Days Gone may not be the flawless masterpiece PlayStation and Sony Bend wished for but its fun gameplay and interesting (for the most part) story far outweigh its drawbacks.
Days Gone instantly drops you within post apocalyptic Oregon as biker Deacon St. John (portrayed in likeness and voice by the superb Sam Witwer), a man looking for what he lost. Deek has a habit of moving from camp to camp doing odd jobs with his pal Boozer earning the nickname of Drifter. It is in the midst of one of these jobs that Deek discovers a way to finally get some answers to questions that arose on the first night of this zombie (infected humans called Freakers) outbreak.
The story of Days Gone at its core is simple: a man trying to find out what happened to his wife. But what Days Gone struggles with is juggling this with other side stories like the trials and tribulations of Boozer and the war between the Rippers (cultists who worship the Freakers) and one of the many camps you visit. These stories are strong but never really take off in the way you’d expect. They all fall to the side of the main story which also hits a wall two thirds through, ending with a conclusion that isn’t as satisfying as you might hope. Especially for a game that you’ve just sunk 60 hours into. However, it does have to be said that the post game twist was so good that I am now completely sold on a sequel.
The world of Freaker infested Oregon is lifeless, as you’d expect of a world where the majority of the population have become monsters, but also struggles to feel like anyone ever lived there. Don’t get me wrong the visuals of this game are on par with any other console release in the past 12 months but it feels like developers Sony Bend missed a trick by not fleshing out the overworld that you spend so much time in. There are many houses and buildings to enter but most fail to have any sense of identity. It would have been nice for some houses to have sports trophies, books or something to give the player a sense of who inhabited these residences that you now ransack for items.
Gameplay is where Days Gone really hits its stride. Tackling Freakers is one of the most fun things the game has to offer, and does this with a sense of believability. One, two or even five Freakers at a time can be easily put down with any weapon of your choosing but any more, and especially the hordes you encounter can become problematic if you aren’t swift on the escape. Your choice of weapons range from standard hand and machineguns to your trusty unbreakable knife and other melee weapons found in the outside world. These melee weapons are breakable but can be repaired and modified through the crafting menu with scrap scavenged from cars. I rarely used guns even on the human enemies as I found whacking away at my enemy much more satisfying than gunning them down. However, later in the game when hunting down hordes the right gun can make things a lot easier. Speaking of the hordes, randomly running into them can provide a fear of being overrun often missing from most zombie games
Gameplay cannot be discussed without mentioning Deek’s bike. You’ll spend most of the game on his bike so it’s good that it handles very well and natural. His bike can also be upgraded at certain camps. The bike has a fuel and damage gauge that can be restored with scrap or refuelled at camps and from canisters found in the open world. I thought that this would be a nuisance but actually found it to be quite enjoyable and add to the immersion of the world of survival (it may have helped that I was playing on easy and upgraded the bikes fuel as soon as it as available).
Throughout the game you encounter various side missions provided by camps as well as checkpoints that can be explored. These checkpoints in particular provide handy upgrades to one of three important elements, or maybe I should say two. This is because focus (one of the options) I did not use at all, this was also one of the focuses of a tree for adding skill points to that again I saw little use in applying. The other options of health and stamina I found to be imperative when facing Freakers whether I was fighting or running from them.
Side missions are fun but can become repetitive and one note as many involve hunting down a runaway to either save or kill them. Each target is given a basic personality that could have been more fleshed out. This is the same for most of the characters in Days Gone, aside from some important side characters and a few camp residents, the NPCs lack a sense of identity compared to something like Red Dead 2. Speaking of which, in a similar vein to Red Dead, Days Gone provides missions that can be encountered randomly, represented by a question mark, but again these are forgettable and provide little incentive to complete aside from extra trust at the camp of your choosing.
Whilst playing the game I did encounter a few framerate drops, specifically immediately after fast travel which also provided some fairly long load times which is surprising given the load times of other games from this generation.
Despite a few bumps in the road, riding around the world of Days Gone is a blast, for the most part. Taking down enemy camps and hunting hordes of Freakers can be a lot of fun even in a world that lacks much identity. The story, for the most part, is fun but unfortunately trails off towards the end before an epic cliffhanger post game mission that genuinely left me wanting more.
+ Solid story
+ Fun gameplay
+ Great visuals
– Lifeless world
– Occasional framerate drops and long load times