GamesBeat

The Walking Dead: 400 Days is a successful but brief experiment in storytelling (review)

Above: A new episode in Telltale's acclaimed Walking Dead series.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Telltale Games’ critically acclaimed adventure series The Walking Dead is back with all-new downloadable content called 400 Days (for PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Mac), an anthology of short stories that bridges the gap between Seasons One and Two. Playable in any order, the five vignettes take place during the first 400 days of the zombie apocalypse (hence the title) and introduce us to a new cast of survivors. It’s an experiment in video game storytelling that mostly pays off, presenting a handful of tense, gripping situations that neatly set up the next season.

What You’ll Like

The writing

400 Days lacks the emotional impact of Lee and Clementine’s story in Season One. Its short length, about two hours total, means we have less time to grow attached to the new characters. But Telltale does an admirable job of making us care about these people and their struggles quickly.

Like its source material, 400 Days is at its best when it explores the moral quandaries that crop up in a post-apocalyptic society. Who do you trust? How do you keep a loved one from losing his humanity without compromising his safety? Do you stay with a group or take your chances on your own? These situations are nothing new to zombie fiction fans, but 400 Days manages to keep things interesting through the strength of its writing, especially its dialogue. Whether it’s a discussion about the merits of lobster claw hands or a game of rock-paper-scissors, Telltale’s writers humanize their characters in a way few video games manage.

Telltale Games

Above: Shel and Becca are two new characters in The Walking Dead: 400 Days DLC.

Image Credit: Telltale Games

What You Won’t Like

The lack of real gameplay

Because of its brevity, 400 Days feels less like a game and more like an interactive novel. There’s not a single puzzle to be found; most of the so-called gameplay instead consists of choosing dialogue options, occasionally clicking on objects, and completing brief quick-time events. The DLC practically runs on rails, especially during Vince’s chapter, where even running away from the cops is handled for you. But that’s just the old-school adventure gamer in me grumbling. Let’s face it — no one buys The Walking Dead for the puzzles.

The technical issues

400 Days seems to suffer from the same technical issues as Season One. Although I didn’t experience the gameplay glitches that have plagued other players, my copy refused to launch until I unplugged my game controller from my Windows 8 PC, forcing me to use a keyboard and mouse instead. It certainly wasn’t a deal breaker, but hopefully Season Two will be a more stable product.

Conclusion

Although you’ll need at least Episode One to play 400 Days, this is a good standalone title that expands The Walking Dead universe and pushes the story forward. The situation it sets up for Season Two is intriguing. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait long to see what comes next.

Score: 78/100

The Walking Dead: 400 Days is out now for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, and Mac. The publisher provided GamesBeat with a copy of the PC version for the purpose of this review.


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