Days Gone has been an anticipated PlayStation-exclusive game for a couple of reasons. Firstly and most importantly, the developers of the game showed off a Hoard of 500 zombies called Freakers chasing the protagonist in real time in the game. Secondly, the game is an open world one with lots of things to do. And thirdly, Sony has been on a roll with its first party narrative games. Does Days Gone deliver, or does it leave us reminiscing about days gone? We find out.
The story of the game kicks off after a virus has turned most of the living population into zombies called Freakers. You don the role of Deacon St. John, an army veteran turned biker who is perfectly equipped to survive the Freaker infestation and save the day. The game is set in Origin, USA, home to Bend Studios, the developer of the game. The story is personal, simple with a larger ripple effect based on your actions, something we saw in God of War. Deacon and his wife were separated during the virus outbreak and she is presumed dead. While Deacon does his best to search for her, he is reminded that the world is now savage and he must do all he can to survive. After his brother in arms - Boozer - is attacked, it is up to him to find medicines, restore his beloved bike, figure out what the government is doing in his backyard and engage in favours for various survivors. I’ve kept the description of the story a little loose because when you play the game, understanding and participating in the motivations of each character is quite engaging at first. But it soon loses steam as the story takes a lot of predictable routes.
There are some aspects of the story that will definitely draw you in such as how law and order is maintained differently in different camps or how Deacon needs to push to get his way and do regrettable things just to survive. The game does try to pull you into some emotional moments and tries hard to bring a tear in your eye, but it lacks the finesse found in games like God of War and Spider-Man. At one point the story feels dragged out and you feel like rushing through some sequences because they feel forced and meaningless. One example is listening to a leader of a camp stand on stage and give a speech.
Overall, the story of the game has a strong foundation, personal motivation and some special moments, but the execution lacks the fine details required to keep you hooked.
If there is one place the game shines, it is with the gameplay. To get the worst out of the way, missions get repetitive very quickly but while the charm lasts, it will keep you on the edge of your seat. Let's break down the gameplay.
The biggest distinguishing factor in the game is the motorcycle you ride. It is fluid, controls extremely well, and is the best motorcycle riding experience I’ve had in the virtual world. You get a taste of the most powerful bike in the beginning of the game before it is stripped down and you have to work at upgrading it.
The game is a standard third person shooter with stealth mechanics thrown into the mix. The stealth mechanics can be quite forgiving and that's okay. It is the manner in which you tackle your enemies which is challenging. There are a number of enemies you can take on in the game. The first are of course the infected called Freakers. When freakers roam in packs of a few hundred, they are called a hoard. Among the freakers, there are “Screamers” who, as the name suggests, scream and attract the hoard to your location. There are some more freaker types I won't spoil for you here. Then there are the bandits that roam the streets, try to steal from you and most annoyingly knock you off your bike with well placed traps or a straight shot while you ride from point A to point B.
Last but not the least are the Rippers. These are a bunch of crazy humans who inflict self harm and mimic the life of the Freakers. It's safe to say that they worship the Freakers. Throw in the occasional wolf pack and bears that attack you and you have a pretty diverse set of foes. There are Nero soldiers, who roam the lands, but their presence is for stealth story missions only, so we won't count them as the main foes you encounter. Nero is a government organization studying the Frreakers and figuring out what happened and why.
Your primary responsibility to progress through the story is to take on missions from the camps you come across. This could be a simple bounty hunting missions, tracking and rescue missions, bike chases, infiltration, and more. The variety of missions feel varied at the beginning. After a few hours though it feels like you are doing the same type of mission over and over again and the inclusion of some side quests feels tacked on to increase the playtime of the game. Towards the second half of the game, it feels like a rinse-repeat process just to get to the next bit of story.
One annoyance with the game is you can't assign one of the shoulder buttons to a throwable item like a grenade or a molotov cocktail. You have to resort to the weapon wheel which by the way isn’t the easiest to use. It takes some getting used to. You can quickly switch weapons using the triangle button on the controller, but it would have been nice to assign some throwable item to a shoulder button making it easy during one of the horde chases.
Speaking of hoard chases, these are some of the most exhilarating experiences in the game. Once a hoard of a hundred or so Freakers start chasing you, it is literally a run for survival. Some missions need you to tackle a hoard, which require considerable strategising and resource management.
There is also an upgrade tree for your skills. The skill tree is quite robust and you can unlock skills based on your playstyle. Skills include the ability to see enemies behind walls using your focus, the ability to use less resources to repair your motorcycle, gain more resources with certain activities, upgrade carrying capacity for ammo and more. There is also a separate upgrade process for your health, stamina and focus. You need to find Nero outposts throughout the game, unlock them and upgrade these abilities. Your bike is also upgradeable and you need to increase your trust and credit with camps to achieve this.
Overall, the gameplay of Days Gone is a lot of fun but the fun has a shelf life since the missions start to get repetitive quite easily. If the package were tighter, it would have left us wanting more, something we felt when we finished Horizon Zero Dawn. The near 50-hour gameplay would have been a satisfying experience if a lot of side missions were removed and if the story had tighter papce. Again, something like we saw in Horizon Zero Dawn.
The large world of Days Gone is a technical marvel for sure but the game isn't without its glitches. There are times when I was riding the bike in the open world and the bike audio was missing. There are also times when the camp drew in completely. These can of course be fixed by an update and as of writing this review, 2 updates for the game have already been pushed out.
Speaking of the world, it is lush, well detailed and the real time weather looks great. Apart from a day night cycle, we have dynamic weather exposing us to sunny days, rainy storms and snow capped hills. The protagonist himself is detailed with fine textures on his cap and clothing. The world in the game has a feeling of being abandoned, the camps are lively with NPC chatter and the roads have a sense of dread. Environmentally the game is stunning. The only downside is that there are sections which see some frame droops, presumably because the game is loading the coming segment.
When the Hoard of hundreds of Freakers are chasing you, the game didn't stutter one bit and this sequence is not only a technical marvel but visually stunning as you shoot and destroy the hoard that's chasing you. This is one of the best visual and gameplay experiences in the game.
Sound glitches apart, the game has bassy audio and that isn't a bad thing. From the growl of the motorcycles exhaust to the somber tune which plays while you cruise the environment and even the bangs of the different guns, it is all mastered to perfection. Even the screeches of the hoard and the freakers can send chills down your spine. There are some NPC’s who sound like they were plucked out of a B grade movie and even the protagonist can get annoying at times, but overall the sound design of the game is one place where careful attention has been paid.
Days Gone is a fun experience, but the fun doesn't last till the end. About 70 percent through the game I was impatiently awaiting the end and that is only because of the repetitive nature of the missions. A slightly tighter package with better pacing and some stronger writing for the characters would have made this game a masterpiece. Riding the bike and tackling the Freakers mixed with the bandits is a satisfying experience especially when you get creative by leading the hoard into a bandit camp. It is a worthy PlayStation exclusive, but misses the benchmark set by God of War and Spider-Man.
Developer: SIE Bend Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
We played a review copy of Days Gone on the PS4 Pro
|Release Date:||17 Dec 2018|
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