Video Game DLC Review: The Walking Dead: 400 Days [Xbox 360]

The Walking Dead: 400 Days

The Walking Dead: 400 Days
System: Xbox 360 [also on PS3, PC, i0S and Vita (soon)]
Genre: Point-and-click adventure
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: July-August, 2013

Meant to bridge the gap between seasons one and two of Telltale’s The Walking Dead (my pick for 2012 game of the year), 400 Days is a much-welcomed expansion that plays out like a short story anthology. Rather than focus on a couple of characters like Lee and Clementine from season one, here we are introduced to five completely different people who are all brought together in the end.

The game gives you the option of playing through their stories (all of which take place at varying points of the zombie outbreak) as you see fit, and each segment lasts about 15-20 minutes. This gives just enough time to start caring for these characters while also craving more time with them.

Each story offers up a unique situation. One involves a prison bus being attacked by zombies en route; another revolves around a car accident. The characters are a diverse group, and all of them are well-written even though their appearances are brief.

The Walking Dead: 400 Days [Xbox 360, 2013]

There is a lot crammed into these little segments, and as expected, there are a number of difficult choices to make. Once again, your stats will appear at the end of the episode, allowing you to compare your decisions with the rest of the gaming public. In fact, in terms of gameplay, there are little differences between the mechanics of this and the first season. Telltale added a couple of missable achievements, but other than that, the gameplay is pretty much the same. That’s not a bad thing.

If there are faults to 400 Days, they are stemmed in it being almost *too* short. The episode can be finished in under two hours, even when exploring every dialogue option. The epilogue feels a bit rushed as well, though it will be interesting to see how/if it ties into season two. Still, I’m happy to get any bits of The Walking Dead experience that I can, and 400 Days is a satisfying appetizer until season two arrives in the fall.

8/10

Video Game DLC Review: Fallout: New Vegas: Dead Money [Xbox 360]

Fallout: New Vegas: Dead Money [Xbox 360]

Fallout: New Vegas: Dead Money
System: Xbox 360 (also on PS3 and PC)
Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Release Date: December 21, 2010

Every now and then I get the urge to go back to the Fallout universe. Something about that post-apocalyptic wasteland drives me in and doesn’t let go for hours at a time. Although I have exhausted Fallout 3, I still have an unfinished campaign of Fallout: New Vegas sitting on my hard drive, with many of the DLC expansions remaining untouched.

Dead Money was the first piece of downloadable content released for New Vegas, and it offers an intriguing premise. A mysterious signal from an abandoned Brotherhood of Steel bunker beckons the Courier, and visiting this location leads to him being knocked out and transported to the Sierra Madre Casino. The Courier awakens to find an explosive collar wrapped around his neck, and he is commanded by the Brotherhood elder, Father Elijah, to work together with three other captives to pull off a massive heist at the casino. Since the collar will go off if he attempts to leave, the Courier has no choice but to accept, and he does so without any of his weapons, armor or loot. Yeah, no one ever said this was going to be easy.

Fallout: New Vegas: Dead Money

In fact, this expansion is downright brutal at times in terms of difficulty. Not being able to start with your normal loot is a huge disadvantage, and finding worthwhile weapons is a monumental task in itself. Health packs are also scarce, so it can be important to dodge enemies instead of fighting them head on.

Dead Money‘s environment also has other factors that raise its challenge. There is a toxic red fog that covers much of the area, and the Courier loses health rapidly if caught in it. The explosive collar is also a nuisance since its signal causes interference with the various radios and speakers scattered around the environment. If he gets too close to one of them, the collar will explode, killing him and the other three captives. Throw in a handful of new enemies — including the incredibly annoying ghost people — and this can become quite the frustrating save-and-reload experience.

Fallout: New Vegas: Dead Money

What makes Dead Money worth playing is its story. There’s quite a bit of substance in terms of plot, and the characters are especially entertaining. The three captives are an amusing bunch. There’s a super mutant with a split personality — “Dog” and “God” frequently bicker with themselves –, a radioactive ghoul named Dean Domino that used to be lounge singer at the casino, and a mute scribe named Christine that lost her voice in one of the most horrific ways possible. It’s a lot of fun getting to know these characters, and each one has their own quest in which the Courier spends a great deal of time with them.

The expanion lasts anywhere from 6-8 hours, so there is a good amount of juice. It’s just a shame that the great storyline and entertaining characters are diminished by the punishing, repetitive gameplay.

5/10

Video Game DLC Review: Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare [Xbox 360, 2010]

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare [Xbox 360, 2010]

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
System: Xbox 360 (also on PS3)
Genre: Third-person shooter
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar San Diego
Release Date: November 22, 2010

Whoever came up with the idea for Undead Nightmare deserves a pat on the back. Inserting zombies into the wild western world of Red Dead Redemption? That is a stroke of genius, my friends.

What makes Undead Nightmare so great is that it isn’t just a killer concept — this is premium downloadable content. For a mere $9.99, you get access to a lengthy single player campaign (approx. 10 hours to get 100% completion) as well as two new multiplayer modes. That’s more than some full-priced retail games offer! Expansion packs don’t get much better than this.

Reformed outlaw John Marston is once again the main protagonist, and this time he is out to find a cure for the terrifying new plague that is sweeping the land, all so he can get his wife and child back to normal. The entire Wild West is being overrun with zombies, with the undead rising from their graves all over the area.

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare [Xbox 360, 2010]

The plague hasn’t just infected humans. It has spread to animals, too, even in John’s preferred method of transportation: horses. I was horrified (yet also amused) when I whistled for a horse, only to have one arrive with half of its face missing. It must also be stated that you don’t know fear until you are attacked out of nowhere by a zombie bear.

Rockstar didn’t just include zombie animals, they also opted to entertain by introducing mythical creatures to the game. Now you can randomly come across chupacabras, sasquatches and unicorns. It’s pretty clear that the developers had a damn good time making this DLC.

As stated earlier, the single player campaign can last a good ten hours or so to finish completely. Aside from the main storyline that brings back some old favorite characters, there are also side quests and random encounters with loners out in the wilderness. Perhaps most fun are the objectives where you can clear out a whole town’s mess of zombies and let them live in peace, albeit most likely for just a few days. This brings a sense of heroism to John’s meandering adventure.

Fans of Red Dead Redemption’s multiplayer will be pleased with Undead Nightmare’s two new modes: Land Grab and Undead Overrun. The former is a free roam feature in which you attempt to hold onto a piece of territory for a certain amount of time, all while fighting off any attackers. The latter mode is my personal favorite, as it is basically a Horde mode against increasingly difficult waves of zombies. Even with a good group of players, this mode can get pretty damn crazy. There were times when I was the last survivor and had to run for my life against a seemingly endless onslaught of zombies. It beats the hell out of Call of Duty’s Nazi Zombies feature, that’s for sure.

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare [Xbox 360, 2010]

While Undead Nightmare offers an impressive amount of content, it isn’t quite perfect. I ran into some weird glitches, including one particular annoying bug in which I had cleared out the zombies in a town except for one that remained somehow stuck in the walls of a building. I couldn’t get to the bastard, so I had to restart at the last checkpoint and save the town again. Not a huge deal, but an inconvenience nonetheless.

Glitches be damned, this is still a fantastic expansion for those looking to continue the wonderful Red Dead Redemption experience. It is a shame that more developers do not create such engrossing DLC as Undead Nightmare, as this really is one of the best that I have come across. Every now and then this expansion goes on sale for $5, but even at its $9.99 price it is more than worth purchasing.

9/10

Video Game DLC Review: Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta [Xbox 360]

Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta [Xbox 360]

Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta
System: Xbox 360 (also on PS3 and PC)
Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Release Date: August 3, 2009

Mothership Zeta, the fifth and final installment of Fallout 3’s downloadable content, is a bit of a disappointment. The premise is undeniably cool and offers a welcome diversion from the standard nuclear wasteland: you begin to receive an unintelligble radio transmission, and after wandering to its source you discover a crashed UFO site. Upon investigating the wreckage, the spacecraft beams you up into Mothership Zeta, a massive aircraft in which aliens are holding other humans hostage. You wake up in a cell with another abductee, and the two of you team up with a few others to take down the unworldly bastards that are conducting god-knows-what experiments.

The entire campaign takes place on the UFO, which is both a blessing and a curse. This is refreshing because it offers a different environment that is unique from the normal game. Unfortunately, it also completely wipes out one of Fallout 3’s greatest traits: the ability to roam freely. Mothership Zeta is a predominantly linear adventure that only offers corridor after corridor, with intermittent firefights behind certain doors. For those looking to explore a massive alien spaceship with lots of quirky nooks and crannies, you will be disappointed. Outside of a few amusing Easter eggs, there is little in the way of excitement.

Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta [Xbox 360]

A greater variety of enemies would have helped break up the monotony, but there are exactly three nuisances to come across: aliens, sentry bots, and turrets. By the time most gamers will have acquired this DLC, they will likely have powerful enough weapons to easily obliterate any adversary aboard the ship. The bonus weapons that can be found in Mothership Zeta are hardly anything to go crazy over either, as they are mainly variations of guns that can already be found in the wasteland.

Although the general combat and exploration is lackluster in comparison to the main game, Mothership Zeta isn’t a total drag. The human characters you meet are mostly entertaining, and there is a certain Japanese Samurai that is especially amusing. There’s still that same Fallout charm that will keep avid fans interested throughout the 3-4 hour runtime, and the DLC caps off with a satisfying (and explosive) conclusion. It’s just hard not to feel like more could have been done with the killer concept.

6/10