‘The Walking Dead: 400 Days’ fills the time between seasons with some fresh faces

walking-dead-400-days

Telltale Games left a lot of fans wondering what would happen next with the end of The Walking Dead: Season One in 2012. Answers are coming later this year, but fans can now look forward to a bridge story presented as downloadable content in The Walking Dead: 400 Days. In addition, the first season of The Walking Dead is coming to the PlayStation Vita in a bundle that also includes the new DLC. This multi-hour adventure charts the first 400 days of the undead outbreak as seen through the eyes of five completely new characters. Let’s take a look.

Story/Concept

Building a bridge. 400 Days starts at ground zero of the zombie outbreak, as seen through the eyes – at least for the purposes of Telltale’s E3 2013 demo – of a prison-bound convict named Vince. The overarching story in the $5 DLC (or equivalent, depending on your platform) follows the five characters that the developer’s been introducing in a recent series of Vine tweets.

These people don’t seem to have any personal connection to one another; so much so that we can’t even confirm if they all come together at some point. The common bond between them all is a truck stop somewhere in Georgia, the one you can see transforming in time-lapse in the freshly released trailer.

Choice and consequence. Much like Season One, the choices you make throughout 400 Days carry through into the eventual Season Two release, in unspecified ways. What’s more, your choices in Season One help to shape the DLC’s story as well. You only need to own a copy of the first episode in the series to grab the DLC, though Telltale recommends playing through all five currently available episodes before jumping into the new stuff.

The stories for each of the five characters in 400 Days can also be tackled in any order, though a main selection screen makes it clear how the chronology fits together, for those who prefer to follow the sequence of events as they happened. In truth, this new material is a continuation of the concepts presented in Season One.

SPOILER ALERT. Read no further if you want to remain completely unspoiled. Vince’s story opens before the outbreak, with the trembling newcomer pointing a pistol at a man pleading for his life offscreen. Vince looks conflicted about the situation he’s suddenly found himself in, though he pulls the trigger in a scripted cutscene. A brief play sequence follows in which he runs off and ditches the gun on a nearby rooftop, apparently escaping.

We cut quickly to the next day and learn the truth: a prison jumpsuit-wearing Vince is now seated in a prison bus, chained up to two of his fellow convicts, one behind and one in front. We quickly learn that Justin and Danny are a violent offender and a white-collar pyramid schemester, respectively.

Without spoiling too many of the specifics, it is around this time that the zombie outbreak makes its way to the vicinity of the bus, which is stopped in traffic. Zombies pour into the vehicle and up against the gate, preventing the prisoners from escaping, at which point Vince is presented with a choice. He’s got a shotgun obtained from one of the now-dead bus guards, and the only way to escape involves shooting the leg cuff – and the ankle – of either Justin or Danny in order to free all three. The demo ends once the choice is made.

Gameplay

All’s well. Nothing new here. Telltale’s goal with 400 Days is to tell a new set of stories that brings in little ideas – both from a story and a gameplay perspective – that didn’t make it into Season One. Our brief look at Vince’s story showed nothing particularly new. The unique approach to adventure gaming that Telltale introduced in Back to the Future and Jurassic Park, then fine-tuned in The Walking Dead: Season One, carries forward easily into 400 Days.

Presentation

A new kind of motion comic. Once again, status quo reigns. The various characters feel a bit more visually well-defined, perhaps, but that could also just be a product of not playing Season One recently. In any event, fans of the visual style that Telltale capably carried across from the comic into the game through the first five episodes will have nothing to dislike here. This looks and feels like The Walking Dead in every frame, simple as that.

Takeaway

There’s a simple formula at work here: if you played and loved the first season of The Walking Dead, then 400 Days is an indispensable companion story that is intended to fill out the larger world as you wait for Season Two to arrive. It’s not clear how the events and the fresh cast of characters in the DLC bridge the events of Season One with those of Season Two, but all will assuredly be made clear in time.

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