The Walking Dead: 400 Days Review
Lee Everett’s story may have come to a close with the end of the first season of episodes that made up Telltale’s take on The Walking Dead, but fans have been vocal in their desire for more harrowing adventures set in the zombie apocalypse. While the studio has confirmed that a second season is in the works, players will have to wait until later this year for more details to be announced.
In the meantime, Telltale has provided fans with The Walking Dead: 400 Days, a new bit of downloadable content for Season One that will apparently bridge some gaps between the first and the second season. Though the game is noticeably shorter than previous episodes, and takes a very different narrative approach, many of the first season’s best qualities (most notably the tough decision-making and the involving storylines) make a welcome return. The result is a short, but still immensely engrossing, experience that fans of the original game will definitely want to look into.
Instead of focusing on a single character, 400 Days revolves around five unique protagonists, whose combined stories span the first 400 days of the zombie outbreak that the franchise revolves around. The framework that holds all five tales together is a picture board at a gas station that is featured in several of the stories. The board contains photos of each protagonist that can be chosen and played in any order.
The five stories offer a wide variety of situations that I don’t wish to lay out in great detail because seeing the plot unfold for yourself is an integral part of the series. One involves a recently incarcerated killer being transported to prison at the start of the zombie plague. Another takes place close to a year after the outbreak, and involves two sisters who are part of a group of survivors facing a pair of difficult situations. There’s also a tale of two men traveling in their car when they stumble into trouble on a misty road in the middle of the night. The fourth tale involves a young woman who finds herself and her two companions on the run after one of them steals from another group. The last story revolves around a young man who reluctantly hitchhikes with a suspicious stranger.
Each tale brings with it unique conflicts, dilemmas, and shocking moments — the end of the story involving the trio on the run provided a particular twist that made me gasp out loud. The series’ trademark choice-based dialog and action system makes a successful return here, with many situations that will leave you struggling to make a choice, as there are no easy answers for many of these decisions.
The biggest downside is that 400 Days is noticeably shorter compared to most of the previous episodes — all five stories took me about an hour and a half to complete. Despite spending very little time with the characters, I was impressed that I still got caught up in their stories, and that was entirely due to the way they were delivered. It also helps that the technical hiccups, which plagued the first season, were much less frequent. I recall a character briefly flickering in and out of existence in the first story I picked, but everything after that generally ran fine.
It should be noted that this episode does have some small moments that are impacted by choices you made in the first season, though they are generally minor compared to some of the bigger ramifications seen before. More important (and intriguing) is the fact that character choices you make here will carry over somehow to the second season. This is promising, especially considering that if I do have any major complaints with the stories presented here, it’s the way they conclude. They generally feel like they cut off right when things are getting interesting, and don’t offer much in the way of closure.
An unlockable epilogue featuring all five characters will play out after you finish each character’s story. Without giving anything away, I was left a bit wary as to how much of an important role each character will play in the next game. Based on the decisions they made at the end, which were somehow influenced by the ones I made myself in their individual stories, I was left with the impression that many of them will not be playing a substantial part. This is all speculation, though, and I’ll just have to wait and see how things play out later this year before giving a solid verdict for this aspect of the game.
Despite its short length and abrupt conclusions, I found The Walking Dead: 400 Days as immersive and harrowing as its predecessors. It works well both as a nice way of temporarily whetting the appetites of players wanting more content, as well as enticing them with tidbits of what they may see in future installments. Telltale continues to deliver the goods with this series, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
This review is based on the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
Though shorter and more abrupt than its predecessors, The Walking Dead: 400 Days still delivers an amazingly engrossing and harrowing experience.