Human Zombipede: "THE WALKING DEAD: 400 DAYS" ReviewA game review article by: Dylan Tano
I think it is safe to say that I'm a fan of Telltale's The Walking Dead series. While not as long as the other episodes, The Walking Dead: 400 Days does not suffer from DLC syndrome: it isn't trying to squeeze one more story out of the existing characters. Yes, there is a nice homage to the first five episodes. But, other than that, there is no mention of Clementine (by name) or any of the other survivors (I'm using the term “survivor” loosely). Instead, what you get might be a fairly brilliant move by Telltale: DLC that is designed to transition into Season 2 of The Walking Dead.
You play through partial stories of five different characters. Call them defining moments, if you will. I do, because your decisions and actions directly decide who stays and goes at the end of the game. You don't know that at the time, of course. All you're given is a bulletin board with pictures of five characters and a hand with which to choose a picture. You control the hand, but you do not know who you are. Don't worry though, you'll find out. For now, this nameless, faceless hand is the avatar with which you choose whose story you play through. There are five characters to cycle through: Wyatt, Russell, Bonnie, Shel and Vince. I'm not going to take the time to go through a synopsis for each and every character. They aren't that long, usually playing out in 30 minutes at most. There are five stories to play over and this DLC is relatively inexpensive ($4.99, or FREE if you have the season pass).
400 Days clocks in at around two and a half hours to play, which is good because a lot of the choices you make have immediate impact and you're going to want to go back to play through it again to see what the alternate outcome was. When playing Shel, I was given a choice to kill someone or drive off in an RV. I chose the former (don't steal from my camp during the Zombie Apocalypse) and it completely changed the outcome of her story. If I had drove off instead, perhaps her story would have ended differently. Hell, there is an entire segment with a character that you can skip if you just stay in a car! Not many game developers would take that kind of risk, designing and creating a segment that you can entirely skip in a game. It is a testament to Telltale's choice philosophy of giving the player these gameplay options and I cannot help but applaud.
With choice thankfully comes variety. No two characters' stories play the same. Bonnie's story doesn't necessarily even have to have a walker in it, for instance. You'll flee, fight and abandon your way through the game, playing just as smoothly as Episode Five did. You won't find any new gameplay elements, but that isn't a bad thing. By the time the last episode rolled around, they polished and refined the game to such a high sheen that the gameplay didn't require any more tweaking. They know where they belong at this point. There isn't a particularly challenging moment gameplay wise, but several moments are intense. During one scene, you're trapped in a cornfield being hunted by people with flashlights. You don't have any weapons and, if spotted, you'll get one between the eyes. The brevity of each story casts a brighter light on moments like these and they succeed. From build up to pay off, there isn't a single story that disappointed me in anyway.
Unfortunately for me – and fortunately for Telltale – it left me wanting more. I would have liked the DLC to be a bit longer. I wanted to spend more time with the characters. Telltale has a way of doing that to me. By the end, you're 400 days into the zombie apocalypse and Telltale has laid the groundwork for what it has planned next. I'll be intrigued to see just how much of what you do in this game changes what happens in Season 2. A lot of choices have immediate consequences, sure. But as they've shown in the past, Telltale rarely plays the short game. While brief, Telltale somehow got me even more excited for Season 2. I can't tell you anything though – don't want to spoil it.
When Dylan Tano isn't floating amongst the clouds in his beautiful balloon, you can find him up to his ears in work at Comics Bulletin. As a fellow writer once said, if he gets paid in the morning, then he's drunk in the afternoon. He dwells in the realms of video games and comic books, writing about both till he is either drunk or delirious. He has yet to confuse the two but his editors are working on it. If he had it his way, all robots would have pain receptors.
You can follow him on Twitter as @BroSpider. You can join him on PSN at Blues_Doc and Steam at Frostbite21251. You can read some of his musings on Blogger and he keeps a list of short stories on his Tumblr.