The Walking Dead: 400 Days Review

The Walking Dead: 400 Days Review
Review Score8
  • Why so high? Top-notch dialogue and voice acting; five engaging tales of survival; $5 price tag

    Why so low? Unfocused narrative; too short; some technical hiccups and lip-synching issues

Ever since the jaw-dropping, concluding moments of The Walking Dead-Episode 5: No Time Left, series aficionados have been anxiously anticipating Telltale Games’ next batch of episodic adventures while simultaneously craving more details pertaining to both the loveable Clementine, and the remaining cast of hardened survivors left after Season One’s finale. Though information on Season Two’s inevitable release still proves to be relatively scarce (though rumors state we can expect its first episode in the fall), Telltale Games has taken it upon themselves to release a special DLC episode, The Walking Dead: 400 Days, for those dreading the wait in between installments. Filled with The Walking Dead’s trademark, emotion-fueled dialogue branches and split-second moral dilemmas, 400 Days serves as a fitting, but not entirely flawless entry in a series whose engrossing narrative and fleshed-out characters have continued to captivate a devoted and ever-growing audience.

A New Narrative Direction

Whereas Season One’s narrative focused entirely on Lee Everett’s perspective towards the unrelenting zombie apocalypse, Telltale Games’ 400 Days deviates from the The Walking Dead’s traditional story-telling system by allowing you to tackle any of the five new survivors’ bite-sized stories – tacked on a cork board at Gil’s Pitstop – at your leisure. Regardless of whose character’s story you play through first – either Bonnie, Russell, Shel, Vince, or Wyatt’s, 400 Days predictably ambushes you with a wealth of drama-infused situations, nerve-wracking dialogue choices, and quick-time event sequences that makes this latest entry feel right at home alongside the series’ first handful of episodes.

Developer: TellTale Games
Publisher: TellTale Games
Platforms: PSN (reviewed), XBLA, PC
Release dates: July 2013

Unfortunately, the newly introduced narrative structure exhibited throughout 400 Days’ prologue-esque premise doesn’t quite compare to the more focused efforts seen in The Walking Dead Season One’s storyline. You see, most of this is devoted to the shear fact that your time with each character is so undeniably short-lived, allowing a noticeable sense of detachment from each playable survivor that was otherwise absent from Lee’s more successful, character-evolving adventure. Though it should be noted that Telltale Games did a remarkable job trying to properly introduce and emotionally develop each new protagonist – especially given the short duration of each story, 400 Days’ multiple characters failed to resonate with us simply because, just as we were beginning to grow attached to them, their chapter would abruptly end and whisk us away onto another survivor’s beak storyline. Consequently, this left otherwise nail-biting choices to noticeably lack the sort of weight the series is renown for, especially since the repercussions of your actions won’t even be seen until Season Two’s inevitable release.

Tales of Survival in an Undead World

Though 400 Days’ new format displays some faults, the opportunity to cycle from survivor to survivor, and see how they’re coping with the ongoing zombie plague during different times in the game’s chronology gives players some more insight into the uncivilized world of The Walking Dead, along with some fairly memorable tales of survival from the series’ new cast. Perhaps the most unforgettable of the five follows a younger woman named Shel whose trying desperately to shield her adolescent sister, Becca, from an unforgivably dangerous world ravaged by the cold, bloodthirsty hands of the undead. Part of a survivalist community whose questionable, strictly regulated set of rules threaten to separate the group, Shel’s attempts at both protecting and properly raising Becca – whose had to neglect both her innocence and younger ambitions in order to survive – acts as a welcome throwback to the beloved Lee and Clementine relationship that served as the underlying foundation for The Walking Dead Season One.

That’s not to say that any of the character-specific chapters in 400 Days are noticeably weaker than the other, though if anything, some could argue that they lack a sense of originality – especially when compared to the seemingly fathomless amount of zombie-related fiction released over the years. Despite what side of that argument you stand on, however, it’s hard to deny that Telltale Games can still deliver a worthwhile, believable experience. From the excellently-crafted dialogue that brings each hardened survivor to life to the suspenseful scenarios that are carefully sprinkled throughout the roughly 80 minute journey, 400 Days continues to demonstrate Telltale Games’ greatest strengths – top-notch writing and enthralling storytelling – without compromising too much of the foundation Season One established.

Final Thoughts

While the same minor issues – such as lip-synching mishaps and technical hiccups – seen in past episodes still plague The Walking Dead series’ latest point-and-click adventure, 400 Days’ anthology of stories not only shows that Telltale Games has an unrivaled understanding of Robert Kirkman’s undead-infested world, but also isn’t afraid to take a few risks along the way for the sake of introducing a fresh narrative direction. Though an anti-climactic conclusion ends up creating more questions than answers, 400 Days serves as an excellent bridge between the critically-acclaimed episodes seen in Season One and the highly-anticipated ones yet to be experienced from Season Two.

Note: In order to purchase The Walking Dead: 400 Days DLC, you must own at least the first episode of Season One.