: The Telltale Definitive Series collects all four seasons – that’s 23 episodes – of Telltale Game’s critically acclaimed video game based on the comic book of the same name. Accompanying the new ‘Graphic Black’ visual style (which can be turned on or off at any time), Skybound Games has also added several bonus features including character and concept art galleries, a music player, and  documentary and commentary videos.

It has certainly been interesting revisiting Telltale’s The Walking Dead these past few weeks. The first episode of the first season – A New Day – was released in 2012, a lifetime ago in video game years. Even back then, the Telltale Tool proprietary game engine could be a bit janky (at the best of times); revisiting the first season in 2019, it’s surprising just how dated it feels on a technical level, despite being upgraded – albeit, slightly – for this collection.

What’s also surprising is just how quickly the technical blips – in particular, repeated or overlapping lines of dialogue – can be forgiven. Sitting down to revisit Lee Everett‘s personal tale of self-discovery and redemption proves satisfying timeless; it doesn’t take long to be drawn back into his tragic comic book world. Later seasons would undoubtedly have their moments, but the first season was lightning-in-a-bottle – often reattempted but never repeated.

However, despite being touted as ‘definitive’, there is an unmistakable rough-and-ready feel to this collection. Menus tend to glitch out, and the earlier seasons have a slightly washed out quality to their visuals that is only exacerbated by the retroactive addition of the ‘Graphic Black’ visual style from the final season. Thankfully, ‘Graphic Black’ can be turned off at any time and there are separate brightness controls but even then, only the final season looked 100% ‘right’ on this reviewer’s set-up (a PlayStation 4 Pro hooked up to a Sony BRAVIA 55XE9005 4K television).

It’s a double-edged sword. ‘Graphic Black’ certainly brings all the episodes – across all seasons – closer together visually, but the downside is that detail and colour is often lost in the shadows – especially indoors. To longtime fans, this will become immediately apparent when Lee visit first enters Clementine’s home, or when Michonne has flashbacks to her apartment. Again, this visual style can be turned off at will (apart from during the final season, where it’s a baked in effect), but even when it’s turned off things don’t always look like they did in the original releases. The easiest way to highlight this is by loading up the first season and looking at Lee’s eyes; they were unmistakably dark in 2012, but now they’re almost milky at times.

If this review sounds overly negative so far, it should be noted that at their core these games are as fantastic as ever. They are more like interactive stories than traditional adventure games, relying heavily on quick time events; as a result, they won’t be for everyone. However, for gamers who enjoy gripping stories well told, this ‘definitive’ collection will prove to be a treasure trove of gaming goodness. The first season is a masterpiece to this day and despite some ups and downs in the years that followed its release, the subsequent seasons and episodes are all well worth checking out – especially for the award-winning performance of Melissa Hutchison, who voiced Clementine from her introduction as a scared little girl right through to her transformation into a badass mother and seasoned survivor.

For a deeper dive into each of the episodes included in this collection, please take a look at AMO’s original reviews and interviews:

Reviews

GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – A New Day (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Episode 2 – Starved for Help (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Episode 3 – Long Road Ahead (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Episode 4 – Around Every Corner (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Episode 5 – No Time Left (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: 400 Days (PC)

Interviews

INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Dave Fennoy (Lee Everett, The Walking Dead: The Game)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation with Adam Harrington (Andrew St. John, The Walking Dead: The Game)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Nicki Rapp (Lilly Caul, The Walking Dead: The Game)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Melissa Hutchison (Clementine, The Walking Dead: The Game)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Erin Ashe (Molly, The Walking Dead: The Game)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Dave Fennoy and Melissa Hutchison (Lee Everett and Clementine, The Walking Dead: The Game)

Reviews

GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Season Two – Episode One: All That Remains (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Season Two – Episode Two: A House Divided (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Season Two – Episode Three: In Harm’s Way (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Season Two – Episode Four: Amid The Ruins (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Season Two – Episode Five: No Going Back (PC)

Reviews

GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Michonne – Episode 1: In Too Deep (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Michonne – Episode 2: Give No Shelter (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Michonne – Episode 3: What We Deserve (PC)

Reviews

GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Episode 1: Ties That Bind Part I & Episode 2: Ties That Bind Part II (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Episode 3: Above The Law (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Episode 4: Thicker Than Water (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Episode 5: From The Gallows (PC)

Interviews

INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Shelly Shenoy (Kate Garcia, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Jeff Schine (Javier García, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Melissa Hutchison (Clementine, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier)

Reviews

GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: The Final Season – Episode 1: Done Running (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: The Final Season – Episode 2: Suffer the Children (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: The Final Season – Episode 3: Broken Toys (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: The Final Season – Episode 4: Take Us Back (PC)

Interviews

INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Nicki Rapp (Lilly, The Walking Dead: The Final Season)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Melissa Hutchison (Clementine, The Walking Dead: The Final Season)

Even as this review is being typed, another patch has been released for the PlayStation 4 version of The Walking Dead: The Telltale Definitive Series. None of the bugs this reviewer encountered proved game breaking, but it’s nice to know that Skybound Games is continuing to address the various issues that have been highlighted by dedicated fans and newcomers alike.

Accompanying the 23 episodes included in this collection are several bonus features such as character and concept art galleries, as well as a music player featuring all of the wonderful B.A.F.T.A. Award-nominated music composed by Jared Emerson-Johnson. The documentary and commentary videos are the highlights of these bonus features, although the forced subtitles are a real oversight that often obscure the names of the people on screen.

Yet seeing and hearing the various voice actors and developers passionately talking about these games will tell you all you need to know about The Walking Dead: The Telltale Definitive Series. Telltale Games being shut down without notice last year was utterly heartbreaking, but Skybound Games stepping in to complete the final season was undoubtedly one of modern gaming’s most genuinely touching moments.

This definitive collection may be a little rough around the edges at times, but truth be told the games it contains always were. Despite some technical issues, the sheer love and dedication from everyone involved in their creation continues to shine through. These are some of the very best narrative adventure games of the past decade and revisiting them knowing there will be no more is a decidedly bittersweet affair. Telltale Games is – and will continue to be – sorely missed.

8 OUT OF 10

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