by Matthew Byrd0
The Walking Dead: Episodes 4-5, 400 Days Review
A Rough Start is Quickly Redeemed in These Final Episodes
The release of Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead: Season One for Android has been the cause of much celebration here at Hardcore Droid. Getting the excuse to revisit what is one of the best series in recent memory has been more than a trip down memory lane, but a rare chance to discover that some games are even better than you remember.
But all good things do come to an end, and that is where we find ourselves now. There are only three episodes left to cover in The Walking Dead: Season One, and while it’s painful to the wait we have in store for us until Season Two makes its way to this platform, the good news is that these remaining episodes are so compelling, they may just be worthy of enough conversation and debate to fill the time.
So without further ado, we present our reviews of the final three episodes of The Walking Dead: Season One.
Episode 4 – Around Every Corner
After the tumultuous events of The Walking Dead: Episode 3, our band of survivors barely resembles the group that set out from that pharmacy so long ago in search of hope. Whatever ideas may have united them are all but lost, as the only immediate purpose that any of them can seem to agree on is the vague hope of finding a boat and getting as far away from where they are as possible.
Around Every Corner suffers from a similar lack of direction. It has the somewhat dubious distinction of being the longest, arguably most action packed, and yet least entertaining of all the Season One episodes.
In a way, that’s a fault that has more to do with the success of the previous installment than it necessarily does the quality of this one. After the monumental events that just transpired, the series painted itself into a corner and attempted to hit the reset button by adding a host of additional characters, a new environment and never before seen threats.
The problem is, considering how great of a job the previous episodes did at getting us emotionally invested in this group and their plight, trying to essentially do the same thing again in a single installment, rather than three, is a near impossible task. That the developers still attempted to do so leaves us with an unfocused episode that tries to do many things, but ultimately doesn’t give enough time to any singular development to make the overall story presented here truly compelling.
That being said, it’s worth noting that the larger purpose of Around Every Corner seems to be to bridge the previous episode to the next, and it does that fairly well. The concluding moments of Around Every Corner are simply fantastic, and do a truly excellent job of setting the table for the finale.
But even a set-up episode that does its job is ultimately still a set-up episode, and Around Every Corner does little to counter the amount of filler content that comes with that responsibility. The result is about three hours of content that’s satisfying enough in the grand scheme of things, but fails to really live up to the established quality of the overall series when taken on its own merits.
Around Every Corner Score– 3.5
Episode 5 – No Time Left
There is no more appropriate episode title in all of The Walking Dead: Season One than No Time Left. Due to the conclusion of the previous installment, and this episode’s status as the conclusion of Season One, time is not only dwindling for Lee and his remaining friends, but it may be woefully insufficient in order to do what must be done.
This hurried pace lends No Time Left exactly the much needed sense of direction that was absent from Around Every Corner and makes it a far superior installment as a result. It starts off on a roll, and only builds upon that momentum, as it takes us on an action filled ride that never sets aside time to let the player catch their breath.
Yet as action packed as No Time Left is, it’s also a serious contender for the most emotionally gut-wrenching game…well, ever. This is due entirely to a conclusion that may be fairly predictable given previous events, but thanks to the combined efforts of the actors and writers involved, along with your personal experiences in the journey up until this point, hits home in a big way. As the not-so-old saying goes; “There’s no crying in video games…unless it’s at the end of No Time Left, because that shit is seriously tragic.”
As good as a job as the game does at building towards that conclusion, I have to say that in re-playing this episode, I was a little disappointed to realize just how little my choices up until this point ultimately affected the outcome. There’s one moment in particular where your past decisions come back to haunt you, but regardless of what transpired until this point, you’re still going to encounter the same ending scenario, and the same options for it. For a game that precedes every episode with the message that your choices will alter the experience, it’s slightly disappointing to realize that the conclusion to that experience is going to be fairly universal.
And yet, it’s hard to get angry at that realization when you consider that the trade-off is an ending that may just be the best gaming has ever known. While a little more personal variety would have been welcome, it’s hard to think of your journey up until this point as meaningless when your reward for it is a pay-off that you will never forget.
No Time Left Score – 4.5
The Walking Dead: 400 Days
Any discussion of The Walking Dead: 400 Days, has to start with the disclaimer that this is a very, very short game. Easily completed in under an hour, this expansion takes a notable departure from the slow burning build-up approach that the first season of The Walking Dead expertly executed, and instead presents a sampler platter of the same storytelling style.
It’s certainly more of a dessert than an entrée, then, but as any diner will tell you, sometimes the dessert can be better than the actual meal. That’s somewhat the case here, as 400 Days manages to turn its short length into an attribute. Without the shackles of continuing a story there to hold them back, developer Telltale used this add-on as an opportunity to really test what kind of explosive storytelling this format is capable of when exhibited in short bursts.
The experiment is intriguing, and the results are even better. Comprised of five unique stories of five survivors during the first 400 days of the zombie apocalypse, 400 Days uses its “one-off” set up to tell several stories united only by the developer’s desire to make them different. One story may feel like a stalker horror movie, while the next is closer to a zombie stealth mission and the following is much more in line with the overarching story of choice and consequences found previously in this series, yet they are all intriguing enough to be worthy of the high standards of storytelling experience The Walking Dead is notorious for.
Well…mostly. Out of the five stories available, there is one definitive weak link of the bunch. It tries to execute a big twist ending, but doesn’t really have enough time to make the twist land as it should. A similar problem exists with the game’s formatting. Because you’re able to play each of the five stories in any order you want, the flow of the overall experience is going to vary from person to person. That wouldn’t be a huge deal, but given some of the loose connections between the stories, there does seem to be a preferable order to play these stories in terms of getting the full impact.
That Mega Man style storytelling doesn’t really work as well as it should, but it’s one of the few experiments within this game that’s hard to not at least admire. In an age of uninspired DLC, 400 Days absolutely nails the benefits of the concept by providing a unique experience that couldn’t have been done within the constraints of the main series. This is as good as add-on gets, and needs to be played by any Walking Dead fan.
400 Days Score – 4.3
Is It Hardcore?
Summary: This review score reflects the overall score for the entire first season of The Walking Dead.
Title: The Walking Dead: Season One
Developer: Telltale Games
Buy it: Here
You Review It: Here