By Marty Mulrooney
The Walking Dead: 400 Days is a DLC episode for Season One of Telltale Games’ award-winning video game series, The Walking Dead. In 2012 Alternative Magazine Online described The Walking Dead: Episode 5 – No Time Left as “a tear-jerking masterclass in interactive storytelling. It is undoubtedly Telltale Games’ magnum opus, a bona fide masterpiece that will be talked about for years to come.” 400 Days bridges the gap between Season One and the yet to be released Season Two by putting players in the shoes of five brand new characters as they make split-second decisions that will change their lives – and the lives of those around them – forever.
400 Days is one of the greatest pieces of DLC ever created. A bold statement perhaps, but undoubtedly true – all too often, DLC can merely feel like a blatant cash grab. Yet rather than resting on their laurels and simply offering more of the same, Telltale Games has decided to push the envelope by taking a risk and completely shaking up their previously successful formula. It isn’t perfect, but its entertainment value is second to none.
A truck stop on a Georgia highway serves as the central hub for the interconnecting stories of 400 Days. As zombies shuffle mindlessly nearby, a billboard displays the photographs and names of five people. Each person can be selected in any order by the player, prompting a mini-episode to play out that lasts roughly 15 to 20 minutes. Each of these mini-episodes takes place between day one and day 400 of the zombie apocalypse (hence the name of the DLC), with choices the player makes changing the story to offer a totally unique experience.
Each character brings their own personality and unique perspective of the zombie outbreak to the table (or perhaps more accurately, billboard). Vince is a convicted murderer who is chained on a prison bus when the outbreak occurs. Bonnie is a recovering drug addict who finds herself taking cover from gunfire and evading pursuers in a cornfield. Wyatt is a stoner who’s in a speeding car (with his friend Eddie behind the wheel) fleeing from an unseen assailant in a pickup truck with blindingly bright lights. Shel is part of a group of survivors holed up in a fortified truck stop, following their own strict set of rules. Russell is a young African-American man travelling on foot to find his grandma.
Each character is briefly introduced before being thrust into a series of situations that require many difficult split-second decisions to be made. The pace is relentless – whereas Season One allowed players to wander around as Lee Everett between the action sequences, chatting and exploring, 400 Days forces the player to make judgement calls without the luxury of breathing room. The result is a game that plays out much like real life. You’ll start out with the best of intentions, but after each decision you’ll ask yourself: “Did I do the right thing?” Mistakes will be made, and often they’ll be fatal.
The voice acting is superb throughout and despite characters only having an extremely short space of time to make an impression, each person you control feels like a living, breathing human being. You’ll care about their fates and might even find yourself adjusting your play style based on their personalities, which makes the difficult decisions all the more impactful – and fun – to experience. Many video games fail to make you care about one character yet Telltale Games will make you care – truly care – about several in less than the length of the average film.
In fact, the only real downside to 400 days is that it’s so good you’ll finish it in one sitting and immediately be hungry for more. Also, despite the characters all being well-developed in an extremely short space of time, the quickened pace lacks some of the more resonant moments from Season One. You’ll certainly give a damn what happens next, but it’s doubtful at this point that many players will feel the same connection they felt with Lee and Clementine. Thankfully, the end of the episode strongly suggests that this won’t be the last we’ll see of these new survivors – and it’s exciting to imagine them interacting with some familiar faces from Episodes 1 to 5 during Season Two.
The Walking Dead: 400 Days is a risk that pays off – episodic gaming was the original hard sell, and now DLC has been conquered too. It’s well worth the low asking price of £3.99 and will remind you exactly why The Walking Dead was the best video game of 2012. Whose foot will you shoot off? Whose face will you cave in? Can Nate be trusted? Only you can decide – it’s nerve-racking stuff, but you’ll have a blast. Bring on Season Two and the return of Clementine!
9 OUT OF 10
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – A New Day (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Episode 2 – Starved for Help (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Episode 3 – Long Road Ahead (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Episode 4 – Around Every Corner (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Episode 5 – No Time Left (PC)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Dave Fennoy (Lee Everett, The Walking Dead: The Game)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation with Adam Harrington (Andrew St. John, The Walking Dead: The Game)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Nicki Rapp (Lilly Caul, The Walking Dead: The Game)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Melissa Hutchison (Clementine, The Walking Dead: The Game)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Erin Ashe (Molly, The Walking Dead: The Game)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Dave Fennoy and Melissa Hutchison (Lee Everett and Clementine, The Walking Dead: The Game)