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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179 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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FartFastMcSpeed

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I'm sorry, i'm not playing an other zombie game after playing The Last Of US, that game is just...i mean i just finished it 5 hours ago and it's just...IS THERE A 2ND ONE?! please i want it, i NEED it!!

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ElDuderino1

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@FartFastMcSpeed Play it again?

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MinerAvatar

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Only really 2 of the 5 stories are really good to me, the other 3 are just way too short to even care about those characters at all. Just as a story starts to catch my interest BOOM, it is over and your left feeling unsatisfied. It is worth the $5 for it, but I do not think it is worth a 9 rating at all.

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hXcShock

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Edited By hXcShock

The Last Of Us got an 8 and this digital pick your own adventure book got a 9. Sigh, GS is just losing all credibility for me.

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fredwv

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@hXcShock choose your own adventure books were da bomb back in the day!

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XxAK47xX

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@hXcShock i kinda know what your saying. I played the last of us and i freaking loved that game. But there is no other game that got me more involved than this series. as far as involvement with the story this game was much better at that. Last of us was an amazing game, don't get me wrong. BTW try not to look at the score until you read the pros and cons. A number is just a number. i can say random numbers based on my current feeling too.

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The_Gaming_Baby

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@hXcShock This is cheap DLC, don't compare its review to a full fledged game

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MateykoSlam

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@hXcShock the crap of us?

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spammehardo

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@MateykoSlam @hXcShock GOOD ONE.

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acelogan1989

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@MateykoSlam @hXcShock yeahhh

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chincky

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@MateykoSlam @hXcShock The moron of us?

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Philou21

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Edited By Philou21

@MateykoSlam @hXcShock Go home Xbox fan, you're drunk.

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FartFastMcSpeed

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@MateykoSlam @hXcShock You've played it?.

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MateykoSlam

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Edited By MateykoSlam

@FartFastMcSpeed @MateykoSlam @hXcShock this great game or that crap?

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The_Gaming_Baby

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Sure it was good. But a 9.0? No no no

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RaymanDK

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Meh, I found this dlc bad compared to the original.

7/10

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SweetPandaLove

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Just be warned of glitches...like the one where you start 400 Days, it hangs for 30 secs, and COMPLETELY ERASES your saved game, like it did to me. Started up 400 Days on my save slot where I had beaten all 5 episodes. It hung at a black screen for about 30 secs to 1 min...and started up Episode 1 instead of 400 Days, and my save game through Episode 5 is completely gone.

Just be warned.

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Coren_Larken

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I'm really excited about this. It has been a garbage week. I'm going to download this as soon as I get home.

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spammehardo

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"Gameplay takes a backseat to the stories" this shouldn't be getting a 9 then. The last game didn't even feel like a game and more like a dvd menu. I have read books that are more interactive.

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xsonicchaos

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@spammehardo Really? Name one book.

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spammehardo

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@xsonicchaos @spammehardo Knick Knack Paddywhack popup book and ninja cyborg a choose your own adventure book :)

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pal_080

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@spammehardo aww man you just reminded me of how awesome those Goosebumps choose your on adventures were

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Lex1fan

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DLC = 9.0 Last of Us (probable GOTY contender) = 8.0... huh?

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fatee

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@Lex1fan Say what you will, but telltales take on walking dead is the best zombie game/story I have ever played. It's well deserving.

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Lex1fan

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Edited By Lex1fan

@fatee @Lex1fan Wasn't a put down to 400 Days, it was a put down to Gamespot with their wonky rating system lol. Still bitter!

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gannonmoss

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I go back and forth on this. There were some really good moments, but I think that The Walking Dead (telltale version) really succeeded because of the depth of connection we made with Lee, Clementine and the others. It was just tough to care about any of them. In the main episodes of season one, I found myself bouncing between the logical and emotional decisions because I cared about Lee and Clementine... with these five, I just picked at random because I didn't give two flying f***s about any of them.

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Rocker6

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9.0 for a piece of DLC?

Very unexpected, don't see that every day on GS... should make it a priority to play, got the game for free on Gamersgate, which is awesome.

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sev2010

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eurogamer gave it 7/10, i played the first episode and i still wonder HOW THE HELL could they give it 7/10?

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ElDuderino1

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So happy to see this get a high score, it really is excellent. Season 1 was, overall, an awesome experience, but the writing is even sharper in 400 days. Plenty of humor to mix things up as well.

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sadscooterpipe

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Playing through all 5 first season episodes was one of my favorite experiences in gaming.

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The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series

First Released Dec 11, 2012
released
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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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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.
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Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language