The Walking Dead – 400 Days (PC)

400Zombies, zombies, zombies. The folks at SquareGo have asked me to spend even more time with zombies.

To which I happily obliged, as the Walking Dead DLC pack from Telltale games is something I’ve been feverously anticipating.

My SquareGo review can be found here on the main site, or below the cut in full.

 

Walking Dead – 400 Days
Telltale Games

3/5

How do you follow a game which topped more than half of the Top Ten lists of 2012, including our own?

That’s the burning question which has plagued everyone who played thorough the amazing Telltale Games Walking Dead series. Considering the success from both critics and the buying public, not to mention the final moments fo the game, it’s unthinkable that Telltale would leave the universe of the Walking Dead completely.

Which is why releasing the DLC pack, 400 Days is both a blessing and a curse. It attempts to be all things to all people, at the same time acting as a bridge between the first series, and the upcoming second helping, and it’s own beast. As a result there’s a definite schizophrenic feel to the episode, as it gives the player a glimpse into the lives of five new characters caught in the throes of the undead apocalypse. Instead of the familiar linear storytelling that graced the original game, 400 Days gives a scattergun, player-selected, approach to the narratives, which means the events will have different meaning dependent on the order selected.

400 Days, opens to show us a typical American diner and gas station, which fades into an abandoned state before our eyes.  The notice board outside holds a selection of photographs, which can be selected, each allowing the player to pick a character vignette to play through.

400days_roadtripThe characters include the likes of a pair of sisters, a convict, an ex-junkie and a college student. With each story beginning in the midst of the action, with the only indicator of the setting being the amount of days since ‘Z-day’ occurred.  As players work through the plot in each case, tensions will begin to fray, difficult decisions will occur and of course, there will be horrific deaths, moral conundrums that warp the mind and the heart.

400days_cornfieldThe major downside of 400 Days is that precisely because it’s a jigsaw of stories, told in a fractured way, it’s difficult to really get a handle on some of the characters, and more difficult still to really engage with them emotionally. In one case, after mere minutes of playing, the characters are running and screaming after you’ve barely begun to understand the dynamics between them and the personalities involved.  A couple of the stories are also markedly longer than the others, and a few times, it’s a guessing game if a fade to black is going to be a transition or the end of a chapter.

What hasn’t changed however, is the brilliant voice work, and the realistically written dialogue between the characters. Each distinct personality beat is flawlessly contructed and while a few of the minor characters steer occasionally close to being a shorthand stereotype, the rest feel as real as, Lee or Clementine.The-Walking-Dead-400-Days

As a lead in to the next game, 400 Days manages to keenly whet the appetite for the next game proper, while giving a welcome introduction to a few of the characters who will appear in the next story. As the inevitable closing coda of 400 Days makes clear, these people will feature in the next story, but as ever with the Walking Dead, how long they survive, what choices they make and whether or not they’ll interact with the survivors of the first game is deliberately unclear.  What is clear is that despite the limitations of this DLC pack, Telltale still know how to make their audience, jump, wince and retch. And that’s no bad thing.

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