As we approach the PlayStation 4’s final period of its lifecycle, we reflect how amazing its exclusives have been. With the likes of the Yakuza games, God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and, hell, even the remasters of Nathan Drake’s older adventures, all have been astounding successes. So much so it has become the winner of this generation of consoles by far. Well, it’s not over quite yet as Sony’s behemoth gets another exclusive. Days Gone is an all-rounder, it doesn’t push boundaries or invent revolutionary new mechanics, but it’s a solid game in its own right. A jack of all trades but master of none that’s come a little bit too late as many games it has clearly borrowed from or been inspired by have already been and gone.
Days Gone puts you in control of Deacon St. John, a member of a biker gang that finds himself being an errand boy for multiple camps after a viral epidemic takes out the majority of the population, turning them into crazed zombie-like creatures known as Freakers. The game opens up with Deacon, his wife, Sarah, and his buddy, Boozer, attempting to evade the hordes that terrorise the streets. Sarah is suddenly stabbed, and they frantically try to get her to safety, eventually making it aboard a National Emergency Restoration Organisation (NERO) chopper; however, only two of them are allowed to go. Deacon soon chooses to stay with Boozer as he wouldn’t survive on his own. It’s a good opening premise that displays the high-quality acting and visuals that holds up through the 60-or-so hour campaign. Deacon is marvelously played by actor Sam Witwer, who does an excellent job at making Deacon a relatable guy in times of crisis. Same can be said for his co-cast as flashback scenes that occur throughout the game that show how he met Sarah and how the epidemic came to b, show some brilliant acting and voice work.
Earlier I said that Days Gone is a jack of all trades but master of none; well, it is essentially an open-world, third-person survival game with elements of exploration, stealth, action and driving. The mechanics and engine that put it all together bring nothing new and unseen to the table, but the game is a decent and fun endeavour well worth your time. Deacon has the option of close-up combat using melee weapons ranging from table legs and planks to lawnmower blades and machetes. Unfortunately, Deacon isn’t adept in the art of combat, so he starts off with a 1-2 combo that can be extended with upgrades. Melee weapons diminish with use but can be repaired with scrap found in the game world, but if your weapon breaks, Deacon’s trusty knife can be used, which doesn’t break, but it requires a lot of swipes for it to take enemies down. You can choose the stealth route, however, which allows the use of one-hit-kill takedowns that are seriously satisfying. The stealth mechanics in Days Gone feel unfinished and rough. Deacon can hide in shrubbery or behind walls and use his binoculars to tag enemies, which enables an indicator that shows their suspicion level if Deacon is seen, and an eye and speaker symbol on the bottom of the screen shows how visible you are visually and audibly. It feels rough as enemies sometimes see you when you’re hidden, and the audible meter doesn’t have a dagger area to avoid, so you don’t really know if the enemies can hear you. Also, snipers seem to have a sixth sense and know exactly where you are when you come out of hiding.
The gunplay is solid. Deacon can use a wide array of weaponry, such as pistols, assault rifles, repeaters, sniper rifles and a crossbow you are kitted with at the start, all of which are rated depending on their quality. Ammunition is scarce though, and rightly so; this is a survival game after all as you are constantly on the lookout for not only ammunition but also crafting materials, such as bottles, rags and kerosene to create Molotov cocktails, sap from trees to make crossbow bolts and more, although you have to unlock the recipes through story progression first. The only problem is the human enemy A.I., which tends to be varied. Some guys hide while others will rush towards you with suicidal intent, or they will just stand and shoot at you, leaving themselves wide open to your return fire. Freakers are unpredictable but stupid. Alone they are easy to sneak up on, but in groups they can easily take you down. And then there are the hordes; oh my, the hordes. We’ve all seen the footage of the train car opening and a massive number of them pouring out of it. Well, although it has been pulled back in terms of the sheer number of enemies that appear at one time, they still mount up to a scary number of Freakers that rush at you. It’s frightening to be pursued by them but awesome to watch, and if there was anything that breaks Days Gone away from other open-world games, it’s the hordes.
To get around, Deacon uses his trusty motorcycle. Riding it feels good, and it handles great as it carries a convincing amount of weight to it, and to keep it ship-shape, it’s down to you to look after it by filling it up with gas and keeping it in good condition. Mechanics at camps can provide upgrades, but only if your respect level is good enough, which brings me to the mission structure. Missions range from taking out infestations by burning Freaker nests, taking out enemy ambush camps, chasing down goons in exciting motorcycle chases and finding NERO caches. It’s a nice variety, and the multitude of things to see and find in the game’s massive open world keeps things interesting and will keep you playing.
I had, and I’m still having, a great time playing Days Gone. Sure, it doesn’t do anything we haven’t already seen before, but there is a lot here that is worth your time. The excellent cutscenes showing great acting, solid gunplay and an interesting world filled with intriguing locations begging to be explored outweigh the iffy stealth mechanics and questionable A.I.
Developer: Bend Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: 26th April 2019