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Walking Dead: 400 Days’ terrible burden of choice

Tuesday, 9th July 2013 12:57 GMT By Dave Cook

The Walking Dead: 400 Days delivers some of the most gut-wrenching moral choices in gaming, and shows TellTale at the peak of its game, argues VG247′s Dave Cook.

”In these times of big blockbuster flash, collapsing skyscrapers and gung-ho bravado, it’s comforting to know that well-written, personal pieces of art like The Walking Dead still have a place among the industry.”

It’s hard to talk about what goes on in The Walking Dead 400 Days without sending the spoiler klaxon spinning uncontrollably. Despite being less than an hour long, the DLC is dense with plot-twists, shocking revelations and tantalising glimpses of TellTale’s next wave of survivors.

Arguably, The Walking Dead is TellTale’s opus. It’s a true showcase of mature story-telling with wretched consequences and difficult decisions peppered throughout that not only spark emotional engagement in players, but stay with them along after each episode’s conclusion.

In these times of big blockbuster flash, collapsing skyscrapers and gung-ho bravado, it’s comforting to know that well-written, personal pieces of art like The Walking Dead still have a place among the industry, and that they can enjoy commercial prosperity without compromising integrity.

The Walking Dead: 400 Days shows a studio at the peak of its game, delivering many of those dreadful moments that see you forced to choose between a pair of binary options, completely unaware of how they will impact your journey further down the line.

Without saying so explicitly, the game makes it abundantly clear that whatever route you choose will bear grave consequences on your tailored path through season two, but you’re never told exactly how your decisions will bear fruit. This is TellTale’s master-stroke, and it sends the brain into speculative overdrive throughout the experience.

It’s easy to write off 400 Days as too short to justify a purchase but if – like me – you are a staunch fan of season one, this teaser into what lies next will send your hype levels into the stratosphere. The plot divulges enough that you start to make your own conclusions about what will happen next yet it’s largely threadbare to keep you wanting more, and at the heart of it all lies the terrible burden of choice.

While it follows five new, racially and ethnically diverse survivors in Robert Kirkman’s bleak world of survival horror, they all have one thing in common. They each shoulder demons that will likely hound them for the duration of season two.

One character abandoned a close friend to save himself from walkers, another is a convicted murderer. These people each have their secrets and their own crosses to bear, but you will empathise with them whenever they have a difficult choice to make.

Some of these people have done deplorable things, yet you empathise with them whenever a difficult conundrum presents itself. That speaks volumes about TellTale’s ability to stab you in the heart and pull you into its world, and in the end, as this is a world that has seen judicial and sociological rules collapse, who’s to say what’s right and wrong when survival takes precedent?

Most of 400 Days’ choices are morally grey and trick you into thinking you’ve done the right thing, others result in acts that you wish you could undo but can’t, while crossroads can make for truly uneasy decisions that bring feelings of trust, betrayal, love and mercy to the forefront.

So while 400 Days is short, it shows that – if anything – TellTale’s ability at getting players emotionally invested in its plot has improved since season one concluded. It bodes well for what lies next, and it’ll be interesting to see how each of the game’s five new stars progress as people based on our choices made under immense pressure.

The Walking Dead: Season Two launches later this year.

Disclosure: To write this piece, Dave bought his own copy of The Walking Dead: 400 Days. No promo code or advertising were offered or accepted.

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17 Comments

  1. For Blood

    Would you like a cookie for that disclosure?

    #1 1 year ago
  2. Dave Cook

    @1 Erm, no :/

    I disclose whether or not I get code sent to me for free or whenever I have to buy it for every article that involves code.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. For Blood

    @2……who else would I be talking to

    You are the only person I have ever seen do that on any game site or game magazine. I don’t think the reader cares if you bought it or not. The article was very very good, but the disclosure at the end is off putting.

    #3 1 year ago
  4. Phoenixblight

    I felt this DLC was not worth the 5 dollars especially when compared to the episodes of last season when they were priced that same amount. It was one of those sample meals that give you 5 different small hamburgers where a few of them ruin the entire meal and make you question why you bothered to pay for it. I am hoping this DLC doesn’t reflect season 2 because I felt it was quite average and unnecessary.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. Lengendaryboss

    @3
    Would you like a time out on the chair with no milk and cookies :) No one cares why Dave puts a disclosure at the end so why bring it up?

    Edit: But they do like it apparently.

    #5 1 year ago
  6. YoungZer0

    @3: I like the disclosure.

    Is the DLC standalone? Because I bought the game at retail.

    #6 1 year ago
  7. Christopher Jack

    @3, This is a matter of work ethics that came to light from an article that was aimed at Dave, among other journalists, about the conflict of interest from free gifts by the publishers. I quite like the honest approach brought on by this from VG247.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. For Blood

    Normally game companies provide review copies of games. So take for instance if games went all digital and game companies did not provide copies, reviewers would spend alot of their own money.

    #8 1 year ago
  9. Ireland Michael

    Personally I enjoyed the DLC.

    Most games tend to go down the either “totally good” or “totally evil” path. Very, very few writers in this industry have the talent (or balls) to put the player in situations that are genuinely ambiguous in their morality. The Walking Dead is one of the few that does, and it does it far better than the TV show too.

    True, the individual segments are short, but I enjoyed wracking my head around the situations these often unfortunate people got themselves into, and witnessing the outcomes. I’m especially interested in seeing how much of this travels over to Season 2, because I’m quite fond of some of these new characters.

    @3 When I was writing, I was doing disclosure for years.

    I felt its fair to give the reader an honest picture of your sources, or it leads to criticisms of bias or shilling. This has been a issue with the UK media lately, so they’re doing it at a sign of respect and honesty to *you*.

    #9 1 year ago
  10. MidlifeAxe

    @Dave How long is the DLC? I suspect that only being £4, it can’t be that long?

    P.S I appreciate that you put the disclosures at the end of these reviews.

    #10 1 year ago
  11. For Blood

    The disclosure thing must be one of those weird across the pond things then.

    #11 1 year ago
  12. MidlifeAxe

    @11 I recommend you read the following article so you know what’s going on in regards to why disclosures on this site are used:

    http://www.vg247.com/2012/10/31/doritosgate-after-the-storm-lets-clean-ourselves-up/

    #12 1 year ago
  13. Dave Cook

    @11 I’m based in Scotland.

    @10 It’s roughly an hour, although I did it in just under that.

    #13 1 year ago
  14. For Blood

    I was right, it started with an across the pond issue.

    #14 1 year ago
  15. someguy2

    @14 http://www.polygon.com/game/sid-meier-s-civilization-5-brave-new-world/11149 Polygon do the same for all of their reviews. http://www.polygon.com/pages/ethics-statement

    #15 1 year ago
  16. For Blood

    @15

    I’ve never heard of Polygon before, I’ll have to check them out.

    #16 1 year ago
  17. bradk825

    @1 the disclosure is a good idea, whether or not a lot of other guys do it is irrelevent.

    I just played it through last night, and clearly I have to play it a few more times. I have to know if you have the option to *spoiler* instead of *spoiler*, and if *spoiler* you *spoiler* if you *spoiler*.

    I also want to know if there’s a way I can do the playthrough so that all of the characters will *spoiler* to *spoiler* when *spoiler* comes at the end.

    I hope everyone found my post courteous if not specific or helpful.

    #17 1 year ago

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