Wot I Think: The Walking Dead – A New Frontier Eps 1&2

Telltale’s The Walking Dead [official site] comes back into our lives after just over two years away, but is it a welcome return with fresh water and bandages, or a shambling wreck of fetid corpse. It’s the second one. It’s fucking awful. Here’s wot I think:

For a moment it really seemed like Telltale were over their fetish. Season 1 of their interpretation of The Walking Dead won a lot of acclaim, despite being ultimately an empty and agonisingly slow experience, and was rife with it. Season 2 was so dreadful that I had to play through it this week because we genuinely couldn’t find anyone else who had bothered, in order to review the new episodes, and almost exclusively featured it. My assumption was, after a couple of years away from the series, Telltale would have regrouped and come to their title afresh with hopes of finding new ground in old territory. But no, after an hour of sitting on their hands, frantically wriggling as they tried to tell half a story about some ragtag adults and teenagers, they couldn’t resist it, they couldn’t help themselves, and with a near-audible gasp resorted to using flashbacks to be to deliver their fucked up kicks of watching a child suffer.

Your feelings about the previous two seasons of The Walking Dead video game may be different than mine, and I suspect you can discern the usefulness of my review of the first two episodes of the third season by how far apart we are. I think I can summarise the previous runs with the phrase, “Little girl torture simulator”. Which is, if anything, a generous summation of one of the dreariest, least involved, interminably slow and hackneyed games I’ve ever struggled through.

Zombie stories are obviously woefully played out, and The Walking Dead offers the least imaginative portrayal of the form. Even the most patient of diehards are giving up on the ridiculous TV interpretation of the source comic, and it seems the last drips of potential have been wrung dry from the entire genre, with only outliers like Zombieland managing to find something of a fun last gasp. No one has the courage/imagination to do anything interesting with the theme (I think 2006’s okay-ish Fido was the last time anyone even tried), instead inevitably resorting to the same hoary old tropes of “band of people where one’s a wrong-un, one is secretly bit!”. Oh good GRIEF is The Walking Dead video game trapped in that dreary mire.

For two seasons they’ve had no story to tell other than, “Clementine goes through unimaginable shit on a daily basis, and everyone around gruesomely dies in front of her.” The tragedy being there seems to be the belief that this in itself is interesting or novel. “Look, she’s suffering so much! You think it’s going to get better, but no, it’s going to get worse!” No, we know it’s going to get worse. It’s literally the only thing that ever happens in any of the games, from the micro level of every tiny action inevitably ending in her falling over, to the macro level of absolutely everyone she knows fighting and dying. And Clementine’s character advances not a jot. She’s nothing, she’s an empty shell for the player to watch get tortured, and then have her say, “But I’m a little girl” for the 900th time. I empathise with her character’s plight not at the hands of the zombies, but at the hands of the writers. At this point it would be a shocking surprise twist if they didn’t murder a main character while she stared.

Where the series leaves me behind is in this genuinely fetishistic obsession with having you watch Clementine watch utter horror. Again, it’s the impression that this of itself is believed to be a bold or interesting narrative statement that grates so hard, where we’re supposed to be emotionally bowled over by their courageous portrayal of a child’s suffering. Yeah, maybe the first time. But after ten episodes of farcical cruelty it just became revolting. Only because the games were so boring, uninvolved and repetitive did I struggle to find the energy to care, but on some barely-interested level I worried about the minds that felt the need to just keep repeating the same theme.

So when Season 3 started off with a different cast, Clementine only mentioned in reference to how your S2 save finished (for me on her own with AJ), I was relieved. Finally we could perhaps see a different perspective, find some new stories. That promise was immediately unmet when it instantly plunged off a cliff into a mud-pool of cliche, with whingy teenagers “your not my real mum and dad”ing their way through the apocalypse, before parachuting in our young friend in the opening minutes. But worry not, because within an hour or so, yup, they escape their chronological shackles of being stuck with a teenage Clem by using flashbacks, and you’re once again watching young Clementine suffer. Suffer and suffer and suffer. (Her appearance is spoiled by the Chapter Select menu, by the way, in case you think me overstepping here.)

Within seconds she’s being attacked by walkers, has her hand crushed in a car door, is sobbing and suffering while unable to help baby AJ, screaming, staring at her buckled fingers. Oh, they love watching that little girl struggle, so much that even now she’s no longer little they’re crowbarring in ways to show it to us.

(And if you think I’m exaggerating about this theme, just get to episode 2 for the most morbidly obsessive sequence of suffering little girl syndrome – can’t explain because of a genuine spoiler, but bloody hell.)

It seems there are only three possible storylines for the unimaginative zombie writer:

1) There’s a baddun in the group who undermines everyone else’s safety
2) Someone needs some medicine, and it’s on the other side of that group of zombies
3) Things are briefly idyllic, so a band of baddies show up and spoil it

Seasons 1 and 2 bludgeoned the first two into a grisly pulp, so season 3 leans immediately on the third. It’s so incompetently predictable at every stage that its “big shocks” feel idiotically inevitable. And once again this is just more of the same barely interactive dross, where your most likely cause of failure will be not realising the game finally wants you to do something before a timer runs out.

Much better suited for a tablet, where dumbly staring with nothing to do feels less utterly soul-destroying than with your hands uselessly hovering near a mouse and keyboard, the half-arsed PC conversion just underlines the futility of your role. Hammer at Q, press E. Wait eight minutes. Choose to say one thing rather than another thing that someone will “remember” (which is to say, later vaguely allude to it as the exact same events that would have happened either way play out). Wait four minutes. Press right, press E, press down. Wait seven minutes. Get told to walk forward for literally six steps, then sit back again as it takes over. Then a short sequence where you “look at” three interactive spots in a room, where for some reason the game only shows the character’s face doing the looking, rather than the thing he or she is looking at, and then wish for the biting chomp of the undead to take you away from all this.

It’s positively mindboggling when you realise that you’re sat through yet another identical sequence where you’re separated from your (in-fighting, OF COURSE) group, and a stranger puts a gun to the back of your head and wants to talk threats. REALLY?! Again?! I can’t even imagine the writing process, where they sit down in a room and say, “Wait, everyone, I’ve got an idea!”

“No, me first!” shouts someone else, before pitching the notion that they could have one of the group suddenly pull a gun on someone else in the group and then the player have to choose a side!

HOW?! How are these the major plot beats twelve sodding episodes into this? And there’s nothing else besides it. It’s exactly the same bland drivel, but with even less humanity to make any of it feel worthwhile.

Tweaks to the clunky old Telltale engine see it looking prettier than before, but unfortunately so much of the direction is artless as to render it moot. Nearly every shot is poorly framed, drably lit, or badly arranged. Every now and then when things look decent you realise what a nice looking game it could have been, if only it had been more adept. And as ever, the acting is all good – a strong cast, well directed, but unfortunately delivering the banal filler-speak that makes up the majority of the script.

You could argue that a new cast inevitably resets the emotional development of the series, but the fact that Clementine is still just an emotional and physical punchbag shows there’d be little hope of anyone developing into anything meaningful if they were allowed to live more than three episodes each. The series absolutely deserves to be lauded for its multi-racial cast, but denigrated immediately afterwards for making no one interesting or deeper than a particularly stupid puddle. The result is yet more of the same, no more involved, no more compelling, equally futile, and mind-numbingly repetitive. Oh, and the episodes are shorter, too.

It’s pure agony at this point that they’re re-running the exact same bloody plots yet again for a third five-part series, as if they weren’t miserably worn out before even Telltale scooped them up off the floor and blew off the crust and fluff. That they’re not even trying to take the slightest new angle belies a barren and bereft production not worth dragging your own mutilated corpse through.

The Walking Dead Season 3 A New Frontier Game By Telltale Colon is out now on Steam, GOG and Telltale’s own store for £19/$25/€23.


  1. lordcooper says:

    So 7/10?

    • JarinArenos says:

      I think this time we might need to break out… the forbidden numbers

  2. satan says:

    I once saw a clever name for the Genre containing all of the media following in the foosteps of Breaking Bad (slow tragic decline into oblivion), but I can’t damn well remember it… Was like… dramapression… tragi-drama… sadedy? No idea.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Well I mean it’s the literal definition of tragedy but with specification of a slow decline…. So tramigy (are trams slow, I don’t know)

      Some variations on tragedy for sure.

      • April March says:

        Modern trams can be quite fast. Maybe funiculars? Except it’s awful instead of fun, so awfuliculars.

        • BooleanBob says:


        • Chaoslord AJ says:

          Tramegy pretty much. Everyone has to buy a car for this reason around here as public transports can’t get their shit together.

    • Hoot says:

      Except The Shield was out waaaaay before Breaking Bad and that show is basically the epitome of what you describe. Except it’s not one man’s life dropping off the grid, it’s four.

  3. ColonelFlanders says:

    Maybe you shouldn’t be reviewing a genre of games you clearly don’t like.

    It really feels like you’ve written a hit piece, especially considering you used the phrase “genuinely couldn’t find anyone else who could be bothered” to play it, when the gane you’re referring to received almost universal praise.

    Writing a review of a genre of games you clearly find to be shit does not represent that genre very to well to its fans.

    • John Walker says:

      Understand that our not being able to find anyone else who’d bothered to finish S2 is the exact opposite of its being just my opinion.

      And no, we don’t assign reviews to people who blindly like terrible games. We trust our expertise to accurately reflect the content of a game (rather than our deluded pretence at what it contains as you’ll read on every other site). I have reviewed adventure games for 17 years and played them for 35. I feel reasonably qualified regarding the genre.

      • ColonelFlanders says:

        You’ve missed my point. The reason I bring up that sentence is not because I’m trying to establish your opinion being wrong, or the opposite of popular consensus. I’m trying to point out that I’m dubious you couldn’t find anyone who played all the way through a critically- and user- acclaimed video game. There were shitloads of people who enjoyed both of the previous games, and you clearly didn’t enjoy any of them, so maybe the Walking Dead games are ‘not for you’? That’s the feeling i’m trying to get across here.

        • mpk says:

          That’s not really the point when you’re a professional critic.

        • shocked says:

          If there were already “shitloads” of people who liked the games, do we really need another review in the same vein?

          I think it’s great to have a critic review a game with a different perspective than the other X dozen reviews, especially when he’s able to clearly say what the problems are.

          • John Walker says:

            It does seem pertinent that in all these cross responses, no one’s found the time to point out which of my criticisms is incorrect.

          • magogjack says:

            Why the ones they didn’t like; of course, John.

        • Chaoslord AJ says:

          You’re obviously new to John’s reviews. Don’t ask him about Myst either.
          For a change I’m with him regarding this series. I was annoyed half an hour in and also realized I had to play it multiple times to see everything.

      • ColonelFlanders says:

        EDIT: perhaps i used the word genre a but loosely there. That’s my bad and i apologise. By genre I didn’t mean adventure games in general, I meant telltale’s style of games. They fit into a kind of ‘genre’ of their own to me.

        • Assaf says:

          I don’t feel that his problem is with the “telltale genre”, but with what they do with it. He mainly complains (and I share his sentiments) about the suffering girl syndrome. That’s the main problem with these games. It was interesting at first, but they do nothing with it, they use the same predictable plot points, Clem is always suffering, perhaps even more and more. How many times can a person see Clem getting into a disaster? I pretty much liked S1, when but when starting S2, I couldn’t be arsed with all this negativity, suffering, bad mood. I wasn’t enjoying myself – and for what?

          The problem’s less with the genre, and more with these specific games.

          • leafdot says:

            Though honestly all these critiques – the narrative ones, anyway – can be applied to the source material, too.

            These complaints are the same I have about the series at this point – it’s one thing to do a serialized riff on The Night of the Living Dead (senseless horror, man’s inhumanity to man, etc.) but it’s quite another to do the same thing over and over again.

            At some point it stops being tragic. Like if Hamlet didn’t die at the end, but instead gets a sequel, in which he goes to live at another castle in Denmark with other family members and then everybody else dies, again, and so on for seven years or whatever its been at this point. Eventually it becomes farce.

            Shame this game is the same. I got through season 2 and was willing to give this the benefit of the doubt but… meh. Guess not.

        • Niko says:

          Same with the words “hit piece.”

      • Sarfrin says:

        You are of course qualified to review adventure games. But if you hated the first WD game and no one at RPS played the second, why even bother reviewing the third?

        • John Walker says:

          Because I was hoping it would be great and I could tell people so.

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            subdog says:

            I’m not going to jump on you and say you’re wrong for reviewing whatever you want, but let’s not pretend you haven’t been extremely vocal about loathing this particular subgenre of adventure games.

          • John Walker says:

            When they’ve been bad, yes. I don’t see the point.

          • Premium User Badge

            subdog says:

            On the contrary, even when RPS comes together to make A Wolf Among Us its Adventure Game of the Year, your only contribution to that discussion was to show your distaste for the subgenre (and not the game itself) and suggest other games.

          • Koozer says:

            Games journalist in offering personal opinion about a game shocker! More at 10.

          • stringerdell says:

            This is a complete U turn from what you wrote about series 1 a while ago

            link to rockpapershotgun.com

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            subdog says:

            @Koozer – thanks for the straw man attempt, but I’m not taking issue with John’s opinion about a game. I’m just pointing out that he is very vocal about not caring for the entire subgenre, regardless of the individual game in question.

          • John Walker says:

            I would hope it’s obvious that I care about the sub-genre very much. I believe it could be good, and I have articulated at length my criticisms for how this is not good. Tales From The Borderlands was rather decent, and if anything only further condemns how utterly dreadful these new episodes really are.

      • Stevostin says:

        John, please.

        The Walking Dead Season 2 reviews on steam: “overwhelmingly positive”.

        Fact: the game is likeable. Average player has… let me check… 96% chances to like the game. Now there are also big time gamer like you or me. You made your view clear but just for your information, I am 42, video game are my #1 leisure since I am 14, I’ve completed so many game I don’t know it’s one hundred or several and of course I would rate season 2 as positive. It’s not the writing gem Season 1 was (I instantly knew it would be impossible to beat when I played it. I write story for (some of) my living so consider that an educated opinion) but it’s still a solid adventure with likeable character, the signature gameplay from TTG. It may not be game enough to some but it’s a gameplay not designed to be an interesting game, but to reinforce involvement in a story, and I admire how just a few targeted change on the adventure formula made such a dramatic change in the experience. Which is apparently a popular view with a metacritic score of 80.

        Anyway, as a gaming site, if you can’t find anyone who likes the game to play it and review it, and considering it’s a hugely popular game, the issue is with your journalist roaster. There are no possible way to justify you flaming it in a completely opposite way to what your reader are actually likely to think. This simply not being useful.

        I do appreciate though that you made it clear enough early on in the review that you’re a south pointing compass on the matter. If it’s as bad as season 2, then it’s still one of the best adventure game to play this year. If you don’t understand why, it’s your loss.

        • treat says:

          I think you’ve missed the point. Of journalism, that is. If I come across any outlets that faithfully echo the unbiased gold standard that is Steam review scores, I’ll be sure to let you know about it.

          • Stevostin says:

            I criticize the game journalist for pretending that a game that is proven to be likeable isn’t. Also it’s not only on Steam. Metacritic video game journalist gave it 80. Metacritic users, 8.3/10.

            Which is not to say RPS isn’t entitled to post a piece about “well, we disagree”. But keep in mind there’s no way on earth the average readership of RPS wouldn’t like it better than RPS writers. So if provided with a “it just plain sucks” without the context of “everyone like it but us”, more than one on two readers would be put away of a game she/he would actually like.

            Gaming journalist is *still* about helping us making informed, rewarding buy. In the current state, this article doesn’t, at least not as much as it could. And IMO should.

            Yet again the issue isn’t John, or the whole RPS staff, not liking the game. The issue is with acting like it’s not a controversial stance while it clearly is. In a way that also hinder John’s own review, turning it into an assault piece instead of an always legit opinion piece.

          • GeoX says:


        • Big Murray says:

          Are you criticising a games journalist for not giving you the same opinion that you’ve already read in Steam user reviews …?

        • The Velour Fog says:

          ’tis the season for journalist flaming in an open roaster

        • shocked says:

          There are no possible way to justify you flaming it in a completely opposite way to what your reader are actually likely to think. This simply not being useful.

          To read a well-grounded opinion that’s contrary to your own (and then think about it) is extremely useful.

          If you only want to read what you believe to be true, and never challenge your way of thinking, you seriously fuck yourself.

          I am glad for different and well-founded opinions, especially when the majority seems to think and write the same stuff.

      • DuncUK says:

        So are you saying that Adam Smith lied when he said of the finale “I’m looking forward to the joyous showtune that will mark the final episode.”?

        link to rockpapershotgun.com

        Or did your exhaustive search for people that finished the series not even take in the full roster of RPS writers?

    • Ghostwise says:

      I think that “you didn’t like because you’re blindly biased !!1!” has now overtaken “the dog ate my homework !” by at least three orders of magnitude.

      • ColonelFlanders says:

        I didn’t say that. I said that given his previous impressions of a universally praised game are awful, maybe him reviewing its continuation is not such a great idea. I don’t think it paints a particularly good picture. I think that Dead Rising 1 and 2 are shit, despite a lot of people loving it. I would therefore not expect a fan of the series to come to me for my opinion on DR3.

        This wouldn’t apply at all if this were the first game in a series, since there’s no previous pedigree upon which to establish what you’re saying. But for the third game in a series it should probaboy be covered by someone who liked the first two games, since most of the people reading this review will be fans that want to compare it to the previous iterations.

        • John Walker says:

          I believe time will once again prove my reviews accurate. In 2009 I was the only voice pointing out how fucking terrible the first two series of Sam & Max games were in the face of wall-to-wall 9/10 reviews. History has judged me rather kindly there as people finally admit they were awful. People will catch up on these barely interactive fake-choice-athons too.

          • ColonelFlanders says:

            So, a game that a lot of people like but you don’t is just a culturally retarded demographic that will eventually come round to the ‘sensible’ way of thinking? Gosh, that sure is a terribly elitist thing to say. I guess we should all sit and wait just as patiently while you catch up with nonsense walking simulators like Firewatch?

          • Premium User Badge

            subdog says:

            I’ve never seen this groundswell of resentment towards the TT Sam & Max games that you claim exists.

          • Halk says:

            So which games are doing choices properly?

          • April March says:

            *slam fists on table* You don’t say that kind of thing about Neue Sam & Max on MY house! Er, but we’re on yours, so carry on. Sorry about the table.

          • Koozer says:

            Hey! I liked Sam & Max, it was entertaining. I also understand we are all mostly humans here with highly subjective personal views and can therefore happily accept your differing stance without threatening to set fire to your house. Merry Christmas everyone!

          • malkav11 says:

            I remember quite a few people not liking the Telltale Sam and Max games back in the day. I haven’t seen any turn towards that number meaningfully increasing, though, and quite a few people who disliked the first few episodes of season 1 (like me) who developed a much more positive perspective on the whole thing starting with later season 1 (episode four was great and started a trend of greatness) or season 2.

            But even if they had, frankly, retrospective backlash is a lot more suspect than honest acclaim out of the gate. I can think of more than a couple of games that suddenly developed very negative word of mouth after an initially very positive reception, not because some intrinsic flaw had been discovered, but just because the internet is prone to hate mobs and dogpiling. (C.f. things like Bioshock Infinite – perhaps not the perfect game early reviews suggested, but certainly not the absolute garbage that many commenters later decided it to be.)

          • Ralsto says:

            You cannot be serious with this shit. You have to be trolling these people. You think that because some random assholes on the internet agree with you later about a game, your reviews have been “proven right”? And you really think you were the only one who had that opinion and the only one that has this one? I mean, you can’t legitimately be that childish and stupid, can you? I mean you’re sitting here lashing out at everyone with about as much finesse as a kid in the comments section of IGN. No. You have to be fucking with us. I sure hope so, for your own sake.

          • Premium User Badge

            zapatapon says:

            Oooooh! I think it’s time to mention Myst now

          • John Walker says:

            No, what actually happened was season 3 of S&M came out and was actually rather good, and all those who’d heaped such ridiculous praise on the hateful earlier episodes had to do some incredibly awkward backtracking to make sense of this.

          • lokido says:

            Wow, arrogance on a new level. A review is that: a review. Your opinion about a game and nothing else. It cannot be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, it’s just your opinion.

            You’re the guy that ate sushi twice and didn’t like it and here’s an article about the third try. Get over yourself.

          • John Walker says:

            My opinions are demonstrably better than your opinions. HTH.

        • gunny1993 says:

          He said there was no one who cared enough to complete the second series, it’s better to have John who can at least give a amusing review prefaced with the fact that he hates the series, than someone who would just do a lukewarm job.

        • FurryLippedSquid says:

          The right reviewer for the right game? What nonsense.

          • Premium User Badge

            john_silence says:

            But… but… John might say something that doesn’t conform to the universal truth of the Steam community. Where so many shitty games come to be redeemed under the benevolent glare of paid reviews, confirmation bias, and the twisted expectation that a game, any game, has to be good, if you don’t like it you’re wrong, foolish, incompetent, clearly out of your depth, you should be silenced and let the grown-ups speak even though they haven’t played it.

            Or he might step perilously far from the Metacritic mean, and up-end the high standards set by his peers in terms of narrative analysis.

            Better to always entrust a review to someone whe really “gets” the game, you know, so we avoid the unpleasantness of having flaws pointed out; how terribly unseemly.

      • Stevostin says:

        Thing is about Season 2:

        Metacritic 80
        User’s metacritic 8.3
        Steam review: 96% positive

        The very least thing when you make a controversial claim is to make it clear you realize it’s controversial and say your piece in that context.

        • thedosbox says:

          It’s like you didn’t read the review:

          Example 1:
          Season 1 of their interpretation of The Walking Dead won a lot of acclaim

          Example 2:
          Your feelings about the previous two seasons of The Walking Dead video game may be different than mine, and I suspect you can discern the usefulness of my review of the first two episodes of the third season by how far apart we are.

          Having said that, I enjoyed Season 1 well enough, but agree with John that Season 2 just retreaded the same “torture Clementine” ground.

          And after playing Life is Strange, I refuse to put up with Telltale’s clunky engine any further.

          • Big Murray says:

            God yes. Life Is Strange has raised the bar in this genre for me, and it does make the Telltale efforts seem a bit … lacking in subtlety.

          • Stevostin says:

            1) the reviews/figures I quote are of season 2, not 1.

            2) before making claim that I misread the reviews, you should make sure you read all my posts. Quoting myself (sorry):

            “I do appreciate though that you made it clear enough early on in the review that you’re a south pointing compass on the matter. If it’s as bad as season 2, then it’s still one of the best adventure game to play this year. If you don’t understand why, it’s your loss.”

            I was sincere. That John does that is actually showing some honesty and consciousness he doesn’t want to abuse anyone.

          • Samfisher says:

            I’ve tried Life is Strange for a bit, but I thoroughly hated it. I don’t find the premise interesting at all, and the main character just feels so…meh. I couldn’t stand just the intro level in school I had to refund it.

        • thedosbox says:

          Replying here as the comment system on RPS sucks.

          1) the reviews/figures I quote are of season 2, not 1.

          The quoted points were chosen to show John’s opinion of the *series* – i.e. the context you’re claiming wasn’t provided.

          2) before making claim that I misread the reviews, you should make sure you read all my posts.

          Err, no – I responded to that specific post as it implied that John was not aware of how his opinion significantly differs from others, and that he didn’t frame the review accordingly.

          IMO, the quoted text makes that abundantly clear. Your recognition of subtext may vary of course.

  4. mpk says:

    Glad to see my preconceptions of this season confirmed. I was quite equivocal about it beforehand, even after enjoying the first two seasons (with diminishing returns), but this review has definitevely added the “un”.

    • gunny1993 says:

      I thought having clem in the second series was fairly telling. The first was amazing and still is, but when you start to see the same thing play out again it just starts to fall apart, suspension of disbelief just goes out the window.

      I think the only reason I would play this new one is for the moments, even when the complete picture starts to reveal it wheels the moments can still be fun and engrossing.

    • cpt_freakout says:

      I’m one of those people who used to watch the show and find it great in many ways, but I decided to stop after last season (took me a while, I know). I just wasn’t taking anything from it anymore, by which I mean I feel like the series exhausted everything it wanted to say, as a Hobbesian HARDCORE SURVIVAL device, about half-way through the season. I thought Telltale’s take was great the first season, but that it used some ugly and cheap emotional tactics on the second one because it, too, had exhausted all its ideas. I once rushed to buy S2, I’m holding off on this one, so yeah, thanks for suffering your way through that, John.

  5. Halk says:

    It is simply more of the same. That’s this whole article in 7 words.

    You forgot to criticise the sound though. I wouldn’t know what to bash about it but I’m sure you would have found something as you battered the whole game and everything around it.

    “Within seconds she’s being attacked by walkers, has her hand crushed in a car door, is sobbing and suffering while unable to help baby AJ, screaming, staring at her buckled fingers.”
    That actually depends on your choices in season 2.

    • Moragami says:

      Agree, lotta people don’t have baby AJ in their playthrough, that’s one of the many things that rules about this series. If you didn’t care about your choices in Season 1, then of course it all seems repetitive and redundant, this emotionally stunted reviewer just doesn’t get it.

      • John Walker says:

        You might want to keep your nasty thoughts inside your head.

        • Just Endless says:

          You have 20 comments in this thread and they are *all* nasty. I have no qualm with your written content, but seeing the author of a blog get absurdly petty in the comment section thereof makes me wanna go find a different site.

          • Nauallis says:

            So go find one, what’s stopping you? Some need to prove you hold objective moral high-ground?

      • Assaf says:

        I cared about my choices in S1, but it was still repetitive and redundant. How many times can you watch the game try to pull your strings? Put you in a disaster? I just didn’t find it fun.
        Please see here

        • klops says:

          Even if you cared about your choises in S1, the didn’t affect the game in S2 in any way.

  6. RuySan says:

    Thanks for the boldness of telling it like it is John. I liked the walking dead season one, but after the dreadful season 2, the cock block that was the game of thrones telltale game and how Life is Strange showed how this kind of games should be done, I don’t think I’ll waste my time with any of their games again.

    But it can be argued that some of your criticisms can also be applied to the TV show, so at least it’s faithful to it.

  7. Thirith says:

    It’s odd – sometimes I agree with John’s take on a game almost 100%… but sometimes I don’t even understand the game he describes as the same one I’ve played. I think part of this is that when he pans a title, he’s prone to not just criticise the game but condemn it morally, in a tone that’s far from RPS’s credo of “It’s all subjective” (which I agree with, at least in it’s elaborated form). And that’s something that puts me off those reviews: to me they come across as harangues, as absolute statements on the worth and worthiness of not only a game but it’s developers and those who might enjoy it wholly or in part. I best like reviewers where I come away feeling I understand a book,film or game better even if I don’t agree with the reviewer’s verdict, but the longer the more I simply don’t find this to be the case with John.

    • John Walker says:

      So I should have pretended the games aren’t incessant fetishised torture of a little girl? Or you don’t like that I pointed it out?

      btw, this is what subjective reviews means. You get to disagree.

      • Thirith says:

        You do whatever you like, John. It’s your site, it’s your opinion. It’s just that I prefer reviews hat actually seem interested in a discussion or debate. In this case at least, I get none of that. Someone else wrote about you “telling it like it is” – if so, it’s an approach and attitude I find uninteresting as criticism.

        • Big Murray says:

          How do you want a review to be a debate? A review is literally one person’s opinion. If you want a discussion or a debate, that’s what you’re having right now by talking to John about his review.

          • Thirith says:

            There’s reviews that invite discussion, that in (overly simple) terms say, “This is what I made of the game, for these reasons. Was it the same for you? If not, what was your impression?” It’s a matter of tone and self-positioning, at least in part. This review doesnt do so: it invites agreement (with an opinion that’s presented as a) objective fact and b) moral condemnation) or disagreement. The kind of reviewer I find most interesting also has some self-awareness, an idea of their own biases and limitations, of how their perspective and personality inform their reviews, and his in turn leaves space for the readers to engage with the review and reviewer – regardless of whether they agree or disagree. I can’t see much of that here. The only engagement I see this fostering is along the lines of: “Yes, it is!” “No, it isn’t!” Repeat until one side gets bored.

          • April March says:

            Sorry, I’d find one such review to be incredibly limp-wristed. If I see a review of a game that I completely disagree with but that is made with authoritative and well-researched points, I will say: “I disagree but find your points interesting.” If I see a review that I completely disagree with but that keeps saying “well I thought that… well you might not agree but… well it’s not common thought but…” I will say “Clearly you thought the same thing about the game as I did, and are pretending not to for some reason I can’t fathom.”

            Of course, there is another kind of bad review, in which the author clearly doesn’t like or know about the genre in order to give readers and informed decision. Even a good writer will be bad in that review because all it can say usually is “if you don’t like this genre/series, this game won’t change your mind”. I suppose it could be argued that this review falls in this latter category, but it’d be reaching in my review. It states its points clearly.

          • Thirith says:

            I think something can be both authoritative and still leave space for disagreement. It’s the difference between “This is my opinion, and I have the following good reasons for it” and “This be the truth.” John sometimes has reviews where he pronounces moral judgement on a game, its makers and (to a lesser extent) the people who might think differently, and they very much read as the latter to me. I don’t have this specific issue with any of the other writers here, at least not as consistently as with John, and it’s not an “OMGSJW!!!” thing, since I largely seem to agree with John on social issues. I’m mainly trying to explain why I don’t find this review helpful or interesting, and that I’ve felt the same about a number of his reviews.

          • jezcentral says:

            To be honest, when websites conclude their review with the words “This is what I made of the game, for these reasons. Was it the same for you? If not, what was your impression?” They are basically just begging for comments.

            It’s often a standard practice, not a genuine plea for debate.

    • cannedpeaches says:

      I’m getting that vibe here. I’ve liked what John has said about some other games before – in recent memory, his WIT on “Orwell” was really good, fair, and made me interested in that game for more reasons than just entertainment. But while there are games which are unequivocally not great and have no redeeming features, Telltale’s just divisive. For some people they’re non-games, for others they’re game enough.

      For me they’re game enough. I see them for what they are – a gamization what would rightfully be a film or a show – so I only judge them by their story, acting, art, and whether the Skinner-boxy game elements actually keep me interested enough to absorb the aforementioned. It would have been one thing to see a review from somebody who often or occasionally likes Telltale titles and finds this one wanting or disagrees with its decisions – I would have mentally assigned it a C-, and passed on buying it. It just sounds like John already had an allergy to the Telltale “genre” and then was assigned to swallow down a title of theirs he disagreed with philosophically, and consequently threw up. It’s just that in this case he threw up on me the reader.

      May I just formally request in the future a little more evenhandedness and less outright condemnation, even if that means finding somebody else to write the review.

      • John Walker says:

        We’ll keep writing about games as we see fit. It’s “Wot I Think”.

        • cannedpeaches says:

          I suppose the subjectivity is implied in the title, and it is your website after all.

          I just thought I’d register my dissatisfaction as an interested party. I would like to continue to see RPS treated as a credible journalistic outlet, because it makes me happy when I go to Metacritic and see this publication listed as a featured reviewer, and I fear that reviews like this put that label in jeopardy.

          • RuySan says:

            When isn’t a review entirely subjective?

          • April March says:

            Honestly if RPS was removed from Metacritic – especially if it was because of a review such as this – the party I’d think less of would be Metacritic. If it is even possible for me to think less of Metacritic.

          • Koozer says:

            Surely the moment a site starts to worry about if a review will get them pulled from Metacritic is the first sign of their coming doom.

          • John Walker says:

            Bearing in mind we have repeatedly asked Metacritic not to include RPS’s reviews in their score aggregation, it’s not exactly top of our worry list.

        • Ghostwise says:

          Uh, one of these days you should post an article about why you don’t want to be part of Metacritic’s scores. That sounds intriguing.

          (Unless y’all already did and I missed it because it was before I started reading RPS regularly, eh).

          • John Walker says:

            It’s not really deserving of an article. We don’t give scores for a reason – the whole process is very silly. Metacritic have repeatedly asked us over the years if they can assign a score to our words and then include it, and we’ve told them no.

            In very recent times they’ve added a bit at the bottom to link reviews that don’t have scores, and we said doing that was fine.

          • Ghostwise says:

            (Replying to meself since don’t have a reply button for John’s post)

            Oh, it’s *that* daft. I see. :-) Thanks for the answer !

            Though I occasionally glance at the general trend of Steam “reviews” (scare quotes), I much prefer to read cogent thoughts by a professional.

            Especially if it’s somebody whose articles I can read over months or even years. This way I can get a sense of their preferences and how they relate (or don’t) to mine.

            Frex I’m fairly sure I’d share your reaction to Inside (or Walking Dead) about the child suffering thing, even though most everybody else thought Inside was the cat’s pjs.

    • Nauallis says:

      You must’ve been reading a different review or not paying attention then, because this one paragraph really sums up how the game feels:

      “Zombie stories are obviously woefully played out, and The Walking Dead offers the least imaginative portrayal of the form. Even the most patient of diehards are giving up on the ridiculous TV interpretation of the source comic, and it seems the last drips of potential have been wrung dry from the entire genre, with only outliers like Zombieland managing to find something of a fun last gasp. No one has the courage/imagination to do anything interesting with the theme (I think 2006’s okay-ish Fido was the last time anyone even tried), instead inevitably resorting to the same hoary old tropes of “band of people where one’s a wrong-un, one is secretly bit!”. Oh good GRIEF is The Walking Dead video game trapped in that dreary mire.”

      I know exactly what he’s talking about because I am fucking sick of the same-old zombie trope shit (which is all that The Walking Dead is), and the example of Zombieland is a rather brilliant way to point out that at least some writers & directors are willing to do something original with the post-apocalypse zombie genre. And then the next 7 paragraphs of his review address what happens in the three seasons of the game, and how weirdly different this season is… but ultimately is the same garbage.

      Frankly what this looks like to me is the “let’s argue with John” bandwagon where the commenter is of course objective and subjectively right, but John can’t be, because it’s cool to shit all over John’s reviews. But you know, clearly I just can’t stand dissent.

      • Nauallis says:

        Agree or not, I’m always amused that John’s reviews and articles always seem to get the most commentary, because damn, he knows how to trigger the masses. It’s glorious.

        • Longestsprout says:

          Not that unusual or even unreasonable for people to get “triggered” when a reviewer goes after a game this hard and with such a tone, especially when the reader doesn’t agree.

          Much like going after a beehive with a stick. There’s certainly something admirable to be found in the exercise, but in the end you’re hitting a beehive with a stick. Like, come on.

          • John Walker says:

            I would gladly have the comments switched off and never hear another person’s thoughts about this game. (With the important exception for highlighting factual errors I’ve made.) I wrote my feelings about the game I played, and that’s my job and enough for me. I have no interest in “controversy”.

  8. Kefren says:

    Does it still have unskippable “last time on Walking Dead!” at the start or each episode and unskippable “Next time on Walking Dead!” spoilers at the end of each? That put me off Telltale after four games more than anything else.

    • nunka says:

      Gods, I really wish they would stop doing that. I have to mute my sound and look away from the screen when that nonsense happens.

      Even if I were playing episodically as each part is released, I wouldn’t want to see that.

  9. Morlock says:

    I disliked season 2 and the mini-season “Michonne” enough to not be interested in more Walking Dead. However, John, I think you are not doing Season 1 justice from a plot perspective. Season 1 is a lot about being a parent and preparing your kid for the world “out there”. It’s not an incredible story, but way more than “watching a girl suffer” and having bad guys or zombies ruin your day, and miles above most stories we get in this medium.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Well TWD, T.V, comic and game (Hell maybe even the entire zombie genre) have always been character driven, not plot driven.

      I would argue that a truly engaging plot might even detract from what the goal of the game/show/comic is, i.e. to show what humanity/specific characters are like when the worst possible situation happens.

      Problem with that is, if you don’t advance characters or treat them all as totally disposable, then you draw focus onto the bland narrative.

      It kind of makes these types of games hard to look at, as the only real measure of success is: Your connection to the characters > Your awareness of the plot.

      I think Johns right in his “watching a girl suffer” criticism, even in the first game there’s far too few scenes of anything other than abject horror, there always needed to be more levity to show the characters in another light, but at least for the first game, my connection to the characters > my awareness of the plot.

  10. Scelous says:

    After seeing the good reviews of Season 3 and then opening this up to, “It’s fucking awful,” I immediately grinned and thought to myself, “John, is that you?! Is that you, John? You goofy guy.”

    For the record, I agree with John completely (not that it makes him any less of a contrarian). I feel like The Walking Dead intellectual property across all its forms of media has played out the same story points and same emotional reactions enough times now that it’s just become repetitive and blah.

    “Choose to say one thing rather than another thing that someone will ‘remember’ (which is to say, later vaguely allude to it as the exact same events that would have happened either way play out).” Yep. The game feels as linear as TWD TV show or comics, with a player’s choice basically amounting to minor cosmetic differences.

    “At this point it would be a shocking surprise twist if they didn’t murder a main character while she stared.” Pretty much. I felt like the way Telltale dealt with the ending of Season 2 in Season 3 was insulting to the players. And, the surprise twist at the end of Episode 2, Season 3, had me burst out laughing. The only thing that would create genuine shock and surprise from me is if anyone survives besides Clementine (and their death isn’t brutal and belaboured).

    • John Walker says:

      I seriously strongly object to the word “contrarian”. It’s another way of saying “liar”, and I’m not a liar. I write my thoughts and reactions to a game.

      I had no idea how the game had been reviewed until I’d finished writing my own, then went to look at Metacritic. In fact, I’ll paste from the RPS Secret-o-Chat today:

      john [14:54]
      Now I’ve finished writing my review of Walking Dead S3, I will look at the Metascore and scream into the abyss.



      • Coming Second says:

        Whatever you say, Contrary John. Whatever you say.

      • Abacus says:

        I feel like Mega64’s “Modern Game Journalism The Movie” is pertinent to this.

        It’s quite tiring seeing people pony up to voice their concern about a reviewer giving a game a bad review. In fact I’ve been tired of it for a while, this has been going on for years.

        To your detractors I would ask; are you that blind to the fatigue wider audiences feel towards ‘zombies’ in pop culture? Or the fatigue people feel to formulaic Telltale games in general?

        Still a joy to read the review, nevertheless.

        • Comintern1919 says:

          Well, as a detractor:

          Seeing as Zombie Movies, Games, Books, Comics are still popular, watched/played/read by many, many people, and still rated sometimes bad, sometimes very good, to be honest, no, I don’t see this fatigue of the wider audience.

          I see the fatigue of some people, and it’s their right to express that fatigue, but the wider audience still doesn’t seem to be that sick of Zombies yet. Luckily for me, since I still love Zombies.

      • ColonelFlanders says:

        No one called you a liar. You were accused of being a contrarian (someone who rejects popular opinion, who believes that everyone else is wrong and he is right). People can only judge your attitude based upon what you say, and given your propensity for REALLY shitting on games you don’t like, followed by attacking people who disagree with you, it’s pretty fair cop, I say.

        • John Walker says:

          A contrarian is someone who deliberately chooses a different opinion from the masses. I find contrarians to be deeply wretched, and a stain on this industry. It is deceit. I object to being described as a contrarian.

          Never mind that most of my reviews skew toward the mean, making the label irrelevant.

          • GeoX says:

            I don’t agree with this at all. A contrarian is someone who is instinctively skeptical of things that receive universal, lavish praise. They may be influenced in their opinion by an unconscious desire to go against conventional wisdom, but that doesn’t mean they’re “lying.” Yeesh.

      • Premium User Badge

        subdog says:

        It is amazingly ironic that you’re trolling the comments about your own subjectivity and then reduce other journalists’ opinions to their metacritic scores. Maybe instead of freaking out about their numbers you could maybe read them and see where your opinions actually differ?

  11. Snarkman3 says:

    Haven’t played any Telltale game apart from the first Monkey Island chapters and I don’t really intend to, but I need to say:

    John, I love how you say what you think in such an honest manner, without letting hype or the opposite opinion of large groups of people change your mind or soften your own opinions. It’s these kind of reviews that make RPS my go-to gaming site.

    Also, I love how you actually argue with people in the comments because it’s fucking hilarious.

    • John Walker says:

      Thank you : )

      • gi_ty says:

        I just wanted to add my voice of support for your pieces. Even if I deeply disagree with your point of view you write in such an enjoyable manner I can’t help but chuckle. I also appreciate your candid approach, and hope you never change your writing and openness about your opinions.

        • stumpybottom007 says:

          Yep, I totally agree. I might not agree with what John says, but the way he says it is always worth reading.

  12. Gandor says:

    Love the review, and I agree completely. After seasons 1&2 I have no intention of coming back to genre anytime soon.

    About the zombie movies, maybe try watching Maggie. It’s not your typical zombie film.

    It’s no torture porn of little girls, but hell, give it a try.

  13. sicanshu says:

    This is my kind of review. Even if I disagree, at least it’s an honest response to a game, rather than just another 7.2 where the writer constantly hedges, like they’re walking on eggshells not to anger the fanboy hivemind.

  14. stuw23 says:

    I got S1 and S2 in a bundle, so gave them a play. I quite liked S1, but about halfway through S2, I was starting to feel fed up, and by the end, felt that “little girl torture simulator” was a pretty apt description. I don’t mind the gameplay – or lack of – and thought having Clem essentially be the main character was an interesting choice, but the constant disaster happening to a child really got me down. I was curious (hopeful?) that this would go in a different direction as Clem was getting older, and I’d like to see how the story continued, but flashbacks? UGH. No. Thank you for letting us know it’s more of the same, when that’s exactly what I did not want.

    FWIW, I also played through TWD: Michonne and thought it was OK.

    Edit – and yeah, don’t listen to calls for “even-handedness”. If you hate a game, say so. It’s part of why I like this site so much.

  15. batraz says:

    This tread is mean. I’m going to rewatch Pip’s astroneer base to soothe my poor soul.

  16. Coming Second says:

    I thought the first series was really good. This was partially because it was the first Telltale game I’d ever played, so wasn’t as jaded by their now-extremely-worn book of tricks, but also because it felt well structured and thought through. You play Lee, not Clementine, and the concept of redemption is retained throughout, as is what you are trying to impart to her as a surrogate father. This comes together satisfyingly in the finale, and ultimately it feels like a decent story well told.

    The second series was as cheap and nasty as this review makes out, just a gorey, nihilistic mess, and it left such a bad taste in my mouth that I haven’t approached a Telltale title since. I wouldn’t have gotten this anyway, but the fact that a lot of issues I had with the second series are brought up here reaffirms to me that that’s the correct decision. It’s utterly cynical for the developer to persist with a IP far beyond the point they had anything interesting to do with it.

  17. Big Murray says:

    Genuine question John, if you read this … is your objection to the “fetishisation of little girl torturing” rooted in Clementine being a girl, or would it be equally as disgusting in your opinion if a male character was subjected to the same?

    • John Walker says:

      I don’t know as – and this is a lot of the issue – games just never pick a boy to suffer this way. There’s a reason it’s always a girl, and it’s an ugly reason. However, I suspect as the father of a boy, I’d find it excruciatingly difficult to sit through.

      • mpk says:

        Being the father of a boy was exactly why I found the first series so distressing, specifically Kenny’s choice in episode 3.

  18. mundanesoul says:

    Reviews like this are precisely why I visit RPS every day. While I personally disagree with John about The Walking Dead series, it is way more entertaining to me to read an honest opinion that tears the game apart than one that largely says the same thing that everyone else is saying (especially when it is written so well). I end up seeing the game from an enlarged perspective and admitting to myself that I like it despite some of the bullshit it’s guilty of rather than just blindly accepting it as wonderful. The most important part of John’s review, I think, is his mention of the unrelenting torture that a female character must endure that we don’t often see male characters forced to undergo. (Lara Croft comes to mind as a recent example.) It is this sort of criticism that is vital to a world where we are coming to understand just how fucked up so many of our social structures have been for so long.

  19. Monggerel says:

    Y’know, I actually think every single Telltale game is utter fucking garbage and so is every walking simulator and every story-focused game ever and if you enjoy them you’re buying into stone soup. Without the soup part. It’s just stone and water. Enjoy, you true gourmet you.

  20. stringerdell says:

    How did it make 19th best adventure game ever if everyone at RPS hated the first two seasons with a passion?

    link to rockpapershotgun.com

    • John Walker says:

      Nope – I said that we didn’t know of anyone who’d bothered to finish the second season. It was me who hated it with a passion.

      The first season, which I didn’t go into in the review, is better, although in the end (as I allude to in that linked piece) I ultimately found it to be a cruel and spiteful series despite being well made.

      • stringerdell says:

        I’m honestly not trying to be a jerk here but in your words the first series has gone from

        ‘a smart, intriguing reinvention of how to approach adventures’


        ‘an empty and agonisingly slow experience’

        The reviews of episodes from season 1 at the time were positive too. I get that 3 full length games about watching a kid go through bad things could sour you on the experience and put you off ever playing it again but I dont see how two bad sequels can turn a good original game into a bad one?

        Its kind of odd to say nobody at RPS enjoyed the series at all when coverage of season 1 here was pretty much all positive.

        • John Walker says:

          I’ll try again: I said nobody finished season 2. I said I didn’t like season 2. You are conflating these things.

          “Empty” was a polite way of saying “cruel and spiteful”, and god yes it was agonisingly slow – even its biggest fans would surely not be so ridiculous to try to claim otherwise?

          • stringerdell says:

            So is season 1 one of your favourite adventure games ever or an empty and torturous experience? Or both? I guess it could be both…

            There are plenty of games I enjoy despite them being pretty empty and vacuous, and some I enjoy that are uncomfortable to play for various reasons. But both?

          • salmonmoose says:

            The Telltale games thoughtfully hand out achievements like candy for finishing chapters. More than 50% of people finished Season 2, with closer to 40% finishing S1. If Steamspy is to be trusted about half as many people own S2, but that leaves about 350,000 people who have played through it. Using the same sources, Doom 2016 has about 450,000.

  21. malkav11 says:

    I intensely disagree with you about the Walking Dead games specifically and indeed Telltale’s ouevre in general. I think the first season was incredibly gripping, and the second was not as compelling but still very strong (though Telltale’s best is Tales from the Borderlands, and the best incarnation of the formula is Life is Strange). I have yet to play season 3, but although I could easily see this additional revisit feeling a bit lily-gilding, I wouldn’t be surprised if I loved it as well.

    But the idea that you shouldn’t review it just because you disagree with most people about the franchise is silly and I can’t support that.

  22. sdfex says:

    Hey, what gives! Season 3 has an 86 on Metacritic right now. Why isn’t at least 86% of your review positive about the game?

    Your feelings are not allowed to strongly deviate from this number because journalism and statistics.

    Props for your earnesty, John. I enjoyed Season one and Season two was absurd in so many ways but I think you do provide a keen insight when you underline the nature of the cheap and ugly sensation that may be used to drive the story.

  23. enem1eswilld1e says:

    I hope the next Call Of Duty is met with the same negativity since it’s the same over and over again.

  24. geldonyetich says:

    Sounds pretty much exactly what I’d expect for playing a Telltale game based on the zombie craze that is (finally) going back in the trend locker with bellbottoms and goldfish shoes for awhile.

  25. Longestsprout says:

    I think my eyes just glazed over. So it’s bad? I was expecting you to review the game, not bludgeon it to death.

  26. Szhival says:

    I think the worse thing that happened to the whole zombie apocalypse narrative is the movie World War Z. Thanks to that, no one will now touch the book which is still a massive amount of untouched material that could be explored withing the genre.
    Want a new twist on the story? Move it somewhere else them America.

  27. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    John described precisely what I experienced with Season 1.
    There’s nothing wrong with some drama, but drama’s one thing, misery porn is another. And it felt like TWD was built around the latter, and they couldn’t be bothered with gameplay or a plot that makes sense, as long as there were enough “duude, that’s messed UP!” moments. Playing season 1 felt icky because of that.

  28. tslog says:

    This review is one big reason why I come to RPS.

    Is John starting a “fake reviews” meme ? ;) Full support from me.
    I do worry that my fake reviews joke will catch on that and it’ll be overused within the 1st week. Better to be prepared before it’s inevitable creation by another ?

    I’m surprised that the Teltale doesn’t get slammed harder for its factory outlet garbage machine production schedule that would shame UBisoft or Activision.
    They clearly fired their QA department early on.

  29. Thirith says:

    “No, what actually happened was season 3 of S&M came out and was actually rather good, and all those who’d heaped such ridiculous praise on the hateful earlier episodes had to do some incredibly awkward backtracking to make sense of this.”

    I think it’s stuff like this that finally makes me throw in the towel. I didn’t enjoy Sam & Max S1 or S2 all that much, but you genuinely consider “hateful” an adequate description of them? And if you have no interest in accepting that some people might genuinely have enjoyed those games for reasons that don’t contradict your opinion, if you think that every single reviewer who had a different take from yours is clearly not acting in good faith, that’s the sort of humourless, joyless, self-aggrandising harangue that puts me off your reviews completely.

    • basilisk says:

      John’s language has always been hyperbolic. Games he loves are absolutely splendid, games he did’t like are a hateful waste of time. I do think he has some blind spots (and who doesn’t?), but his penchant for exaggeration is part and parcel of who he is as a reviewer, and has been for as long as I’ve been aware of his writing.

      Frankly, I don’t see why this review is seen as controversial. Being far too formulaic has always been Telltale’s huge weakness and given their track record, I would be very surprised if TWD season three deviated from that. They’re very much a factory these days.

      Not quite sure why someone pointing out the extremely formulaic character and a complete lack of anything new to say in The Walking Dead has to mean you’re a contrarian; it’s very obvious. The question is whether you have a problem with that or not, not whether it’s there.

      • Thirith says:

        Yeah, I don’t share the notion that John is a contrarian. I never doubt that he means what he says. It’s the hyperbole, though; I prefer reviews that have other modes than loud, very loud and extremely loud, and at least when John doesn’t like something, he tends to default to those only.

        • John Walker says:

          I guess it’s understandable that people create mythological versions of reality and then complain about it, but it’s very peculiar to be on the receiving end of it.

          Most of the reviews I’ve written this year have been positive or middling. I checked. Lots and lots and lots of middling reviews, not celebrating but not harsh. And there have been very few very negative reviews, saved for games that deserve them.

          But what happens is, you remember maybe two, three of them, and then decide it’s all that exists, then leave comments on the internet based on that daft decision. I can’t stop you from doing that, but instead just have to focus on reality.

          • Thirith says:

            I expect this is as tedious to you as it is to me, John; I’ll leave it after this next comment, because I’m sure we’ve both got better things to do. I did want to repeat what I said earlier in this conversation, though: there are times when your verdict and mine are almost identical, and there are others where, even though we disagree, I find your reviews useful. I never said all your reviews were negative or that they were all rants (though I tend to find the ones that are pretty unpleasant, even though I enjoy a good rant), so I’d be glad if you didn’t strawman me while lecturing me about how you operate in reality while I operate in some sort of fantasy – at the very least I’d say it’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

            Anyway, I’m sorry to have wasted both our times. For what it’s worth, I do hope you have a merry Christmas, with games you enjoy.

          • Nick says:

            “I guess it’s understandable that people create mythological versions of reality and then complain about it”

            Yeah, it would be to you.

    • John Walker says:

      Yes, I would say those games were hateful. Those soda pop kids or whatever the hell they were called? Every moment they appeared was agonising. And they kept appearing, as if the writers not only didn’t realise they were one of gaming’s lowest ebbs, but actually a hilarious success. Bleaurgh, awful awful games.

  30. astrikes says:

    Wow, you’ve taken a bit of a beating here in the comments and I’m really not sure why. Stories about suffering and loss and tragedy and horror are all valid, as long as the purpose of all these experiences is to convey something more meaningful, some point- even if that point is nihilistic. The problem lies when you repeat that same point over and over again without developing it or adding depth or layers- then you’ve created a fetishistic pain loop in the hopes that people will be entertained by the very act of witnessing suffering without any development or payoff. If your point is relentless, repetitive nihilism then I don’t see the point in continuing to engage with your art.

  31. SanguineAngel says:

    Hey these comments have been extremely interesting.

    I can think of no earthly reason why John’s opinion of games within the specific genre should prohibit him from writing a useful review. John’s opinions are unique to him but certainly overlap with a number of readers (Just like any other critic). John’s WiT’s of any game at all will be useful for some readers and not for others.

    What John does very well is explain his position to the reader, enabling them to determine by that context how relevant the review is likely to be (“Oh I feel the same so this might be useful!” or “This is the opposite of my experiece so this might still be useful as a measure”).

    Can’t say I always agree with John but that’s not the point of a review is it? I usually find his reviews useful for determining whether I’ll like a game.

  32. nunka says:

    John, I’m intrigued by your take on TWD as a fetishization of little girl torture. Makes me think. I imagine the writers didn’t set out to torture a little girl. They probably thought it would be “cool” and “subversive” to tell the story of a once-helpless girl being forged by the fires of terror, loss, and suffering into a seasoned survivor. This places the series at a particularly interesting corner of the intersection of intent and result, where we’re left to wonder why Telltale’s writers felt that was the right decision, and more importantly why the result seems to be resonating with so many people in gaming.

    I think institutionalized sexism, particularly in gaming, plays a major role. Clementine, as a girl, is considered inherently “lesser than” so it’s all the more “heroic” for her to survive and thrive when all around her grown men are dropping like flies. Then there’s the paternal instinct granted by being placed in Lee’s shoes, as if to say, “That’s your daughter. Wouldn’t you want your daughter to be ‘awesome?’ Well, here’s what it takes to get there. Better hope she lives.” This deftly plays on the stereotypical overprotective father-daughter relationship that has become so ingrained in our cultural subconscious. It’s in there so deep that we as players, regardless of gender, all feel that distinctly paternal connection to Clementine. And that connection is only strengthened when she sets off on her own.

    How, then, do we feel about Clementine as a character, as a person? It’s at this point that opinions diverge and we can see the cracks in the seams of the games industry’s adolescent treatment of gender. Most gamers find Clementine “badass.” Why? Maybe it’s as simple as video game culture – and intersecting cultures like anime – being inundated by the badass little girl trope. Maybe it’s that gaming culture leans heavily masculine, and conventional masculinity places heavy value on masculine women as long as they don’t look masculine. I don’t really know. On the other end of the spectrum, we have folks like yourself, who look at TWD with a more critical eye regarding gender, and perhaps are more concerned with the human element of storytelling than with the so-called badassery and heroism of things. These people see a character who is – regardless of intent – continuously tortured in new ways each episode.

    I’m sure there’s a lot more to this whole deal. I am not a writer. I am but a simple commenter, and here my comment ends. Maybe someone else has written about this. They probably have. Go find their stuff.

  33. KvP says:

    Far be it from me to suggest that The Walking Dead, in its game form, has seen its bag of tricks run dry just as every other form of the property has, but drilliing down to the most reductive elements of a game’s design or approach seems like a slippery slope.

    Like, I’m the only person alive to find the Witcher 3 incredibly tedious, and it’s largely because I don’t tacitly agree to go along with what the game is trying to do or say when I play it. Witcher 3 is a peasant misery simulator in the same way that TWD is a little girl misery simulator. You could argue that this is a product of the game’s principled lack of compromise w/r/t its war-torn setting. But I honestly wouldn’t give a shit even if I bought that line, because just like TWD, it incessantly hammers on its one point. What’s more, the game’s commitment to all-forgiving realism is a crock.

    It’s not a crock in the sense of it being a fantasy setting with elves or whatever, but in the sense that The Witcher games are pulp neo-noir. Geralt is a gumshoe detective, a lone professional with a tragic spark of humanity in his heart, in a world where everyone’s out for themselves. As in neo-noir, the world’s cruelty and venality (and the romantic tragedy afforded to that cruelty, eg the Bloody Baron) is a stylistic choice, not a matter of fidelity to truth. It’s just an aesthetic, nothing more.

    This is the thing, and I blame this on Roger Ebert as much as I do on fandom culture as its developed on its own – criticism is no longer seen as truly legitimate unless you meet a medium on its own terms, in “good faith”. I wouldn’t expect people to buy my take on the Witcher because people only ever play it having agreed to take its cynicism at face value. Critiquing it having not accepted its premises is poor sport.

    The same goes for this review. And while I’ve no desire to defend TWD season 3 (I checked out midway through S2 and am not bothering to come back), I wonder if this jaundiced eye toward narrative crutches and what they attempts will be levied at games the reviewer wants to like.

  34. Phil says:

    I with John on this one. Enjoyed the first series, played the second but thought the thing had run it’s course. Watched the first two episodes of this series on YT & by God is it awful.

    When the least worst thing you can think of to drag some kind of emotional response out of your audience is “lets shoot the innocent one in the head right in front of you: Surprise!” then your writing isn’t just lazy. It’s pissing on the corpse of the work done by the original writers of the first series because you can’t think of anything better to do.

    TellTale could have taken the Walking Dead series somewhere interesting. Instead they appear happy to re-hash the same tired, manipulative tropes over and over again. If it works for them financially I guess that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean people like us don’t get to point out what it is that they’re doing.

  35. bktor says:

    Telltale’s games are popular and sell well for the same reason that reality TV shows like The Bachelor and Keeping Up with the Kardashians are popular and sell well… because most consumers are unenlightened blithering idiots.

  36. Linkster7 says:


  37. 28bierLATER says:

    WHY the fuck did I just read this SHIT…?

  38. moonpresence says:

    “The series absolutely deserves to be lauded for its multi-racial cast,”

    lol, cut this shit out. this is what we get when they put diversity before writing and character depth: completely forgettable story, dialogue, and unrealistic and mind numbingly boring characters (I’ve never seen a more unrealistic portrayal of a mexican family. javi and his brother act like two fruity white guys in a slap fight in the beginning of the first episode)

  39. Silent_Scone says:

    “You could argue that a new cast inevitably resets the emotional development of the series, but the fact that Clementine is still just an emotional and physical punchbag shows there’d be little hope of anyone developing into anything meaningful if they were allowed to live more than three episodes each. The series absolutely deserves to be lauded for its multi-racial cast, but denigrated immediately afterwards for making no one interesting or deeper than a particularly stupid puddle. The result is yet more of the same, no more involved, no more compelling, equally futile, and mind-numbingly repetitive. Oh, and the episodes are shorter, too.”

    W-what? A punch bag? Did you even play it? Bitch be like, killing people n’ shit.

    Honestly, though, this has to be the biggest hate piece since I tried to explain to my mate why I hated Bill Cosby (before it turned out he was a pervert). It’s like you really disliked every single second of it. Unadulterated hate.

    When it’s actually not that bad.

  40. YayDude says:

    The reason Clementine is subjected to all the suffering is because: She’s the main character. In TWDK, you’ll notice that all the characters you play as go through some SERIOUS shit, painfully emotionally, or literally painful. For example: Lee getting his fucking arm cut off. Sure, it’s optional, but I mean.. It’s a thing. They all go through tons of shit. And Clementine doesn’t experience people dying in front of her a lot of times, and was never really physically harmed (Except in the VERY FEW AMOUNTS of Clementine death scenes). Why? For starters, she’s way to young to handle dat shit. Second: She’s not the main character. Main characters in games like this have no choice but to go through this shit. Imagine if telltale decided to not show you the death scenes and just did things like they did with Nick and Chuck for most character deaths. It would kinda take away from the game. In S2, Clementine goes through the hardass shit, cause she’s.. A main character. You can’t have a walking dead game without seeing some fucked up things. It’s not a “fetish”, it’s something telltale has the balls to do. True, the scene when Clementine was stitching up her dog bite was dragged on a bit much, but still, it made people expect the walker popping up a bit less. If a cutscene just started playing, and suddenly the character drops something, and then you just suddenly start being able to play to pick it up, people would know for a fact something would pop up, however with the bit of gameplay in there, people expected it.. a tad less. Okay, not a very good argument, but that scene would have just looked bad if they had just skipped through it all. And if the entire game went on without Clementine going through serious shit, then.. S2 would be awful. (You made it clear you weren’t exactly a fan of S2, so.. More awful, in some cases.) Main characters can suffer. Telltale isn’t pussy enough to just make children all happy dandy in fun land. The world has gone to hell, and yea, children suffer, too. (Especially since.. Ya know.. Main characters.) As for gameplay, well.. You just don’t like the telltale genre, I respect that. Lots of people are like that, and I completely understand. Again, this is just my opinion, I’m not going around trying to prove how “your opinion is wrong” or some stupid things like that.

  41. Thirith says:

    Not sure if anyone’s still reading this thread, but I recently watched Innuendo Studios’ video about TWD S2, and I thought their argument (centred on Kenny) did a very good job of addressing both the strengths and the weaknesses of the season.

    We Don’t Talk About Kenny (Innuendo Studios)

  42. CartonofMilk says:

    never ever try to criticize a game which has received universal praise, especially if your criticisms are completely fair but were somehow completely ignored by the vast majority for some fucked up unfathomable reason that your brain cannot comprehend. I nearly lost my sanity at the abuse suffered after criticizing aspects of the Dead Souls series and MGSV before. I said one slightly critical thing once, just one, about Rocket League, a game which i love, and immediately was tagged with the “has horrible opinion about games” tag.

    It often feels like criticizing someone’s favorite game is attacking them as a person. i wasn’t trying to make it personal…

    • rickenbacker says:

      The funny thing is that I’ve done this, as a writer for major media outlets in my corner of the world. This was mostly before everyone felt the need to spread their opinions all over the net, though, so I didn’t receive QUITE as much abuse as John does here. And, like him, history proved me right.

      Though I have to admit that – most of the time – I probably overrate subpar games, rather than mercilessly cut down stuff that everyone else seem to like.

  43. Doothewop says:

    tl;dr this guy shouldn’t be reviewing games.

    • rickenbacker says:

      Or the exact opposite. If game reviewers tried to assimilate all the opinions about a game on the net, and write a review based on that, there would be no reviews worth the name.

      I disagree with a some of the points in this review, but I enjoyed reading it all the same. If you want only positive reviews, read the back of the box (well, virtual Steam box, in this case). Or worse yet, self-justifying user reviews. Writing a game review is about presenting your opinion and justifying it, so that the reader can then decide whether s/he/it will like the game or not. Something John happens to be pretty decent at, IMO.

  44. rickenbacker says:

    My main criticism of pretty much all the Telltale games (aside from the creaky engine) is the GODDAMN QUICKTIME SEQUENCES. Make up your mind: are you making an adventure game, or bullshit semi-interactives from the 80’s?

    So, while I agree with many of the points here, I still enjoy the series because of the lovingly crafted, if unoriginal, characters.

  45. Tgamer92 says:

    I don’t understand why you reviewed this game in the first place… it never had a chance. You already hated it before you even played it. You clearly don’t enjoy choice based storytelling type games so maybe be you should just stick to something you do like playing.