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The Walking Dead: 400 Days (PC) artwork

The Walking Dead: 400 Days (PC) review

"I wouldn’t shed a tear if the five leads happened to be devoured by walkers the next time I see them."

When I play Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead, I don't make decisions based on what I would personally do. The choices I make service my vision for the character and the overall arc. Season one's Lee Everett is such a carefully-designed character - from his appearance and backstory down to the distinct voicework - that I couldn't project myself onto him. I wanted Lee to be his own character, one that I would influence to suit my story. By the time I reached the heartbreaking ending and was presented with the final decision, there was only one option I could have picked, not because it's what I would have necessarily done in that situation but because I knew this is how Lee's story must end. I didn't realise it at the time, but the game letting me be part of the storytelling was an ingeniously cruel trick. From the major decisions down to the more trivial dialogue responses, the events unfolded in a way that resonated with me the most. Everything was tailored to inflict the utmost emotional devastation upon me by the end. That was what made season one such an experience for me.

400 Days is considerably less effective, but it doesn't aspire to hit the same highs (read: lows). Season one had the benefit of five full episodes – most of them lasting at least two hours – to tell its story. By contrast, this downloadable content splits its single episode between five individual short stories. It’s unreasonable to expect 400 Days to have the same impact as season one, but I still hoped to have some empathy for the new crop of characters by the end. I came away a little disappointed.

Each of the short stories features a new character unseen before in The Walking Dead, and it becomes your responsibility to make life-or-death decisions for them. I dislike the idea of doing so without understanding who the person I’m controlling is without any idea of their motivations, so at the beginning of each vignette, I was trying to figure out who the character is and how I wanted them to act.

In one story, Wyatt is a passenger in a car chase, as he and his friend Eddie are being pursued by a madman in a pickup truck. Losing the truck, Eddie then hits someone on the road, and the pair debate about who should check on the person on the ground. Knowing extremely little about Wyatt, except for the fact that he and Eddie managed to royally piss someone off, I felt I had not enough information to make a decision on what I would like to see Wyatt do. Should he be a Good Samaritan, or is he a coward who only cares about his own survival? I was uncertain and tried to stall a little. In the end, the discussion ends in a rock-papers-scissors game, which – while not completely farfetched – felt like a cop-out and only left me more confused about who Wyatt was supposed to be.

At least Vince is a little more fleshed out. The very first scene of his vignette sees him killing a man before running from the scene. With the cops arriving and sirens blaring, Vince can either throw away his weapon (on the roof, in the trash can) or keep hold of it. Whatever he does, he gets caught and is chained up and transported in a police van. During the trip, Vince converses with a couple of other prisoners he has for company, with dialogue options influencing his feelings towards their crimes as well as his thoughts on the murder he committed and whether he regrets what he did. Although relatively brief, Vince’s characterisation felt organic and everything leading up to the big life-threatening decision helped me to dictate what choice he ends up making.

The other three vignettes have varying degrees of success, if we were to judge by this criteria. A fair amount of time is spent with Shel and her younger sister as they try to create a safe refuge with a small group of fellow survivors. There is plenty of character interaction as the diverse group become paranoid and on edge after an incident with an intruder, before Shel is suddenly ordered by the leader to prove her loyalty. On the other hand, you’re forced to determine the extent of a love triangle in Bonnie’s story almost immediately with no context, and must endure a boring stealth minigame as you trudge towards its climax.

Regardless of who it was, though, I never felt terribly attached to the new cast and subsequently didn’t feel as passionate about how their stories should unfold. The decisions just didn’t carry the same weight as in Lee’s story, even when compared to season one’s first episode. I knew with certainty that I had to save Carley over Doug. I wanted to see Lee and Carley’s relationship flourish in this dire and depressing post-apocalyptic world. I wanted there to be a little hope. The cruel payoff in the third episode on the side of the road was completely worth it. I was gutted for Lee. After the shock moment, my Lee was seething with rage at Lilly and had no hesitation in abandoning her. It felt like my story, and 400 Days – despite a couple of half-interesting stories – falls short of that.

I also have concerns over how the new characters play into season two. After considering their backstories, making decisions for them, and influencing what kind of people they are, I wonder how jarring it will be to see them pop up as NPCs instead, with fixed dialogue and actions.

I did somewhat enjoy my time with 400 Days, largely thanks to the unsurprisingly strong writing and the slightly experimental approach. And I was invested enough in the Walking Dead game universe to replay the epilogue to ensure that I got the ending I wanted. But not every vignette here is a hit, and I found none of the characters memorable. I completed the downloadable content nearly three weeks ago now, and I could barely tell you what any of the new cast looked like. 400 Days is a nice idea and sets up some intrigue for season two, but I wouldn’t shed a tear if the five leads happened to be devoured by walkers the next time I see them.

Rating: 6/10

Ben's avatar
Community review by Ben (July 17, 2014)

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zippdementia posted July 17, 2014:

A powerful ending to your review, considering that's what everyone talks about with the first game. Which... I need to finish. I only ever played episode one. Loved it, but did not have the money at the time to go on to episode two.
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Ben posted July 17, 2014:

Thanks, Zipp. Much appreciated!

If you ever get the chance to, it's still worthwhile to play the rest of the first season. Maybe you can take advantage of a sale sometime.
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Never3ndr posted July 18, 2014:

The more I think about it, the more I really feel that this would have worked better as DLC for season 2 rather than season 1...even considering how annoying it is for a game to be released with DLC.

On a side note, the only character I was really interested in was Shel's sister...who was seemingly a bit socio-pathic...something I'd actually consider somewhat normal in such an abnormal world.
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Ben posted July 18, 2014:

Thanks. You're right, I did like Becca. She was probably the best new face in 400 Days, and she was just a supporting character.

It's a shame that the downloadable content didn't really impress, but I'm curious to see what the effects of my decisions are when I play season two (my guess: probably very little impact).

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