Wednesday, October 2

Game Review: 400 Days (The Walking Dead DLC)

Genre: Point and Click
Developer: Telltale Games
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, iOS, Mac, PS Vita
Release date: 02/07/2013 

One of my favourite games last year was one that crept up on me suddenly. I wasn't a particular fan of Telltale Games or the comic/TV series 'The Walking Dead', so the game was not on my radar at all. I was oblivious to its existence and even if I was aware, I wouldn't have cared. Zombie games didn't have much appeal to me. I only took an interest once other people had started talking about it so positively. After reading some reviews and having played a small amount of Telltale's previous games, I bought the game during the Steam holiday sale. Boy was that a great decision. The Walking Dead turned out to a fantastic game, emotionally hooking me and provide a satisfying and meaty cast of characters.

Recently DLC was released for The Walking Dead; 400 Days. As opposed to the events of the main game, which plays out through the actions of a single character, the DLC features 5 different characters in a nonlinear story. Each character’s episode starts at a different time during the zombie outbreak. The diverse range of characters include a lone wanderer who meets a stranger on the road, a sibling who finds herself and her sister in ever increasingly isolationist community, an older hippy and his friend being chased at gun point and 2 others. The episodes intersect each other, and if you’re paying attention you’ll notice the consequences of other characters stories.

Each episode takes over 20 minutes to complete and what is really impressive is the intensity of emotions, which are created in such a short period of time. For instance within a few minutes of Vince’s story you are forced to make the kind of decision you’d never want to make in real life. When I was faced with the choice, I didn't fully comprehend the consequences and was horrified watching the action unfold. Most episodes provided substantial emotional hooks and I was left muttering in shock “…what the fuck” a couple of times.

Aside from the change in narrative technique, the DLC its almost identical to the main game in other areas. The graphics are pretty terrible with textures looking like they belong on the Nintendo 64. However the Walking Dead’s art style does a good job of helping to create its own visual identity. Gameplay is the familiar mix of slow paced walking and talking, mild puzzle solving and intense button mashing/clicking sequences. The gameplay is not 400 Days strong point so if you are looking for a more interactive, or skill driven zombie game, this isn't it.

400 Days biggest issue is the lack of continuity between stories. The main game provided a more engaging experience,  because you grew attached to the cast of characters over time. 400 Days brief affairs with each set of characters doesn't enable time for significant bonds to develop. Obviously it must be noted that due to its nature as short DLC, this is somewhat inevitable. However I would have preferred a single story focused, 2 hour plus DLC, than 5 different stories at 20 plus minutes each.

The Walking Dead's first piece of DLC, 400 Days, offers a similar narrative and character driven experience. Each story is short but sweet. However the stories, and DLC as a whole, lacks the depth and continuity that the main campaign offers. 400 Days is a worthwhile addition to The Walking Dead and offers a tantalising taste of what Telltale will deliver next.