The Walking Dead: 400 Days Review

400 Days is a wonderfully written adventure and the high point of the Walking Dead game franchise.

It's probably natural to assume you'd be disappointed with The Walking Dead: 400 Days. After all, this is a tide-you-over adventure intended mainly to fill in the long summer months between seasons one and two of Telltale Games' spellbinding take on Robert Kirkman's award-winning comics about the zombie apocalypse. Fortunately, that's an assumption 400 Days quickly proves wrong. While this game may be brief, zipping along so fast that you can't get to know any of the characters as well as you'd like, the writing and voice acting are both absolutely brilliant, and the soul-wrenching moral choices come so fast and furious that you feel emotionally exhausted by the time you're done.

Hopping into a car with a lunatic might not be the best of the choices you can make in 400 Days.

The structure is different from that of the first season of Telltale's Walking Dead episodes, more akin to a collection of linked short stories than the novel-length saga of Lee and Clementine. The story pivots around a highway truck stop and restaurant somewhere down in Georgia. Vignettes recount the travails of five different characters over the first 400 days since the dead got up for a snack. These mini-episodes can be played in any order you choose, so you bounce back and forth chronologically between moments like witnessing the beginning of the end in a prison bus and being terrorized in a truck by a man driven crazy by 184 days of zombie fun.

All of these stories stand on their own as particularly horrific snapshots of what it is to have survived the end of the world. Every episode centers on one or more impossible choices that are even more unforgiving than those in the first season episodes. The whole game is loaded with heart-wrenching choices, and the short-story structure and brief running time--90 minutes at most--also means that the game works you over like a speed bag, rabbiting you with one gut-check after another. By the time that the game ends, you're worn out.

All of the individual stories come together in the end, too, recounting how a group of survivors got together. The characters here are given real depth, so you come to care about the entire cast even though you're spending no more than 20 minutes with the leading actors in each story. Dialogue is never forced, to the point where you often feel like you're eavesdropping on the lives of real people.

There are a couple of gun-happy scenes in 400 Days, but the real fireworks come when you're forced to make wrenching life-or-death decisions.

The lover's triangle story with Bonnie, Leland, and Dee is fantastic, and it's all built up through simple and direct dialogue. The chemistry between Bonnie and Leland is crafted through teasing conversation and a game of "Would You Rather?" that seems so natural that if it were in a movie, you would assume that the actors were ad-libbing lines and had been getting up close and personal off-set. The same goes for Wyatt and his buddy Eddie. A conversation in a little hatchback veers all over the map, from the crazy murder that just went down, to past girlfriends, to weed and flatulence; you can tell that these guys have a history together. Truck-driving Nate offers up a multifaceted and disturbing depiction of insanity. He's scarily unpredictable, one moment pleasantly friendly, the next a sadistic lunatic ready to execute an elderly pair for their belongings.

Even the good guys aren't entirely good in this zombie-infested world where morality is barely existent, and the writing brings this out in strong fashion. Two victims of a crazed killer, for instance, can't be seen as totally sympathetic, as they reveal themselves as abhorrent racists right before meeting their end. In earlier Walking Dead episodes, you were faced with questions like whether or not to loot a running station wagon of food. Here, the dilemmas are darker, and some of the bleakest and most pragmatic choices make sense in this grim reality. Killing a friend for a betrayal, and cutting off someone's leg and leaving him for zombie fodder, seem like prudent choices.

About the only drawback here is time, as you simply don't have enough of it to bond with any of these characters as strongly you did with Lee, Clem, Kenny, and the gang in season one of The Walking Dead. The writers have made as much of their limited minutes as possible, however. Instead of loading up the dialogue with dull exposition, a lot is left unsaid and unexplained. This makes for realistic characterizations and conversations; the "less is more" philosophy is pulled off brilliantly.

That nearsighted zombie wants Wyatt for his glasses.

Gameplay takes a backseat to the stories. There isn't much action at all: Most of the time you just pick dialogue choices or make life-and-death calls that move the plot in one direction or another. Yet it's all gripping, in large part due to different settings. One moment you're alone on a foggy road looking for a guy you just ran over. Then you're in a truck late at night with a nut who might shoot you at any moment. Then you're in a pitch-dark cornfield fleeing from unknown goons with flashlights and guns. Still, there is virtually none of the quick-trigger zombie shooting or stomping that characterized Telltale's earlier Walking Dead episodes. The only way you could get killed here is if you accidentally drop your gamepad at an inopportune moment. This fits in with the story, really, which is much more about the threat posed by fellow human survivors than the threat posed by the zombies. But it's a change from what has gone on before.

Clementine may be nowhere to be found here, but 400 Days is nonetheless a strong entry in the Walking Dead series. It's short, but it packs a lot into every single minute of gameplay. While the game might seem like a cursory attempt to keep fans tided over until season two debuts later in 2013, it is actually one of the most imaginative, gripping, brutal, and best-written stories that you will experience all year.

The Good
Creepy vignettes with many unsettling moments
Interesting look at the background of how a group of survivors gets formed
Varied storylines mix up the adventure activities
Brilliantly written with outstanding characterization and voice acting
The Bad
Vignettes give you little time to get to know characters
9
Superb
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Discussion

17 comments
chyng85
chyng85

Surprisingly high score~ 

adamg78
adamg78

this DLC was not that great why a 9 the game gets a 6 or 7 score at best  and this gets  a better Review then then  the first season of the walking dead  what the heck that was a solid 9 great story  great voice acting  and  it was pretty intense in spots. this DLC  voice acting I found was not that good the story of each  of the 5  episodes you could do  just seemed boring and pointless  this DLC  was a let down from me but still cant wait till season 2 of the walking dead game I have a feeling it will be great just like season 1

MAXAM999
MAXAM999

What even shocking more that this specific DLC was the worst one i played on The Walking Dead saga !


How could this stupid short DLC get 9 out 10 and The last of us get 8 out 10 !!!!?

I still can't believe what is happening to the gaming industry and the gaming community these days .

DiverseGamer
DiverseGamer

Gamespot: They hate the good games, and praise the bad ones!

3peater
3peater

Call me heartless, because the decisions made were far from "soul-wrenching", as apparently this review proclaims it to be. The reason TWD Season 1 was gripping was because there were simple decisions that hinged on the people you were drawn to and aligned with, in the game. 

Tiny snippets and short dialogue doesn't create emotional depth. Just for example, it was clear that two of the characters (the sisters) had clearly polarizing personalities which could have been better exploited. Unfortunately, you don't feel any weight in your decisions aside from some temporary childish attitude.

I'll agree with vicarandrew, they may be comparing it to other DLC content. But after seeing loads of AMAZING DLC from ESV: Skyrim, ESIV: Oblivion, Deus Ex: HR, Dragon Age (Stone Golem), Dark Souls, Borderlands 2, Mass Effect (Shadow Broker), and plenty more that I'm not touching on (Which did create emotional depth for me, as a gamer), it's hard to see how this is believed to be up to snuff in comparison to the previous mentioned.

Walking Dead: 400 Days really is (AT BEST), is exactly a tide-you-over adventure. I've loved telltale games ever since they revived the Monkey Island series, and my statements are far removed from an attempt to insult this company. However, this was a poor interim before season 2. That being said- I don't entirely enjoy seeing Gamespot, though promising autonomy and a very rationalized scoring system, letting this puppy slip from the litter when it still had a little more growing up to do. OK I feel better :)

carloscanalesv
carloscanalesv

This DLC is poorly written.Set pieces are so far out there that ends up being stupid.Just picture the most cliched ridden scenes on any number of modern teenage horror movies.Besides that, the voice acting is frequently bad.The fact that this DLC received an Editor's Choice award is the ultimate offense.  

hamo0odi90
hamo0odi90

So GameSpot , I better buy this game instead of TLOU  ?

well , you are not honest with us that for sure . f**k you 

bndori
bndori

9 out 10 for this game

8 out 10 for The Last of us ?

that is stupid.

adamg78
adamg78

@MAXAM999  I agree with you  the whole walking dead season 1 game should of got a 9 every episode  was so intense and the story of every episode was awesome . and the 400 day DLC was  stupid I agree and I  dont no why so many people are giving  the game 8s its far from a 8 game  when you campare  it to  the awesome story that walking dead season 1 had the DLC  was  a complete let down  none of the chapters  were that intense to me even the voice acting was not on par  with the greatness of walking dead season 1. and also  the story sucked in the 400 day DLC 

focuspuller
focuspuller

@bndori It's an opinion. Not science.

And you can't compare the two like that.

SoNin360
SoNin360

@bndori Yeah yeah... I know. The Last of Us score comparisons are getting a little tiring, though. And keep in mind that it's different reviewers doing the reviews for these games. I bet Tom would have gave this game like a 5.

YesSheWill
YesSheWill

@bndori Yeah, the grading system for these gaming websites are flawed.  It is interesting how DLC or an Arcade game can get higher scores than a retail one.

vicarandrew
vicarandrew

@YesSheWill @bndori maybe they're just comparing it to other dlc's. Would be unfair to rate one on the same system they are rating full games. It's harder to release something really good with only a limited amount of space/time/content. 

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