The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Striking and intense moments make up the bulk of 400 Days'
appeal. With this special episode's brief glimpses into five different lives,
it's not a strong attachment like Clementine's that keeps the emotional
investment. Instead, it's the plight of the situation and the choices that say
something about humanity and what people will do to survive.
At one point, I felt transported to the actual conundrum:
Should I kill and betray my conscience, or run and risk my safety? As the two
choices lingered on the screen, my emotions roiled inside me. The heart-pumping
decision had no right or wrong answer, as both were unappealing, but it
mattered so much that I paused and stared at each choice for a minute. The
doubt that surmounts in these moments are when 400 Days is at its best, and
thankfully, it has enough of them to keep these small slices of story afloat.
Expect plenty of grim situations and don't anticipate walking away happy or
feeling secure - that's exactly the way a zombie apocalypse should feel.
While Telltale Games preps the second season of last year's
breakout story, the bridging DLC 400 Days caters to fans by connecting to
season one while alluding to what's in store for the next season. But with five
new characters and around 20 minutes for their introductory episodes, it's
tough getting to know them. That's part of the beauty. All that's revealed are
glimpses, yet the writers still provide a strong sense of these characters. Off
the bat, it's clear that Shel would do anything for her younger sister and that
there's more to Vince's story than being a murderer. No matter how many shades
of gray are evident in each main character, they all remain likeable and keep
Although the stories are small offerings, they still have
depth. One explores how a young girl is hardened by the cruelty of the apocalypse;
another has you going up against a man losing his sanity. Interesting enough,
the side characters are the main attraction, which is important when you're
playing as the lead character. Dialogue remains natural and witty, and inserts
some humor for levity. That said, some of the five stories, like Shel's, hit
the emotional chord harder than others. For instance, in Wyatt's story, the
"big choice" lacks impact; his arc is entirely forgettable. One theme remains
the same, however: somberness. Most of the final choices echo through you long
after the encounter finishes.
Telltale's 400 Days isn't afraid to go to dark places and
plays around with deteriorating mental states along the timeline. Not
everything always works, though; racial tension is thrown into the apocalypse,
but it feels tacked on. For such brief episodes, it never finds it place or
works for the plot as it should. Still, the bleak atmosphere delivers in most
cases. In one scenario, the fog carries an eeriness; in another, characters use
walkers as their watch dogs. Isolation and oppressive gloom and doom permeate
the world effectively.
Gameplay once again is a very minor portion of The Walking
Dead, which isn't a bad thing. The effort to create suitable tension is noble;
you dodge gunfire, shoot at a moving car, and pull a weapon from the ground
with only seconds before you're found. The speed at which you have to perform
these actions is what makes them function well, not the actual execution or
action, which always feels second-rate compared to the plot.
The dialogue choices and decisions are the highlight, but
it's impossible to escape feeling forced into some choices that bridge to
gameplay. For instance, in one scene, something sneaked up on my character. I
hesitated at striking because I wanted to make sure it wasn't somebody I knew;
I quickly found the "Game Over" screen. In my next attempt, I struck, and my previous
observation was correct. Instead of being rewarded for correctly anticipating a
circumstance, I was instead forced to play the situation in a way
I normally wouldn't have.
The only other shortcoming is the abrupt endings to the
stories. Leaving you hanging is The Walking Dead's forte, but it feels
unnatural in 400 Days. At the end of the episode, it tries too hard to wrap up
some lingering questions quickly, and it feels like you're being read a laundry
list. These conclusions are just as sad as some of the outcomes in the stories,
and seeing this expanded on screen would reinforce the devastating
consequences. As rushed as the ultimate ending feels, it does get you thinking
about The Walking Dead's next move with season two.
Ultimately, 400 Days is worth playing for invested fans.
Telltale has clearly learned the game works best when it presents you with
unattractive choices that pull at your humanity. Some of these stories had me
in frenzied thought, while others left me underwhelmed, but either way, 400
Days feels like a preparation for what's to come. As this DLC ups the shock
factor, it makes it clear when season two rolls around that Telltale has no
boundaries, and you should prepare your emotions accordingly.
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.