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Opinion

400 Days' Bite-Sized Stories - A Different Approach to The Walking Dead

There are at least 400 ways to play this game.

The Walking Dead: 400 Days is a bit different from most other things. It’s almost like a collection of playable TV pilots, all set in the same world and all interlinked. Then again, it’s also a collection of stories that feel as though they’re building towards something even bigger.

It’s perhaps the only miniseries that I’ve ever played and gives merit to the incredible world of The Walking Dead, which spans mediums such as TV, games and comics. It’s a world that might not be as grounded as (and is certainly more comical than) The Last of Us’ desolate states, but one that feels just as real, with more than just one set of characters.

The main problem with 400 Days, however, is how hard it is to care for these characters in the short time you have with them. It’s not easy to get acquainted with a fictional character in about twenty minutes, as many half-hour slot TV shows have shown, with ratings usually dropping after the first episode. These sections are snippets, not stories – like flashing back to characters you haven’t met yet.

It’s an odd mix, and one that leaves little room for much character development.

Story-wise 400 Days is a triumph, with each section’s narrative packing in as much plot as you can in under half an hour. While you won’t get to know the characters well enough, you’ll learn to appreciate their stories and situations as you would with anyone surviving in a world such as this.

It’s a shame that at times the gameplay doesn’t quite match the story. There are some poor sections and nothing that quite matches Lee and Clementine’s adventures in the original game. It almost feels like a preview or a demo – five of them in fact. The original Walking Dead game gave you time to think, to get to know everyone, while this rarely does; it’s a different approach, but by no means one which fails.

The true brilliance of 400 Days is the way that it mimics and echoes tropes usually found in TV. There’s a hint of a bottle episode, an accessible mid-series opener and even an origins story all in this lovely little (and reasonably priced at £4, for that matter) package. It’s even a bit like Pulp Fiction, albeit more disjointed with writing that’s nowhere near as smart.

There’s lots of good gameplay here too, though: from gunning, to running, to hiding, to escaping, with some very tense sections that the first five episodes were renowned for. And that can be appreciated – it doesn’t take the gameplay much further than Season One of the game ever did, but it works well at times for what it is.

400 Days carries over perhaps the most important aspect of Season One: choice. The decisions you make – some blatant and some quite subtle – will affect the endgame that ties it all together. Choices don’t feel as important or as heavy as Lee’s in the original five episodes, but serve to remind you of the real struggles in this post-apocalyptic land.

It does serve a purpose however, hinting at where Season Two will take us next and introducing some new characters, though perhaps it would have worked much better had we been acquainted with them before – it feels much more like a prequel that should’ve released after the next season of episodes.

400 Days is a fun experiment, unseen in any medium before. The fact that the sections can be played in any order pushes the sense of choice and decision-making that permeates this series, which ultimately puts it ahead of the likes of television and film.

Though, at the same time, it feels as though you’re tuning into five episodes of shows you’ve never watched, or movies you’ve never heard of, which leaves an air of disappointment as it comes to an end.

4 Comments
  1. Youles
    Member
    Since: Feb 2011

    Sounds interesting enough to me – if nothing else it makes a nice change to anything else I play. I didn’t get to start it last night, but since they are 20-30minute episodes I will try and squeeze one in each evening over the next few days.

    Comment posted on 11/07/2013 at 14:43.
  2. Jim Hargreaves
    Member
    Since: Nov 2009

    Good read. Won’t be buying this for a while though.

    Loved TWD mainly due to how it treated characters. In 400 Days a lot of effort seems to have gone into refining a new, small cast yet the long-lasting ties won’t exist. At least to my knowledge (unless this happens to be an epilogue for Season Two.)

    Comment posted on 11/07/2013 at 15:32.
  3. bunimomike
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Purchased and will play it tonight, I reckon. Don’t forget to choose which one to download so you don’t waste time on the other option.

    If you played the original Walking Dead and bought it on the PSN, you’ll need the digital download version. If you played the original Walking Dead and bought it on Blu-ray you’ll be needing the digital download (from PSN) but it’ll be labelled “Blu-ray version”. All will make sense when you purchase 400 days. :-)

    Comment posted on 11/07/2013 at 15:38.
  4. Jones81
    Member
    Since: Mar 2010

    I completed this last night and it was bloody amazing. There are couple of ‘incidents’ that occured that were pretty disturbing and with plenty of gore , I actually felt a bit sick

    would recommend the walking dead (and this new episode) to anyone who loves a real edge of your seat thriller, an extremely tense experience and all round excellent game

    highly recommended

    Comment posted on 11/07/2013 at 17:18.