Review: Days Gone (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Days Gone
Format: PSN (60.19 GB)
Release Date: April 26, 2019
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: SIE Bend Studio
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Days Gone was announced in 2016, but due to its presence at multiple E3s and PlayStation Experiences, it feels like it has been in development forever. The game was instantly compared to shows like Sons of Anarchy, which ended in late 2014, and The Walking Dead, which at the time was at the height of its popularity. So in 2019, Days Gone as an idea that feels late to the party. Plus the subsequent announcement of The Last of Us Part II did it no favors either.

Days Gone has a lot going against it, which I fear will cause some to overlook to it. I say that because, while not perfect, Days Gone is an entertaining take on the zombie open world genre.

The story follows Deacon St. John, your standard tough, but charming protagonist, and his brother Boozer. They plan to ride North for a better life, but in order to do that, they have to do jobs for various camps in the area to fund their excursions.

Deacon is haunted by the loss of his girlfriend Sarah during a zombie outbreak and has shut off the rest of the world (excluding Boozer), and now does jobs for anyone that needs a “Drifter.”

As a Drifter, Deacon does jobs for various camps, some camps being less malicious than others. The world has gone through hell; people are desperate and the leaders of these camps know it. You’ll work for people that either have good intentions or twisted ideals.

It’s an interesting dynamic that plays out with Deacon. He doesn’t care about anyone but himself and Boozer, or so he says. Working with slavers and psychopaths, Deacon tries to abide by this loose code. However, despite being morally ambiguous, Deacon is still a good person deep down, which grows clearer as the story progresses.

The game does fumble some of this character building with oddly designed flashbacks that feature awkwardly played out scenes, either through unnecessary gameplay bits or cutscenes that fade to black between cuts. These cuts make for an experience that feels disjointed or like content was cut. The flashbacks do improve as the story progresses which only adds to the strangeness of the first few flashbacks.

Overall the story is well written, and Deacon becomes a character with depth that is likeable. The story builds at a nice pace that really finds its groove after a few hours.

From a gameplay perspective, Days Gone is more stealth-oriented than action. You can’t go into every scenario guns blazing because you can never have enough ammo or gear.

The zombies are called ‘’Freakers.’’ Freakers are former humans that still have some human-like characteristics. They drink water and hunt anything that is alive (humans and animals.) They even have patterns and routines based on the day/night cycle.

You’re best suited going into most encounters with stealth in mind. You can easily handle a few freakers, but you can be easily overwhelmed by a group or worse a horde.

When dealing with a horde your best bet is to lead them into traps and explosions, or through barriers to slow them down. Basically, you have to Home Alone them, use the environment against them and set traps.

Battling the hordes is Days Gone at its best. The intensity never let up no matter how many hordes I encountered. I loved strategizing how I can take them down, or how I can avoid them completely to continue my objective.

The missions are rather straightforward, mostly revolving around scavenging goods or killing freakers or other humans. The combat is average, but no mission overstays its welcome which benefits the mechanics. Deacon has a weapon wheel and can craft weapons on the fly after collecting supplies. Crafting is simple and realistic; you won’t find Dead Rising levels of craziness here nor would’ve I wanted that.

A major aspect of the gameplay is riding. Deacon’s motorcycle is his lifeline. Your bike requires a lot of repairs and fuel within the early stages of the game, until you can upgrade it. Luckily, most towns have either gas stations or gas cans laying around. Though there were instances where I wasn’t paying attention and had to walk my bike downhill or even abandon the bike altogether and pay for a camp to retrieve it.

The bike mechanic adds a level of realism that I appreciated and never found myself frustrated with, because its mechanics made sense.

As expected from open world games, there were a fair amount of bugs I experienced in my playthrough. Thankfully they weren’t game breaking, just immersion breaking.

Examples include NPC shopkeepers not appearing, but still interacting with Deacon as if they were there. Dialogue in missions feeling disjointed with long pauses between sentences as if I wasn’t hitting an invisible marker to trigger the conversation. This was especially jarring when a quick conversation would drag on longer than needed, filling the game with uncomfortable silences.

Visuals:
For the most part on the PS4 Pro, I had steady frame rates with occasional dips when moving between regions on the bike or the dynamic time and weather shifting. These dips only last a few seconds and only happened while I was riding the bike. I rarely had issues with the frame rate during combat or on-foot traversing.

Overall, Days Gone is a good looking game. It doesn’t stand out compared to other PlayStation exclusives due to its setting limiting how varied the environments can be. From the point of view of capturing nature, Days Gone does an excellent job presenting a beautiful mountainous forest with interesting little towns scattered throughout.

A minor disappointment is the lack of variety with enemies both Freaker and human. You’ll run across the same three to five models for each type of enemy. This can be easily written off when it comes to the Freakers because they’re deformed zombies, but it does feel shallow for the human models.

Audio:
There were and still are a fair amount of audio issues which is unfortunate. Before the Day One patch the audio would occasionally drop. These drops would be as specific as ambient noises going mute, or even the score. For the most part, these issues were less frequent with the Day One patch, but I still experienced them from time to time after patching.

I already mentioned the awkward pauses between dialogue being an odd bug that breaks immersion. But there are other bugs too. For example, the audio from the bike’s tires on different terrain would be delayed. This means, say if I rode across a bridge, the sound of a tire going across wood planks wouldn’t be audible for a few seconds until I passed the bridge. It’s the little things like that which can remind you that you’re playing a video game when you’re supposed to feel engrossed in the world.

The audio issues weren’t frequent enough to be a complete downer, but should be noted.

Outside of those bugs, I did enjoy a fair amount of the audio presentation. Days Gone makes good use of its score and the occasional song mixed in to give that Red Dead Redemption vibe when hitting major story bits or going to a new area. The country/rock mixture for the score really sets the mood for riding your bike through the wilderness as well as running from hordes of freakers.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Despite its flaws, Days Gone is a fun and enjoyable take on the zombie genre. It makes good use of being an open world game with lite RPG and crafting mechanics.

The mix of both stealth and action gameplay are done to a degree which both fulfill the story’s needs and make for a fun experience. I usually don’t enjoy sneaking my way through missions, but the basic mechanics made me inclined to try, especially with the added danger of facing a horde head on.

A tighter experience, especially in the beginning, would have done this game wonders. Instead, it fumbles a little too much at the start before settling into a solid gameplay rhythm and narrative.

Days Gone will likely suffer in the shadow of The Last of Us Part II, but it can stand out on its own as a good, but flawed member of the PlayStation exclusive library.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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