Review

The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series - A New Frontier Ep. 3: Above The Law Review

  • First Released Dec 20, 2016
    released
  • PC

Get out the popcorn.

Late zombie mayhem and a cliffhanger conclusion can’t quite save Above the Law. The third episode of the New Frontier makes great narrative strides, but it runs too much on autopilot along the way. While the story itself is satisfying to watch--especially in how it ups the stakes for protagonist Javi Garcia--this is one of those Walking Dead episodes that’s much more of an interactive movie than an adventure game.

Like this season's first episode, Above the Law kicks things off with a flashback. This brief look into the past helps establish the leading foursome as something of an alternative family unit for the zombie apocalypse. It’s also oddly hopeful in contrast with the present, which is full of hardships and unexpected curveballs.

The themes about the importance of family ties in a world where nobody can be trusted aren’t exactly subtle here, but they work, thanks mainly to the advancement of the relationship brewing between Javi and Kate. Now that their predictable mutual attraction is finally addressed, we get to see the group dynamic shift in meaningful ways.

Seeing these events transpire is gratifying, despite feeling overly predictable. Richmond is exactly the cesspool it appears to be. Clementine returns at the most opportune moment and is every bit the pint-sized badass she was last time out. David is a serial abuser and blowhard practically begging you to steal his wife. Jesus is wise and cool. Tripp is gruff but lovable. And, yes, Above the Law features speeches from corrupt people about how you have to do whatever it takes to survive in a world where the dead walk around and eat people.

Most of the above is Walking Dead 101. Nobody will be surprised that those elements are big parts of this episode. Nonetheless, the superb quality of the script, voice acting, and animation (which is smoother and more lifelike than in previous episodes, with no jarring jerks or hiccups that have been relatively common in the past) makes everything compelling to watch even though you get the sense that the story is pretty blatantly maneuvering everyone into place.

The lack of meaningful choices proves to be the bigger sin--you might as well get some popcorn out for the first 45 minutes or so of Above the Law.

The lack of meaningful choices proves to be the bigger sin--you might as well get some popcorn out for the first 45 minutes or so of Above the Law. It’s easy to forget you’re doing anything but watching an animated movie...and then you wind up getting killed when zombies show up after the midpoint and you’re sitting back from the keyboard or with the gamepad in your lap as a spectator. A fair number of dialogue options appear in the early stages of the episode, but none of them seem to really impact the direction of the story. Most result in typical Telltale feedback like “Kate will remember that” and have no immediate effect on other characters.

The action heats up toward the end of the episode when the truth about Richmond’s leadership is revealed through a nod back to what happened to Prescott in Episode 2. Also, a handful of challenging battles with humans and zombies require multiple clicks of keys in order to avoid a chomp or shot in the face. Although the surprise of having to twitch-click your way through battles is tough to handle at first, given the lightweight first two-thirds of the game, nothing here provides any serious obstacles.

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Everything concludes with a revenge-fueled fight that, while somewhat satisfying, ends in such a copycat way that it takes you right out of the game if you're familiar with the TV show. Instead of something original and natural, you get a forced (and all too familiar) scene that immediately recalls a series-famous trope. As a result, the scene is more derivative than shocking (although you’ll still need a strong stomach to endure the entire thing--at least if you go for the most extreme final stroke.)

In other words, bring on Episode 4. As much as Above the Law advances A New Frontier’s narrative and sets up what will inevitably be a chaotic battle for Richmond, there just isn’t enough to do this time around. Telltale’s Walking Dead series always treads the line between interactive fiction and adventure game, but here the whole production tips over the edge to the point where you feel like you’re watching a movie. Granted, it’s a pretty good movie. It’s filled with realistic characters, intense scenes, and some of the most brutal violence depicted in the franchise thus far. But it’s essentially a movie nonetheless, with too many compromises made to manipulate the plot and characters into position for the upcoming finale.

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The Good
Satisfying plot
Superb script and character development
The Bad
Runs on rails for the first hour, save for a few dialogue choices
Feels too much like a bridge episode
The final scene is too derivative of the TV show
6
Fair
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About the Author

Brett spent about two hours with Javi and Clementine to write this review of the PC version of Above the Law.
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4love10

i stop playing this game a long time ago after the walking dead 2,The Walking Dead Michonne Episode was a big lets down the story was too short

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shreddyz

@4love10: You wouldn't like season 3. It's garbo and not worth money.

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wookietim

I was reading this and thinking that nothing could ever quite replicate that gut punch of an ending to the first Telltale Walking Dead season. But then it occurred to me... Maybe there is a reason for that...

What if the world of TWD is just limited? I mean, sitting back and thinking about it, there really is only one story that can be told in that world - group meets up, friendships formed, bad people met, people die, game over. Same with the TV series and, sadly, the comic. What if the problem isn't the game or the TV show or the comic but the world presented?

I gave up on the TV series after season 3 since it started to reveal the same things to me - every season is basically the same. Which, honestly, could be said about a lot of shows like that... Buffy had the same thing every season too. But at least with that show, they varied the big bads every season to keep it fresh. With TWD, there really isn't that option - every big bad is going to be yet another in a list of escalating levels of "Bad human person that has evil intentions". They get more extreme every year but they don't change, in other words. And the character development is predicated upon a world without any hope.

If it were me... I'd try something really kind of different. Why not take advantage of the world presented and have a truly different threat? A zombie lich king for example...

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TheFoxOnTheWall

@wookietim: "What if the world of TWD is just limited? I mean, sitting back and thinking about it, there really is only one story that can be told in that world - group meets up, friendships formed, bad people met, people die, game over."

Its all about survival and the emotions that the characters have to go through, but I think you are right that it is limited.

The story is always going to be good with this theme, because survival based themes are exiciting and gives writters plenty of chances to put in twists and turns to keep people hooked.

Because it's got a realistic theme you can't see the writters coming up with game of throne style bad guys.

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wookietim

@thefoxonthewall: Wait... Did you just actually try to use the word "Realistic" to describe any part of the walking dead?

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TheFoxOnTheWall

@wookietim: I did, while the theme itself is fantasy, it still tries to make the theme has realistic as possible in how people would react. That is its appeal.

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wookietim

@thefoxonthewall: So, basically you see it as realistic that one of the very first things people would do is to collect zombies in a barn like they were playing Pokemon (Season 2 of the show) or institute a cult in the middle of a major zombie area (Every other season)?

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TheFoxOnTheWall

@wookietim:

Just to let you know I am agreeing with you that the show/ game is limited!
Because it is trying to go for realism in a fantasy theme, if a zombie apocalypse did happen, groups/ cults will likely be formed to help people survive.

People will react differently, people who have different religions and beliefs, people may see a cure and may lock them in the barn, some may get croupted with power ect - we do live in a strange world!

I do disagree with your example to improving the theme i.e the lich king you talked about.

He wears a crown to control the undead, thats not going to be possible for Rick/ Clem ;) that doesn't fit the theme, its simple in thats its just about survial.

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siarhei

@wookietim: Or intelligent zombies...hmm... iZombie already did that...

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wookietim

@siarhei: What if some zombies were intelligent and decided to start forming a colony sort of how we have seen humans doing a few times in the show now? I mean... They'd need to form hunting parties to capture living humans... probably they'd want to start a breeding program to ensure a steady food source...

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SsangyongKYRON

Too disappointed. But hey the plot is great which is fine.

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SythisTaru

Do YOU play aS CLAMinTOON?

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Pierce_Sparrow

This season started off great, but yeah, this chapter was predictable and less compelling. Still entertaining, but feels kind of shallow. My guess is that it gets more compelling in the next two chapters. I do like the family dynamic, it feels kind of fresh for the games and I like that Clementine is now a supporting character and totally badass.

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NativePixel

Wait a 6?! Wtf GameSpot? lack of choices? Are we playing the same game?

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NativePixel

Wait a 6?! Wtf GameSpot? lack acknowledging of choices? Are we playing the same game?

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gamingdevil800

Yh the quality of telltale games has really diluted. None of their games have felt like the walking dead season 1 maybe because they put effort into making puzzles back then. I thought they were putting more effort into puzzles again with new frontier but they totally abandoned the puzzle aspect in episode 3.

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Nadsat-77

@gamingdevil800: I was about to post exactly that, TWD season one is the only Telltale game i enjoyed. Not gonna bother with this one either.

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darkSYNced

@nadsat-77: If you are a fan of Borderlands I personally found Tales from the Borderlands to be a really satisfying experience.

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Pwnslaught

@darksynced: Tales from the Borderlands is hands down their favourite game for me so far, followed closely by the first season of The Walking dead and The Wolf Among Us.

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GamerOuTLaWzz

@computernoises: He probably means moments where you had to sneak up on multiple zombies at the motel with Glenn you had to somehow ''solve'' which pattern to take to remain quiet etc. Same with the dairy farm chapter wher eyou need to find out how to force one of the 2 brothers out of the barn so you can sneak in and check on the door in the back of the barn without getting catched. Those are moments I havent experienced in the entire season 2 ( have yet to play season 3 since i tend to purchase those games at discount once the full season has been released.)

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adamus

@computernoises: Glenn is in season one lol he leaves after you clear the motel.

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Gelugon_baat

@computernoises: Or any puzzles in a 'serious' TellTale game for that matter.

The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series - A New Frontier More Info

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  • First Released Dec 20, 2016
    released
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    The Walking Dead : Season Three has players play as both Javier and Clementine.
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    Developed by:
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    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
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