While The Walking Dead had 12 hours and 5 episodes to tell its story and shape its characters, 400 Days only has an hour and some spare change. Because of this, it doesn't have quite the same tear-jerking power of Lee and Clementine's story, but it still manages to squeeze some tense, morality-testing moments into its short running time.
It's a modestly-priced 'special' episode that bridges the gap between the first and forthcoming second season. For around £4 you get five short interlinking stories set at various points in a 400 day period after the outbreak. Each chapter has a different lead character, and decisions you make in one story will affect the other. It's like Quantum Leap with zombies, which gives the episode a lot of variety and an energetic pace, but not much time to really get to know the characters.
Thankfully, Telltale Games has stuck closely to the things that made the original season so special. The spotlight is on the characters and their personalities, not the zombies; you're given only a few seconds to make snap life-or-death decisions; puzzles, if you can even call them that, are light and unobtrusive. The choices you're forced to make don't have as much weight as any you had to make as Lee, but only because you aren't as familiar with the cast.
It's like a pick-and-mix of zombie fiction and 'what if' scenarios. Vince is a prisoner chained up in a bus as the plague begins to spread; Russell is a young boy wandering Georgia on his own who encounters a mysterious stranger; Bonnie is an ex-junkie in a love triangle with a married man; Wyatt is a weed-loving hippie on the road with an old friend; Shel is a senior member of a community of survivors. It's interesting to see the outbreak from so many wildly different perspectives after spending all of the first game as a single character.
It almost feels like an experiment. As before, the game gathers data as you play, comparing your actions to other players. Telltale used this information to shape the narrative of the first season, and it's likely what we do in 400 Days will inform the second season as well. It's implied, but not confirmed, that the five survivors from the DLC will be the stars of the new season, which gives you a good idea of the direction it might take story-wise. Lee's story is a tough act to follow, and it remains to be seen whether they'll be able to capture that magic a second time.
400 Days is proof that the team's knack for natural dialogue, believable characterisation, and engaging storytelling hasn't waned. The frenetic pace and massive cast don't give you much of an emotional hook, but the choice-and-consequence system is still suspenseful and entertaining, and you will feel the urge to immediately replay the episode once it ends. There's also a neat little callback to the first season if your save file is still intact. So you won't be blubbing into your controller this time, but you will be thoroughly entertained.
A reasonably-priced hour-and-a-bit of high quality DLC that's left us hungry for the next full season of The Walking Dead.
- Varied cast of interesting characters
- Some tough choices to make
- Fast pace doesn't allow for much character development