Despite being delayed a few times, Days Gone is finally here, giving PS4 owners an ambitious, open-world zombie-survival experience that brings a lot of familiarity with it, but while building an identity of its own. However, a handful of reviewers have been somewhat harsh on the game, criticising certain shortcomings – but these aren’t nearly enough deterrents to keep you from enjoying what is otherwise a fantastic title in the genre.
Essentially a ‘Darryl from The Walking Dead‘ simulator, Days Gone is set some time after the majority of humanity was killed by a virus, with many of the survivors being turned into zombies called ‘freakers’. You play Deacon St. John as he goes in search of his wife, equipped with his trusty motorcycle that you can upgrade as the game goes on. The story itself is a strong point of the game, as it showcases a vulnerable and somewhat broken character who blames himself for losing his wife. That said, it’s hard not to feel that the game’s narrative could’ve been heightened with a little more polish, as lip-syncing and transition to-and-from cut-scenes to gameplay is a little clunky. It’s nowhere near the calibre of something like Uncharted, but there’s an endearing tale to embrace if you overlook the rough edges.
Gameplay-wise, Days Gone feels like an amalgamation of a host of different mechanics and systems from games over the past few years. It’s got a weighty Uncharted-like feel to the movements and animations (which was somewhat expected, given that developers Bend Studios worked on Uncharted: The Golden Abyss for the PS Vita); the camp-based layouts and enemy strongholds are like something you’ll see straight out of Far Cry; and the combat feels incredibly similar to that of the lesser-appreciated The Evil Within 2 – where headshots matter and stealthing around to stab some shambling monstrosities in the head is a chunky and satisfying affair. Note though that these comparisons are a flattering observation that Days Gone knows what it wants to do, and does everything well rather than overemphasising one element of the game only to let the others fall by the wayside. Aligned with this design approach, crafting is a relatively simple affair, just requiring a simple swing on the weapon wheel, find the gun you want to craft bullets or bolts for, and hold R1. It helps keeps the momentum of the game and combat flowing, rather than crafting being a timeous and confusing labyrinth of menus and options.
The other core part of Days Gone is the bike gameplay. As you’d expect from a grizzled biker, Deacon has a trusty steed he relies on throughout the course of the 20-30 odd hour experience, and you’ll need to not only upgrade your bike as your only form of transportation, but also keep it in tune as a survival tactic. Fuel drains as you ride, so you’ll need to be on the lookout for red fuel cans and petrol stations littered throughout the map. On the way to missions, players will often have to swing past some dodgy motel or gas station that they spotted to fuel up in order to make the journey. While these routine stops can be a distraction, these unscripted moments are often the best bits of Days Gone. A quick pitstop at an abandoned house or a radio tower to find some fuel could turn into a gunfight with some demented human scavengers, or a battle with some unsuspecting zombies or rabid wolves. This is where having your bike in tip-top shape helps, as you’ll often have to know when to turn your back in a firefight and high-tail it out of there.
While there is a certain formula to Days Gone‘s missions, there’s a sense on unpredictability given the nature of the enemies and game-world. While one mission may task you with taking out an enemy outpost, a number of things may happen – you could stealth-kill your way around the camp; you could end up in a loud gunfight which would attract a horde or zombies; or you could use traps and bombs to catch your enemies unaware. There’s a fun sense of spontaneity in the game, but this flexibility is not without it’s hiccups.
Particularly when it comes to the zombies, players will find them popping onto the map at random places, getting stuck on some objects, and even having very uneven visibility when it comes to them spotting your while using stealth. They’re not game-breaking by any means, but there’s no denying that Days Gone would’ve benefitted hugely from a bit more time in the oven.
Days Gone may not have the spiffy top-tier polish of other big PS4 exclusives, but it’s still a triple-A adventure that delivers an interesting story, addictive and tense gameplay, and a varied and diverse world to play in. It’s another notch in the belt for Sony and a title every PS4 owner should look into.