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.
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.
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.
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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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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Avatar image for LE5LO
LE5LO

As stated by most of the commenters below; it's a 6, or 7/10 at the most. 9/10 gives a false impression it's worth owning, it's not. It's technically decent, a slight visual and mechanical upgrade from Season 1 and fairly written with some interesting moments, but it's too short, a rip-off even for US$5, it left me thinking "is that it?" after finishing it, none of the 5 main characters are given the attention they deserve, they're all pretty much cast aside once their parts are over and the ending lacked anything conclusive towards any of their fates. I played through S2 straight after it to see how well it linked up; it mostly ignored all but one of the characters from this (gave literally no more than 10 seconds to a couple of them) and for that one they focused on, Telltale didn't even bother to bring up what the character went through after 400 days concluded. It seemed like an afterthought. This should've been given away free to those that bought the first season, not sold on top of it.

Despite the poor way they handled these characters in season 2 and the main mysterious character that linked them all together in 400 days being relegated to a bit part, I'd still recommend both seasons, just not this, it's disappointing how little time they've given all the characters from 400 days, don't expect a meaningful continuation of all but 1 of their stories, which was shallow in 400 days anyway, in terms of its significance to the series; this DLC can be ignored.

There's many other developers out there that equally deserve of the money, if not moreso. So, pay $5 for this, finish it, and then go and buy a bunch of other games on Humblebundle.com for the combined price of $5 and see how much more value you'll be getting. They were just cashing in by quickly pushing this out due to the success of Season 1.

Avatar image for Bakaro
Bakaro

IMO, no matter how well made the game is, the content presented is too shallow to get any score higher than 6.

Avatar image for x-2tha-z
x-2tha-z

The high point of the series? No chance. There wasn't really anything special about it. All five original episodes are better. I'd give it a 7. No way is this a 9/10 game.

Avatar image for Twixtea
Twixtea

How did this DLC receive a 9?
It was maybe a 7 in my opinion.
The little stories were useless in my opinion.

Avatar image for kozzy1234
kozzy1234

This was great, wish season 1 had a prologue kinda like this.


Looking forward to season 2 if its as good as this! For 5 bucks this is fantastic.

Avatar image for vlado544
vlado544

I loved every single TWD episode, but this one is the weakest by far. 9.0 doesn't mean anything, but a one guy's opinion... of course, you can say that for any review.

Avatar image for towely62
towely62

for 5 bucks not bad but it took me an hour to beat that was disappointing

Avatar image for shanethewolf
shanethewolf

It's enjoyable and showed potential, but 9.0 is way too generous for what feels like an incomplete game with huge story sections missing.

Although it was fun while it lasted, it went nowhere and felt pointless.

Avatar image for Twixtea
Twixtea

@shanethewolf Exactly my thoughts.
The reviewer says it's a good insight on how survivors get formed but I really didn't have that impression, mostly the stories were too short, to give any kind of insight on anything.
The whole thing was pointless to me. It's good to waste dead time.

Avatar image for mickyfinn84
mickyfinn84

Looking forward to season 2 but 400 days wasn't anything special in my opinion. I'd give it a 6/10.

Avatar image for SatampraZeiros
SatampraZeiros

Wow theyre really milking this franchise for all its worth, I like the series, but having read the comics its kinda made me hate most of the characters, theyre very overly dramatic, hope this game is as good as the episodes one.

Avatar image for UmaSama
UmaSama

Way too short, finished it in about 2 hours.

Avatar image for Syphen_bast
Syphen_bast

@UmaSama Was about to say that.

I still give it a 9/10 though....but it leaves me wanting WAY much more!
Sorry guys it doesn't fill the gap...just makes it worst xD

Avatar image for blahblahblah999
blahblahblah999

9/10 would bang

Avatar image for Syphen_bast
Syphen_bast

@Instructor_Doc lol i fucking love the game but that comment made me laugh! xD so true

In real life, zombies would be "running" from us, we wouldnt be food, we would be the end of them all !

Avatar image for petez34
petez34

@Instructor_Doc good point lol. It's USA after all. Aren't there gun stores like on every corner and the 8 people have to share a pistol? Seriously though it's a great story.

The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series More Info

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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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