The Walking Dead: 400 Days Review (PC)
There was one moment in The Walking Dead: 400 Days – Telltale Game’s bridge between Season 1 and 2 of The Walking Dead: The Game – where I had to put the controller down for a minute and really think about the choice that was in front of me. This is what sets 400 Days apart from the first five episodes of Telltale’s zombie adventure game: It only happened once. Only once was I left with a moral dilemma, a matter of life and death in the palms of my hands, that confounded me so much that I had to collect my thoughts before coming to a verdict. This kind of thing was commonplace in Season 1.
In 400 days, Telltale introduce us to five brand new characters and you can choose to play through their stories in any order you see fit. These stories are well written, well voice acted and meet the standards you’ve come to expect of the franchise. Some of these stories are stronger than others, though; Shel’s is the one with the greatest emotional impact whereas Russell’s is over in the blink of an eye, ending before it really gets going. As for the characters, it’s hard to form an emotional attachment with any of them as their stories are told so quickly. This is 400 Days greatest weakness: the emotional gravity that was prevalent in the series debut episodes just isn’t there.
The lack of attachment to these characters also greatly depreciates the value of the choice system in the game. Like in all episodes previous, 400 Days’ mechanics revolve around the choices you make in the forms of what you say, do and decide. However, with a lack of emotional attachment to characters on screen, there was little weight to many of these decisions. It didn’t feel like it mattered if what I said pissed someone off. I was never bothered if what I did had adverse consequences for someone else. And only once, as I mentioned before, did I care enough to weigh up my options in making a decision.
All is not lost, however, as there is still plenty to experience with 400 Days. The point and click style gameplay remains, of course, and goes a long way to adding a great deal of atmosphere to the game. Scrambling to move your cursor over the right object as a walker shuffles its jaws closer towards you is as nerve shattering as ever. 400 Days even tries out some new mechanics – some of which I expect we’ll see return in Season 2 – like in one particular segment of Bonnie’s story where stealth comes into play. It’s cool to see that Telltale aren’t resting on their laurels and hopefully they will continue to improve and innovate on existing gameplay.
Also, what these five stories lack in emotional depth, they make up for with fast-paced action and suspense. We see a car chase, a stand off and plenty of ducking for cover. Also, by jumping into just a small section of these character’s lives, the audience are left in the dark about a lot of the minutia and this adds an air of mystery to each tale. The one downside to this particular aspect, however, is that we never do get the full stories.
As a Telltale game, some technical flaws are too be expected. Jerky animations, the occasional stutter and some dodgy lip syncing exists, but never detracts from the atmosphere that has been created.
400 Days manages to whet the appetite for Season 2. It’s a reminder of how heart-pounding that gameplay is and just how well written Telltale’s Walking Dead stories are. Most importantly, it’s a reminder of how hard it can be to come to a decision about the fate of the pixels on your screen – even if it did only happen once. Now, take me back to Clementine.
3 inter-season experiments out of 5