The walking dead: 400 days PS3 review – five-way DLC keeps the apocalyptic appetite up
The eyes are dry in the wake of the first season, but only just. And yet as soon as that emotional finale was over (no spoilers, but seriously: play it) we were craving more. More panicky QTEs, more heartfelt dialogue, more gut-wrenching choices to immediately regret.
The walking dead: 400 days PS3 review
Well this mid-course DLC palate cleanser, designed to keep us interested while whetting the appetite for the next set of episodes, delivers on all of those fronts. However, it doesn’t do so to the same extent as the five core instalments we’ve had so far – and that’s largely because it’s too short. While 90 minutes of gameplay for £3.99 isn’t appalling value, the whole piece does feel rushed.
This is down to the structure: you play as five different characters who are struggling to survive at various times in the wake of the zombie outbreak, ranging from less than a week after day-Z to when the title suggests. They’re a varied lot, each with distinct motivations and backstories, and Telltale does an excellent job of getting you clued-up on their personalities in very little time. The trouble is that as you only spend 15-20 minutes in each pair of brain-splattered shoes, there’s never a chance to create the type of emotional connection so key to the series’ success, no matter how trying the circumstances.
And it’s a shame, because 400 Days zeroes in on one of The Walking Dead’s strongest – and most talked-about – areas: player choice. Each of the fivesome has at least one humdinger of a decision to make, and pretty much every option is something of a wrench. Even those when you’re not having your hand forced by a timer are difficult to get ‘right’, and the ones when you are on the clock are panicky and pressured in the very best sense.
But even though you’re as keen as ever to make a decision you can live with, none of them have quite the same weight. You’ve only known the guy whose foot you might have to shoot off for five minutes or so, and in another five you’ll never see him again, so it’s hard to get massively invested.
So much of the success of the core series
came from the attachment to characters
that developed over time, & that was
never going to be possible here
Even so, your time with these characters is enjoyable, and none feels extraneous or clichéd. Among them are a recovering junkie, a stoner on the run, and a recently convicted inmate riding in a prison van. And each tale is distinctly unglamorous, feeling every bit as gritty, realistic and ultimately depressing as those first five episodes.
This was never going to be an easy one to get right. So much of the success of the core series came from the sense of attachment to the characters that developed over time, and that was never going to be possible here. Given the time constraints Telltale has done an admirable job, creating an interesting cast of characters in a perilous set of scenarios. The initial quintet stands above, yet this DLC add-on has done a fine job of rekindling our love for the series, and making the wait for season two more unbearable. Joel Gregory