Video Game Review: The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Ties That Bind: Part II (PS4, 2017) puts character ahead of action and wins big

Following last episodes tragic conclusion, Ties That Bind: Part II opened fairly solemnly in comparison. But that was about the quietest the second instalment got as it rounded out its two hour play time with twists and healthy does of action.

The crux of the episode is built around Prescott being overrun after Clem inadvertently leads Episode 1’s gun nuts back to the gates of the community. We soon learn that the titular New Frontier is the name of these bandits and they want revenge for Javi, Clem and Tripp taking their men out of circulation.

Ep 2 is arguably the most relentless episode of all three seasons, kicking off with a shootout at the gates of Prescott that spill inside as walkers decimate the small community. Telltale channel the TV series here with a violent exchange of bullets and some incredible angles. Javi walking dazed through a cloud of smoke struggling with walkers is a brilliant and solidifies another major change in the series: an overhaul in the visual department.

Its something I didn’t really grasp until Ep 2. Thanks to its fast paced action, the second chapter made it clear that Telltale have addressed a glaring issue that tainted their previous games. Cel-Shading is the still the order of the day but it’s how crisp and detailed it all looks that separates The New Frontier from its predecessors. More importantly, those dreaded frame rate issues a thing of the past. The game doesn’t constantly stutter anymore and even though it’s still locked at 30 fps (on PS4), it’s head and shoulders above Telltale’s older games. This fresh coat of paint extends to to characters movements too. They move like actual people now rather than turning awkwardly on the spot or getting around like robots.

Episode 2, not to be undone by last weeks brutal finale, hit its own dramatic beats too. After Francine dies, Conrad comes undone and takes Gabe hostage presenting Javi with a difficult choice. Once again the final moments are liable to take your breath away, which in itself is a feat seeing as how we’ve had merely two episodes to get to know most of these characters.

At its core though, Ep 2 takes a deep breath and risks wasting an entire episode on character building. It pays off though. Like Ep 1, it manages to push two integral components forward at the same pace, fleshing out characters and keeping our group moving with more obstacles to encounter. It’s particularly impressive how Telltale continue to uncover the depth of Kate and Javi’s relationship despite Kate damn near pushing up daisies for much of the episode. We opened with a hint at infidelity and continued to explore their potential spark until a highly intriguing end.

Ties That Bind: Part II was a perfect blend of gripping action, unexpected twists and character exploration. Add to this the debut of Jesus, linking the game to the comics again and another jaw dropping ending that begs for a quick turnaround for Episode 3 and The New Frontier is fast becoming Telltales greatest achievement.

Score: 10 out of 10
Highlights: Visual Clean-up is fantastic; Building Characters; Javi and Kates Relationship; Intense Action; That Ending; Jesus!
Lowlights: Episode 2 is Flawless
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release date: Out now
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, Android, PC

Reviewed on PlayStation 4.