You better learn how to ride a motorcycle if you want to survive the zombie apocalypse in Days Gone.
Since PlayStation 4 launched in 2013, the quality of its first-party exclusives have been all over the map from instant classics like God of War, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Bloodborne to more forgettable outings like Knack, The Order: 1886, and Killzone: Shadow Fall. It's been a roller coaster at times and Days Gone is the latest title in Sony's first-party lineup but will it be one of the greatest?
In Days Gone, you play as Deacon St. John, a drifter and mercenary-for-hire who cruises around the post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest which is most likely in Oregon, the home state of Days Gone's developer, SIE Bend Studio. Survivors in the area have built camps across the forested wilderness and each camp comes with its rather eccentric leader. Deacon has no desire to join one of these camps, instead choosing to live a drifter's life with his last remaining friend Boozer. That being said, Deacon will regularly visit these camps to buy supplies, upgrade his motorcycle, and take jobs from the various camp members.
Days Gone takes place about 2 years after a viral outbreak killed millions across the US and turned many more into Freakers which are fast-moving zombies that feed on human flesh. The Pacific Northwest is now filled with these freaks who prefer to hunt at night and hibernate during the day. However, Freakers aren't the only thing that you have to watch out for. There are also rival factions like the RIPpers and Marauders who are heavily armed and hell-bent on converting or ambushing anyone who comes their way.
Visually, Days Gone is a bit of a marvel to behold. The massive forested environments are fantastically detailed and laid out just as well. The dynamic weather system is probably the best I've ever seen as it features periods of heavy rain and snowfall that slowly accumulates as it falls. As you change elevation while riding through the mountains, you'll also encounter areas of light and heavy snow. Bend Studio has done an excellent job of making the environments and world to possibly be the most immersive that I've ever experienced.
Despite the post-apocalyptic setting, there are still quite a few people living in the area and Days Gone is dead set on you getting to know them. For a game primarily focused on being action-adventure, the amount of dialog reminded me more of an RPG. Deacon is always chatting with someone whether he's completing a mission, using radio communications on his bike, or acting in a cutscene.
Days Gone features several coexisting plot lines that sometimes overlap and share progress. These include Deacon's past, Boozer, camp leaders, the suspicious government agency NERO, the Pacific Northwest region itself, etc. Some storylines are definitely more interesting than others as I found myself very interested to find out what happened to Deacon's wife Sarah but quickly soured on Boozer's uninteresting plot. The overall amount of dialogue was too much for me and there were several times when I was ready to just bash some Freakers instead of transitioning in and out of cutscenes in a storyline that just didn't hook me. That's not to say that the story is bad; the main plot is actually quite good. Characters are just overly verbose and the script feels awkward and clumsy at times.
As for Days Gone's gameplay, it's fun as hell but doesn't do a whole lot new. Most of your time will be spent clearing out Freak nests and enemy encampments as part of story missions or jobs that you accept. The zombie-like Freak enemies charge at you fast and from many directions so you'll want to be nimble and aware of your surroundings. Shotguns work well on Freaks but be careful because the gunfire can easily alert nearby Freaks and you'll end up surrounded quickly. I found myself relying on melee weapons to deal with most Freaks which is a simple but extremely satisfying combat option in Deacon's arsenal. It's especially gratifying to smash in a Freak skull with a custom melee weapon that you crafted yourself like a baseball bat with razor-sharp nails sticking out of it.
Unlike Freaks, the rival factions like the RIPpers are usually well-armed so you'll want to use a bit more strategy in those encounters. Enemies will have shotguns, melee weapons, and sniper rifles and will use all of them while trying to ambush you or protect their encampments. The gunplay in Days Gone is solid and the slow-motion Focus mode makes it a bit easier to survive. Ammunition isn't as sparse as you might expect for a survival game but there are still times when you run low and end up having to bail on an encounter or take out the rest of the enemies using stealth or melee attacks.
When you're not chatting the days away with your fellow survivors or taking the lives of Freaks and rebels, you'll more than likely be cruising around on your motorcycle. Before the breakdown of society, Deacon was an active member of the Mongrel MC, an outlaw motorcycle club in Farewell, Oregon, and riding is a big deal to him and Boozer. The driving controls are smooth and simple and Deacon's motorcycle is surprisingly adept at navigating the sprawling Northwestern wilderness.
As you complete jobs and missions, you'll earn credits that can be used at various camps to upgrade Deacon's bike as well as purchase weapons and ammo. You'll want to invest in both as you will quickly find that your bike breaks down easily and your weapons are underpowered. Deacon himself also levels up as he earns XP thus learning new skills and upgrading abilities. These upgrades are always substantial and the upgrade tree is well thought out to make sure character upgrades are satisfying and useful.
Days Gone features a few survival game aspects but I'd hesitate to refer to it as a survival game seeing how available ammo and resources are. The one major survival aspect is gasoline. On one hand, I like the idea behind having to be aware of the gas in your bike to ensure that you don't run out of gas and can get to where you're going and back. Even the fast-travel only allows you to visit places that you have enough gas to reach. However, the concept is undermined by full fuel cans that are available at several fast-travel bases as well as your home base. In other words, you'll end up fast-traveling to those first, filling-up, and then fast-traveling again to your real destination. It ends up becoming an in-game nag that you have to deal with which is unfortunate because the concept is pretty cool.
Days Gone is a massive game. I clocked well over 30 hours on my first playthrough and still have plenty more to do. That being said, it doesn't follow the traditional open-world style of pasting dozens of activities on the map for you to choose from. Instead, most story missions come one at a time and I don't think I ever had more than 3 story and side missions active at one time. There are a few other side-quests like clearing out encampments and Freak nests but there's only a dozen or so of each in the game. This isn't a bad thing as it helps keep the narrative on the right track but don't go in expecting a map filled with things to do from start to finish.
Days Gone is an exceptionally refined and gorgeous open-world action adventure game. It doesn't bring a whole lot new to the table but what it does offer is hours upon hours of exciting gameplay and a layered (albeit often overly verbose) narrative.
- + Fantastic visuals and immersive environment
- + Ultra-satisfying melee combat
- + Well thought out progression system makes every upgrade point worthwhile
- - Mostly inconsequential survival aspects
- - Some storylines aren't very interesting
- - Characters can be overly verbose and share some awkward lines of dialogue