The Walking Dead: 400 Days Review

400 Days is a wonderfully written adventure and a strong entry in 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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About the Author

Other Takes on The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series

Shaun McInnis is a veteran of the zombie apocalypse and Telltale's The Walking Dead ranks as one of his all-time favorites in the genre. He would prefer to pretend that The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct never existed.
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Discussion

190 comments
saminsingh
saminsingh

Is 400 days a stand-alone game or an expansion pack to season 1? I guess what I'm trying to ask is whether we need to install season 1 to play this episode? I was going to start playing the new season 2 but now I want to finish this 'prequel' first.

thelastonetosee
thelastonetosee

It was ok. Felt kind of restricted though in terms of decisions. I like a game with more freedom and choice (DayZ, Wolf Among Us, Overlive)

pnaudi
pnaudi

Does anyone know when part 2 of 400 Days is coming out??

DiverseGamer
DiverseGamer

I noticed the characters in the stories, but wasn't completely sure on how they all tied together. Hopefully, the second season will clarify that some...

LolosGolos
LolosGolos

This game never even touched South Africa on Xbox live and Telltale had no reason why. what a shame

mruizinho
mruizinho

I just buy it in steam promotion and this dlc is horrible.

SammyJar88
SammyJar88

This should have been free since it's a teaser more than a game. This so-called "game", takes away characters and choices you care about while telling an incomplete and bland story in a 15 minutes or less. Any interest you may feel a hint of will be instantly followed by the story ending. It's what critics wrongly said of the first five episodes but without a good story. I doubt many who think they are 9.0 game will agree after they play it. This is like a little bonus you might get with a pre-order of season 2.

SammyJar88
SammyJar88

I love The Walking Dead game but 400 days is getting ridiculously high reviews. I think the reviewers are being blinded by their love of the first five episodes and are just excited to see something related to the game being released after so long. I don't think new players who play the first 5 episodes for the first time and then go straight to 400 days are going to agree with these ratings at all. That's what I did, and I suspect I would be more positive about this expansion if I had played the first 5 episodes when they came out months ago, but it's not even close to the others whatsoever as far as a game. The potential of the new cast is all that's there because you can't do much with story or choices in the exremely short time given. It's a huge understatement to just say this isn't as good as any of the first 5 episodes. The reviews mention it's too short, but most don't tell you just how much worse it is, or tell you how the idea of introducing 5+ characters in a very short episode made it impossible to create a game with any substance. 400 days is little more than a shallow teaser trailer that doesn't even feel lika a game. I wish they would have focused on making a longer episode and using one of the 5 stories while introducing the others by releasing trailers, which is basically all this is.

MelodicMizery
MelodicMizery

i really regret buying this, its so damn fast paced and short. you ever watch a movie that just ends right when its getting good? well imagine that....multiple times. its like bad sex with a girlfriend who wont leave

eeewwwww12
eeewwwww12

i watch the first walkig dead game yah made and its stupid. I want to able to pick my own character and survive on my own, choices and decsisons i wanna make. i feel like this is stupid.! i want a long lasting game that is worth my money, Longer story line! Different Characters to play, Survive on your own.

CleanPlayer
CleanPlayer

Man, I was very underwhelmed by this. Only took me an hour and a half to beat....easily best story was the guy in the prison bus

fredwv
fredwv

Some of the greatest games in history are point and click adventures.  I'm glad to see they're making a comeback.  (sorta)

jecomans
jecomans

The only thing that makes this worth playing is the nice way it ties up in the last 5 minutes. Other than that these mostly unsatisfying 10-15 minute vignettes range from interesting to stupid. Two sections I surely enjoyed, but they fly by. One had the worst characters and writing I've seen from Telltale. The other two are pretty meh. For completionists only, because for someone hanging out for season 2 this is not the 70 minutes you're looking for.

theslovakian38
theslovakian38

despite it being only like 15 minutes for each character, this was a great game that made me feel for the characters, well except bonnie because her story was mad boring. but the coolest part was all the little easter eggs and nods to the first season. this is definatly one of the best episodes in the series. 

adamBOM247
adamBOM247

There are so many little spoilers in this. Such as (*spoiler alert*) "All of the individual stories come together in the end, too, recounting how a group of survivors got together". I had no idea that these individual characters eventually become a tight-nit group like in the first season. Would have been better to find that out in the game! Besides that glaring problem, this is still a well written review that has convince me to pick this up at some point because I was on the fence before.

Regression
Regression

Something something... Resident Evil 6!!

djpetitte
djpetitte

The Walking Dead video game series is one of the best most intense games I have played to date and I've been playing video games since the early 80s.  I would argue it's better than the show so far.  Very tough decisions to make and very bad things happen. If you haven't played all of it several times through yet, I suggest you begin playing today.

Epicurus-Reborn
Epicurus-Reborn

jerks scammed me into buying the 1st episode instead of this one. 

EL_Bomberdor
EL_Bomberdor

Enjoyed the first season but played it when the hole season was released and will do the same again. I am in no desperate rush to play the game, especially just one episode.

SoNin360
SoNin360

Interesting... where was this kind of praise for season 1's episodes? Yeah, they all had positive reviews overall, but with the highest rated ones topping at an 8.5. Most of Season 1's episodes were better than this, though this was definitely a great episode on its own.

I am just comparing scores here, though, and I'm not really trying to complain about a positive review for a game I enjoy, I just find it kind of odd... perhaps inconsistent is a better word. I'm also not buying the point about how a group of survivors got formed. This episode merely gives you a decent background for each character, and then they are just kind of all shown together at the end without explanation.

Again, this is a great episode and a worthy addition to the series, I'm just surprised at how high it was rated compared to all past episodes. 

Spazzh20
Spazzh20

Seriously a 9 I;m glad that people are getting into the whole point and click adventure genre again.  But this is just ridiculously overrated. 

punksterdaddy
punksterdaddy

I loved this add-on to The Walking Dead and it was interesting to meet new characters but it is way way too short.

Now we have to spend the rest of the year awaiting Season Two. Which reminds me of the gaps we spend waiting during Season One.

This is my gripe with Tell-Tale's episodic content... We never seem to get the episodes at set dates? During Season One, we got a four week gap between episodes one and two, then a three week gap then a massive six week gap... so on and so forth.

If you are releasing a game like this (which IS enjoyable) then at least confirm when the next episode will take place?

That sums up my Walking Dead experience... One to two hours of fun, then weeks of waiting for another two hours!

It was all over the place. Never knowing when, was the annoying factor of it for me.

The game itself is great and I am looking forward to season two... I just hope they can be more organised with their release dates for it?

Syphen_bast
Syphen_bast

The good: everything

The bad: Its so little! :(


luisung
luisung

So many ppl comparing TWD and TLOU because they both have zombies? Why not compare Arkham Origins and Gods  Among Us because both have Batman? Seems legit!

G4m3r0uTL4wZ
G4m3r0uTL4wZ

whoever believes that fucking joke-of-a-game that Last of Us is deserves GOTY. Please just give up on gaming and stick to watching boring ass movies. You are not a gamer,you are a cinephile and currently polluting the wrong hobby.

gamergath
gamergath

@DiverseGamer: the second season should clarify more on CLEMENTINE no more.. that girl is gonna be badass! 

SammyJar88
SammyJar88

And what's up with this ridiculous Gamespot policy of not allowing enormously long rants to be posted? I don't like editing my post.

adamg78
adamg78

@djpetitte  this DLC got a better Review then every episode of the first season of the walking dead game and the DLC was not that good not sure why so many people are giving the game 8s there was like no intense moments like  there was in the walking dead season 1 and each episode of the DLC was boring as hell  and the story  of all 5 just seemed pointless. the DLC was rushed and it gets a 9 from gamespot the guy that reviewed it must be high lol


jecomans
jecomans

@SoNin360 The first season got a higher rating when it was re-rated as a whole season. That often happens with series that the whole is better than the episodes after you can see how it all pans out.

That said, I also can't believe that some episodes got 7.5 but this has a 9. I'd give 400 Days a 6.


fend_oblivion
fend_oblivion

@SoNin360 Just finished the game now and I agree.

I'm surprised that this special is rated higher than the other episodes. Then again, regarding scores, each to his own. I respect that.

Santosmares
Santosmares

@Spazzh20 a number is not a brand, the fact that is a 9 or 10 does not  mean that is legend of zelda ocarina of time, or a skyrim... fuck me bloody, why does any one knows shit about metrics  gosh... next thing you ll mention is how bad was Resident evil 6 rated right??? LoL, Embrace new games bro, they did a brilliant work right here and they deserve some acknowledge, not comparisons... go troll somewhere else man...

wavelength121
wavelength121

@Spazzh20 Why overrated? So long as it excelled at what it was trying to accomplish. Comparing the score to other games doesn't make sense

Aletunda
Aletunda

@punksterdaddy Yeh this is an amazing game series, and the episodic nature of the game keeps you on edge, thinking and talking about whats happened and whats to come, but a little consistency would be nice, can't wait for season 2

djpetitte
djpetitte

@Syphen_bast 

I played through every character story at least twice just to see where and what could all happen.  If you do that it should take a little over an hour to play everything.

swedensior
swedensior

@G4m3r0uTL4wZ You obviously don't have any idea of what you are speaking of... TLOU might be GOTY if the year ended today but GTAV gameplay video looks a little bit too impressive... TLOU don't have many cutscens compared too other games in the genre but the tension between the characters just small talking when you are playing is the strongest quality of the game IMO!

dirtdog10304
dirtdog10304

@adamg78 @djpetitte 

how was it rushed? and I don't think it was "boring as hell" you need to distinguish you opinions, just because you think it was boring doesn't mean everyone does.  Everyone knows that GS reviews aren't consistent   

SoNin360
SoNin360

@focuspuller I don't think I spoiled anything that the review already didn't mention. "All of the individual stories come together in the end, too, recounting how a group of survivors got together." is about as vague as what I said. In fact, I just said the game didn't really explain how they got together. But, I'm sorry anyway because I'm touchy with spoilers myself and even little things like this I sometimes find spoiler-y. That's why I don't even read reviews before I play games, they just tell too much sometimes. I still don't think what I posted is blatantly a spoiler or something that would ruin someone's experience, but if it really bothers you or anyone else, I'll delete it.

Spazzh20
Spazzh20

@wavelength121  Just check TWD meta score. On PS3 it got 94.  That means that some people think this game is as good as Skyrim, Arkham City, GTA4 and Half Life 2. Heavy Rain is an excellent Point and click game, and Gamespot gave it a 8.5.  The last of us is an amazing Zombie  game and they gave it an 8.0.  This means Gamestop thinks The walking dead is better than both those games.

theslovakian38
theslovakian38

@VercettiTommyy @Spazzh20 @wavelength121  this is ridiculous how people complain over something so stupid like this. who gives a crap if one game is rated higher than the other. do you honestly and truly go on freakin gaming websites to look up the reviews for game that you know for fact is a great game? then theres no need to compare it to others. TWD 400 days got a 9 meaning its arguably the best in the TWD series, not the whole damn universe and gaming itself. be happy that a game functions correctly and satisfies the consumer. in this case the game was amazing, its not going to make me stop from playing other amzing games because it got a better rating. you should take this advice... 

VercettiTommyy
VercettiTommyy

@Spazzh20 @wavelength121 First of all, TWD and Heavy Rain aren't point and click games, since you use directional keys/gamepad, and not the mouse in order to move around. As a PS3 exclusive, in HR you can't even point and click in the actual meaning of the word. Secondly, I see no way and no sense in comparing totally different genres. Maybe you could draw a comparison between Call of Duty and Battlefield, but you can't compare a modern, story based adventure like TWD with, say, a sandbox action such as GTA 4 , a FPS such as Half Life 2 or a console simplified RPG as Skyrim. It's foolish to even try. And last, but not least, I think TWD has something no other zombie game has achieved to this extent : amazingly complex characters put in impossible situations, making the game as a whole a kind of study of human nature. 

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    The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series is a zombie game that lets players experience the true horror and emotional impact of being a survivor of the undead apocalypse.
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