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.
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

More Platform Reviews

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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swedensior

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In my oppinion TWD and TLOU both get about 9,5. Both games need to sell and that is why I think it's great that this reviewer give this episode a high score so people can get intrested in TWD season 2 and maybe even buy it! TLOU is more mainstream and will appeal to a lot more people witch is great. To bad it didn't appeal to Tom...

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Aletunda

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@swedensior No I think this is just a review, I don't think it was intended to get telltale games more sales. They are both completely different games, yes they may carry similar themes but are very different and barely comparable (unless we are talking about narrative and plot devices)

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swedensior

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@Aletunda @swedensior A high rating obviously gives more sales? I almost missed out on TWD season 1 because of the low ratings it got... But then GOTY awards started making it interesting!

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swedensior

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@wavelength121 @swedensior @Aletunda An 8 dosn't justify the game and if you take Toms review seriously you might miss out on one of the greatest games on PS3...

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swedensior

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@Parkourscott @swedensior @Aletunda You don't listen to what I said at all... If the game gets low score people don't buy games... If people don't buy games the creators can't make new great games... I bought lots of games witch got low scores but. that has nothing to do with it. Please what is wrong with people today no manners!

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Parkourscott

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Edited By Parkourscott

@swedensior @Aletunda if you base all your game playing on the score someone else gave it your going to miss out on many great titles, to me your not a gamer your a rating follower, just like when my dumbass step mom actually asked if a movie had won awards, then tried to use that as an excuse not to watch it. think for yourself man.

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wavelength121

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@swedensior @Aletunda Who cares about sales. If the game is good it will sell by word of mouth. Also, Tom gave Last of Us an 8, therefore it appealed to him just fine. Don't be a score whiner.

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spindie

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Edited By spindie

I could never understand how people could actually enjoy this game.. i've tried to get into this game like five different times but the furthest i can get to is hershels farm before i just want to tear my eyesballs out

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swedensior

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@spindie If you have the instinct to protect clementine you will think the game is great

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twyz

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@spindie That's why you don't understand. Because you didn't get very far. If you were to get further into it you would see how awesome it is.

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JAIBOT

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@spindie Thats good. You are not meant to understand why people enjoy this game.


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sethfrost

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Well written review (and not because I agree with your views and analysis).

I could play these kind of episodes for the next decades. Telltale has nailed their winning formula and delivers with sharp writing and superb voice acting. And it is true - you cannot connect as deeply with these 'new' characters, since the episodes are very short. But hey, ... there's always another day?

I was critical of the 'light' gameplay of all TWD episodes at first. But now, I feel fine with it.

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spindie

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@carolino The walking dead is free for a limited time only on the apple appstore right now

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SlaviksG

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you can not compere The Last Of Us to The Walking Dead, games are just too diferent

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deactivated-5ed5ff7933d88

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@SlaviksG I wouldn't compare the two either.

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SlaviksG

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I hope season 2 will not make me cry :(

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widdowson91

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@SlaviksG I cried like a little baby at the end of season one :P

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xDeadP00lx

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@widdowson91 @SlaviksG ***SPOILER ALERT**** I think it made a lot of us old, cranky gamers cry a little. I was more upset at not knowing what happens to sweet little Clementine, the only thing good left in a shitty world with shitty people.

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wyshouldi02

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Definitely an interesting way of "bridging" the two seasons, so interested to see how and if it's achieved this! Had to admit though that the links between season 1 and the DLC were extremely limited, Vernon's group and it's downfall was mentioned, there was the possibility to see Carley's corpse on the side of the road (most devastating event in season 1, second to Lee's death!), and that's really all I can think of.

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hamo0odi90

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TLOU on meta : 95

TWD on meta : 82

you see the different hater ??? ha ???? 13 fucking point .

that what makes TLOU GOTY . not tom McShea or GS .

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widdowson91

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Edited By widdowson91

@hamo0odi90 Review scores are meaningless. Do you realise how many games win game of the year that actually scored the highest? My point: Super Mario Galaxy 2 averages 97% on GameRankings, while Mass Effect 2 averages 95%. Mass Effect 2 won more game of the year awards in 2010. Have a look for yourself, there are many other examples. Bringing review scores in to the equation shows nothing more that idiocy on your behalf.

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Kryptonbornson

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My biggest gripe with this game was that it was hard to lose Rock, Paper, Scissors for me. I don't know if this has been patched. I kept restarting from the last checkpoint and won like 7 times in a row.

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jecomans

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@Kryptonbornson You should just let it play. That's kind of the point.

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djpetitte

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@Kryptonbornson that's strange, I bought the game day one and I had a tough time wining rock, paper, scissors.

It's probably just random.

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akdiuuuryttt

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@Grand Theft Auto V (GTA 5) no

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SoreThumbsBill

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@Saketume @RobDev

That's obscene. His comment deserves at least a 5.5

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woodyfr

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@SoreThumbsBill @Saketume @RobDev Nope, the story was bad and too short. 1 out of 10

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fredwv

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This just in, Kane and Lynch STILL sucks.

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RIPWiiUlol

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Better than The Last of Us.

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EL_Bomberdor

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@RIPWiiUlol

Love how failtroll and the rest of the Xbots liked this comment. lol

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Kryptonbornson

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@RIPWiiUlol I liked the story better, but this doesn't have an ending. Not really, because you know more episodes are coming. I like The Last of Us's ending more than anything else in the game.

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deactivated-5ebc942967df5

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no

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Master_cheat001

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Edited By Master_cheat001

@Prats1993 in someway yes. All? no.

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Psycold

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This game mainly gives people the illusion of having options, I still like them and think Telltale is doing a good job, but as the caption above says it's not the best choice you make getting into a psycho's car, but you don't actually have a choice. Even if you refuse to get a ride from him, you still have to ride with him.

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djpetitte

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@Psycold

yeah we were a little let down by that as well.

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RobDev

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@Psycold there has to be some kind of linear aspect. even sandbox games have a narrative. they can't create game play for every single scenario. this chapter is about being in the car with a nut, if you are not in the car there is no chapter.

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Saketume

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@RobDev

So why make THAT the choice then?

I've played other games with multiple choices I've seen how it can be done in a better way.

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Syphen_bast

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@Saketume @RobDev Guys stop thinking too much that will prevent you from enjoying the game.
Let the story take you win with or without choices. I also played Mass effect 3 and hell.....the end doesn't change and i sure did a lot to make it different, but even then i enjoyed it very much!

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RobDev

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Edited By RobDev

some people have real issues in their lives if they get so bent out of shape about a number created by a person they have never met about A FUCKING GAME. get a fucking life.

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lostastsea22485

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Shocker...SOLONELY crybabies wanna compare this to their precious Last of Us...blah blah blah blah...

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Zorax99

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Edited By Zorax99

different reviewrs different grades so stop comparing it to last of us =)

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MooncalfReviews

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Wah wah the last of us got an 8.0, waaah bring me my pacifier.

This is an arcade game. It's judged to much less harsh standards than AAA games.

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hamo0odi90

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@MooncalfReviews

TLOU on meta : 95

TWD on meta : 82

less harsh my ass ,

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wavelength121

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@hamo0odi90 @MooncalfReviews This isn't metacritic, this is GameSpot. Metacritic is an accumulation of scores from other sites, not the score which sites are obligated to base their own scores on. You've got it backwards, champ.

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acelogan1989

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@Jonathan Decolongon the last of us and this game are completely different game and genre

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Mkeegs79

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Awesome. Finished. Want more NOW!

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The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series

First Released Dec 11, 2012
released
  • Android
  • iOS (iPhone/iPad)
  • Macintosh
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC
  • PlayStation 3
  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita
  • Xbox 360
  • Xbox One

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.

9
Superb

Average Rating

5795 Rating(s)

8.5
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Mature
Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language