REVIEW: Days Gone
Sony’s latest AAA blockbuster exclusive is almost upon us and we’ve been taking it for a spin for the last few weeks. Days Gone is an open-world action game set in the high-desert of the Pacific Northwest two years after a mysterious global pandemic has decimated the world, killing most but also transforming millions into mindless, feral creatures. With Sony and its developer Sony Bend pushing Days Gone like it’s the last game to ever launch on the console, does it live up to the hype and were the numerous delays worth it? Read on to find out in our review of Days Gone.
In Days Gone, You play as a Drifter and Bounty Hunter called Deacon St. John. As this oddly named protagonist, you roam the wilderness of this strange new world, carrying out questionable odd-jobs for various camp leaders using the skills you learned during your time as a member of the Mongrels MC, an outlawed motorcycle club. Two years have passed since the pandemic ravaged society and you find yourself fighting Marauders, Rippers and Anarchists along with taking on hordes of ‘Freakers’ and all sorts of other messed up creatures just to survive.
Understandably, all of this sounds like a pretty sh*t situation but, during our play-through, we began to realise that it wasn’t the collapse of society and its outcomes that cause ‘Deke’s’ anger and depression, it was that, in the early stages of the pandemic outbreak, he lost his wife Sarah. With clever use of flashbacks, Sony Bend help to develop Sarah out as a more interesting and complex character and we get a better understanding as to why Deacon misses her so much.
They’ve also done a fantastic job of fleshing out the world of Days Gone in a similar manner with the main characters in the game remaining true to the beliefs and morals they had before everything went down. It’s this grounded approach to character development for both the lead and support cast that gives Days Gone a greater sense of credibility.
How everyone interacts which each other and the post-apocalyptic world around them has a sense of weight and believability and I really felt like I was fighting for my survival in the wild North West of America.
On a deeper level, Days Gone is an exploration of how any of us would react to these harsh conditions, and exploration of loss, love, friendship, revenge and desperation – learning that surviving isn’t living. With a larger over arching narrative that carried through the entirety of our playthrough, Sony Bend has created a mature and complex storyline that had us consistently coming back for more. The side missions help add to this overall narrative and the top class voice acting and motion capture really supported the overall delivery.
As I described above, Days Gone is an open-world action game but one where your main (and only) mode of transport is your trusted motorcycle. To some, this may seem like a strange choice to make it so restricted but as you fly around the derelict landscape and semi-collapsed roads, weaving between abandoned cars and fallen trees, you can see why a motorbike was chosen.
You can also take things off road if it get a little hairy on the main stretches of highways and byways. Unsurprisingly, the other survivors, and some of which are your enemies, have also chosen motorcycles as their main mode of transport too so there’s quite a number of sections where you’re both the chaser and the one being chased whilst on your bike and, with the cleverly designed layout of most of Days Gone’s map, these are pretty enjoyable, if even a little intense.
If you’re not running after fellow bounty hunters or carrying out tasks for the camp leaders, (whose camps are dotted quite sparingly around the landscape) you’re dodging the wild cannibalistic creatures called ‘Freakers’. These are definitely not to be mistaken for zombies (even though they are) and are never referred to as ‘zombies’ throughout the game. There’s also the cult-like group known as the Rippers who actually worship these creatures and will not stop until they make you ‘one of them.’
For each of the camps, you must also build a trust level to allow access to various sections within each of their vendors offerings, be it additional upgrades for your bike, newer, more powerful weapons and so on. This trust level is increased my completing tasks for the camp leader for example but, more interestingly and also a nice addition to the more random events that can take place in the wilderness, upon saving a stranger from a Freaker attack, you get to choose which camp they should make their way to for safety. This particular gameplay feature had me tactically choosing who went where so as to unlock items in a particular camp.
Like Naughty Dog’s immediately comparable title, ‘The Last of Us’, ammunition in Days Gone has to be used sparingly. There are more brutal melee weapons lying around like 2x4s and baseball bats but you really have to add some crafting materials into the mix, like adding nails to the bat, to really make them any way effective in close quarter confrontations with enemies.
If this wasn’t enough, you must also keep an eye on your melee weapons ‘durability’ scale as each one only has a finite amount of times it can be used before you either repair it with ‘metal scraps’ (which are scattered throughout the world) or it is broken for good. If this happens, you will still have your trusty boot knife which is invincible but incredibly ineffective with many, many successful strikes needed to take down even the weakest of enemies.
Going back to your motorbike, this too needs constant love, attention and, if you want to get around the world at anything other than a snail’s pace, expensive upgrades. Early on in the game, your original motorbike is stolen and you must start from scratch to build a new one back up.
With each camp offering different upgrade options, both performance and visual, you slowly build up a new bike that truly feels like your little baby. You will also need to watch your fuel level and overall damage as both decrease over time with more conservative driving techniques, such as coasting down hills, recommended to save fuel. You can find jerrycans scattered throughout the world to refill your bike on the go and you’ll also need metal scraps to repair its engine. With this ‘motorcycle maintenance’ gameplay mechanic included, the bike not only gives you an advantage to roaming the wilderness, it also becomes a liability so it must be managed with care.
You also mustn’t forget that you achieve ‘Skill Points’ as you complete missions which allow you to upgrade your skill level and abilities to take on the world a little stronger, sneakier or all-round smarter. It takes time to build up enough XP to unlock each of these skill points so use them wisely.
On top of all this, Days Gone has implemented some stealth-style gameplay that lets you sneak around the various environments, either in bushes or behind walls, to listen in on conversations or stealth kill your enemies. Now, admittedly, it’s not up to par with the likes of Assassin Creed or Hitman but what is here is well executed and a nice addition to the overall gameplay mechanics on offer.
With Days Gone having been first revealed as far back as E3 2016, we can see the visual evolution the title has taken since then. In its final form, and after multiple delays to allow Sony Bend to add some ‘polish’ to the game, Days Gone is one of the best looking games available on PS4, or any console for that matter.
The weather systems alone are something to be impressed by with everything from rain, snow to thunderstorms likely to happen realistically at any moment. The day/night cycle is also handled really well with some gorgeous early morning sunrises and moody evening sunsets adding a sense of atmosphere to the world. They even went as far as to create a ‘real time snow effect’ meaning, in the game, snowfall happens randomly in real-time, so you can see the objects and road covered in snow over time.
(Video Credit: Life28SK)
Sony Bend’s recreation of what they imagine a post-apocalyptic Oregon would look like is absolutely fantastic. With stunning lighting effects, atmospheric mist and fog simulation and some of the best character models in a PS4 exclusive to date, Days Gone is a visual smorgasbord from the guys at Sony Bend. Deacon St. John’s subtle and nuanced facial animations during cutscenes along with his ‘uncanny valley bridging’ eyes make him one of the most lifelike character models I’ve seen in a videogame.
They’ve also included one of the most comprehensive Photo Modes I’ve ever seen in a game and it’s only in using this particular feature that you see the sheer level of detail, not only put into the main characters but also the more mundane objects, buildings and plant life in the environment.
Having reviewed this title on a PlayStation 4 Pro and a 55″ 4K HDR display, we were simply blown away by the spectacular visuals Sony Bend has managed to achieve.
Having finished the main storyline and the majority of the side missions, I still find myself returning to the world of Days Gone to see what else I can uncover. Yes, there are some issues with the pacing thanks to some unnecessary cutscenes and the Skill Points rewarding system could be a little less ‘grind-inducing’ but, overall, Sony Bend has created a world with real character and personality. Unfortunately, with its endless hordes, Freakers, Rippers and everything else that’s looking to kill you, ‘this world comes for you’!
Days Gone is available April 26th exclusively on PlayStation 4.
This title was reviewed using a review code supplied to TheEffect.Net by Sony PlayStation Ireland.