The Walking Dead: 400 Days

After already scooping up tons of Game of the Year awards and endless praise for last year’s The Walking Dead series, it’s admirable of Telltale to deliver more content instead of making fans wait desperately for Season 2. 400 Days is undeniable proof that this is a company which does not simply rest on its laurels.

It’s a risky (though necessary) move to have an all-new cast replace the beloved duo of Lee and Clem, yet one that still greatly delivers. 400 Days is just as gripping as its season one counterpart, and hits home more than ever that zombies aren’t always necessarily the scariest entity in a post-apocalyptic world–the humans are.

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The Walking Dead: 400 Days (Xbox Live Arcade [reviewed], iOS, PC, PlayStation Network)
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Released: July 3, 2013 (PC), July 5 (Xbox Live Arcade), July 10 (PlayStation Network), July 11 (iOS App Store)

400 Days weaves the tales of five survivors together to create one story, acting as a bridge between season one and two. The player is presented with a bulletin board outside a diner with photographs of the five individuals, and selecting one will show that character’s story. The scenarios can be played in any order, as each story is distinct and separated, with the only connection being the location of the diner and the area surrounding it. Each one is as gripping as the last, with Telltale not afraid to thrust the player straight into the traumatising, hopeless lives of each individual.

Each story shows each characters at different times after the outbreak, over the course of the titular 400 Days. Most characters have already been subjected to civilisation’s end and already accustomed to their new survival, except for Vince who’s introduction to the undead creates his own problems. The cast in each story are also already familiar with each other, so the player is thrown in without introductions or exposition. With this in mind, Telltale has done a stellar job of making me care for these characters so quickly. They are humanised through the jokes they exchange, care for one another and completely natural conversations. Such things may seem throwaway, but actually build character development at a rapid rate.

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The diversity of each scenario is vastly impressive. At one point you’ll be contemplating whether to take a stranger’s life to avoid risking the safety of your group, while in the next story you’ll be making your way through pitch-black cornfield maze desperately trying to avoid being seen. It’s just a shame that 400 Days is so short.

Not too short in terms of the value it provides–I felt like I got more than my money’s worth. But the situations faced by each survivor was so interesting that it felt like each was cut short, when I wanted more. While the variety is appreciated, it is a little jarring to hop around such vastly different storylines so quickly. The tales intertwine slightly with small references to each other, but the final epilogue chapter offered very little in making each small story a satisfying whole. There is no explanation of how the survivors’ paths cross, and barely any display of interaction between them. Although the final moments felt rushed, the cliffhanger served its purpose in providing a decent setup for season 2.

The story is presented at a snappier pace than the DLC’s predecessors, with no puzzles and very little exploration. This isn’t really an issue as the events are already varied in their gameplay ideas and situational dilemmas, though it does mean a lesser impact in choosing between the dialogue options. In season one, it felt like not only did all your actions have a consequence, but everything you said too. In 400 Days, each mini-chapter runs the course of around 20 minutes, so there’s no time for your interactions with people to have any eventual outcome later on.

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As with all chapters of The Walking Dead though, there is of course some replay value on offer. Each character scenario has you ultimately faced with the hard-hitting, genuinely difficult decisions you must make with very little time to think. Each one can go either way depending on your preference, meaning you’ll potentially want to play through again just to see the alternatives. While dialogue may not lead to drastically different changes, it’s still worth checking out every line of speech and the reactions they evoke, if only for that excellent voice acting.

If you’ve played The Walking Dead before it shouldn’t surprise you that acting is definitely a strong point here, with a great new cast filling in for the new characters. The musical score is also incredible, complimenting the tension and horrifying moments perfectly. The DLC provides a pleasant visual experience as well as an auditory one, with the superb comic-book style the series has established continuing to bring the different environments to life and truly deliver each character’s emotions.

I got exactly what I wanted and more from 400 Days. I laughed, I was disturbed, I even jumped out of fear a couple of times. While I definitely wanted more, this only makes me all the more excited for season 2’s arrival, and this DLC serves as a reminder that that upcoming new story will continue to blow my mind.

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