The Walking Dead video game won numerous Game of the Year Awards by crafting a heartbreaking tale of difficult choices, and creating richly-drawn, though deeply flawed human characters with stakes that seemed bigger than life or (un)death. Taking a break from the multi-episode first “season,” Telltale has released a standalone DLC: 400 Days, which follows five different survivors in mini-stories of the first year of the zombie apocalypse.
Centered around a gas station, 400 Days opens with a sign board filled with missing person photos. Five of the photos represent the characters of the game, and by selecting one (which you can do in any order), you enter the story of his or her life at a key point in the zombie apocalypse. Vince is trapped in a prison bus on the second day of the outbreak when no one has any idea of what’s going on. Wyatt, Russell, and Bonnie take place during the first year, when civilization has collapsed. And in perhaps the most bleak story, a woman named Shel learns that the rarity of resources has turned people into a bigger threat than the zombies.
It would be impossible for 400 Days to pack the same emotional punch in one episode—spread across five playable characters—that the original game did over five episodes. The game is further hobbled by the fact that each of the stories leads up to one difficult decision, and once that decision is made, the episode is pretty much over. There are objects to interact with, a few puzzles to solve, but they don’t really matter; Vince can choose to hide his gun or keep it with him as he runs from the cops, but he’ll still end up on that bus. Bonnie can flirt or play hard-to-get, but she still has to decide to lie or tell the truth in the cornfield.
What’s interesting is that you don’t learn the larger consequences of those choices until the epilogue, where a woman named Tavia comes across the other characters who have joined together. The key choices you made in the game will affect how they react to the idea of joining a larger colony, based on issues of trust and guilt that you can’t possibly predict based on the information given.
If 400 Days falls short of the larger game, it’s still well-written and has the heart of what made the original The Walking Dead game great. You get the sense that any one of these characters could hold down a game on their own. And since Telltale has announced that the decisions made in 400 Days will have an effect on the second season of the larger game, perhaps they’ll get a chance. Think of this DLC as an appetizer—something to hold you over before the main course starts.
Category: Puzzle/survival horror
Developer: Telltale Games
System Requirements: OS X 10.6, 2.3 GHz processor, 4GB RAM, 2GB Hard Drive Space, 512 MB Nvidia or ATI graphics card
Review Computer: 2.2GHz 13″ Macbook Pro, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM
Network Feature: No
Processor Compatibility: Intel
Availability: Out now