The Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 2 ‘A House Divided’ Review

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Developer: Telltale Games Publisher: Telltale Games Platforms: PC (Version Reviewed), PS3, Xbox 360, iOS, PS Vita (later this year)

This House Is Not Our Home.

(This review will try to remain spoiler-free of this game’s important content, however it will make references to Season 1, previous episodes of Season 2 and the 400 Days DLC. Make sure to play these first for a more enjoyable experience!)

There were several times during my playthrough of The Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 2, “A House Divided,” where I replayed through a moment to make sure I got it right. No, it wasn’t just for my typical style of seeing all options to learn how the entirety of the game’s story revealed itself; I just wanted to make sure I gave the best possible outcome for all parties.

The story enraptures you in its moments to force your emotional commitment. I didn’t want to screw up a damned thing.

Therein lies the magic of “A House Divided”; the raw sense of urgency. It wasn’t present in this season’s first entry as much as I had hoped. Instead of moving Clementine down a path that had her make tough and rewarding choices, we were left with gut shot after gut shot of emotional turmoil amid a new cast that our heroine did not have enough time with to become invested in. Understandably, it was only the first of five episodes that served as the engine getting out of Park to first gear. What happens next kicked it into maximum overdrive, creating one of Telltale Games’ best episodes within their zombie saga.

We now know of a central antagonist, finally setting structure for The Walking Dead Season 2. His name is William Carver (voiced with the deep, raspy intensity of Reservoir Dogs’ Michael Madsen), and he is nothing but trouble. Introduced to Clementine one-on-one, any notion that our protagonist is guaranteed to stand her ground in the zombie wasteland is put aside by the menacing figure. She may have avoided being bitten by walkers all these years, but the bigger threat will forever be the evil of humanity. That much is clear, now, and Clementine’s new friends must depart to make sure they are safe from his tyranny.

“A House Divided” continues the trend of making choices matter, but this time backs it up superbly with its story. Throughout the two hours you will spend as this junction, you will have to say the right things to maintain relationships with the right people. Emotional states, partnerships, information, friendships; even lives are at stake if you take big enough missteps. It also makes future proceedings that much more intriguing; just how will The Walking Dead writers adjust going forward with so many variables on the table?

The cast in this season of The Walking Dead really showcase a vibrant weave of individual personalities. The heads-on leadership of Luke and Clementine serve as the team captains of an otherwise derelict bunch, including the likes of a dishevelled Rebecca, broken Nick, tired Alvin, cautiously-wary Carlos and hyper-emotional Sarah, among others. I was amazed by just how amazingly complete the performances were by the core group of characters. It became easy to feel for this group the second time around, and have solidified my undying attention going forward.

Voice acting in “A House Divided” complements the wonderful dialogue between friends, strangers and enemies. Difficulty for portraying an 11 year-old girl accurately in a wasteland scenario is at its highest, even more so with keeping realistic interactions with a variety of adults friendly and antagonizing. Not only does this cast provide an excellent sense of initial character, but over time convey their multi-faceted lives in a way that appeals to a true sense of belonging.

If there is anything to criticize about the recent entry into the second season of The Walking Dead, it is that the developers don’t know how to implement moments with walkers effectively. For their 8th standalone episode now, players have been subjected to the sudden oncoming of slow-moving herds of walkers. They are taken care of by either running away or killing them in a chore-like quick time event scenario. It has become the same problem in the TV show; after surviving so long in the wild, there is no reason that a group of humans as extraordinary as this should be caught off guard. Yet, time and time again, Clementine and her group are subject to supposed high-stakes moments with the walking dead. The game handles the struggle Clementine must deal with in her small frame accurately, but there has to be a creative way to inject zombies as an effective way to stir drama than what has been presented already going forward.

There are so many great story turns in “A House Divided” that I would love to discuss in this review, but they all involve heavy spoilers. All I can say is that, from here on out, it is best for fans interested in the interactive storytelling of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead to play through all the way up to, and including, the 400 Days DLC from Season 1. It is necessary to play through the past to appreciate the subtleties in the conversations Clementine has with others in the present, and plays into that urgency mentioned earlier; what exactly should I say to keep me and others alive? Information works both ways, and just how Clementine deals with the unknown has set up a promising tale over the next three episodes.

Verdict:

+ Gameplay and choice have a strong impact on the story’s events

+ Excellent voice acting

+ Stylistically pleasing, including great direction and cinematography

+ Rewarding variety in a large cast

– Zombie scares are same old, same old

(A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review.)