Days Gone PC Review: Road to Greatness
Days Gone launched two years ago on PS4. It was the rare Sony first-party game that didn't receive universal praise. Personally, I always found that to be unfair, and the game became my favorite of 2019. As time wore on, it became one of my favorite genre games ever made.
In the subsequent two years, Days Gone has earned something akin to cult status among console players — as much as a game can that was featured on an E3 stage, anyway — and now Days Gone gets a second chance with the mainstream as the latest in a growing list of Sony games launching on PC.
But for Days Gone to receive greater accolades this time around, the PC port would have to be impressive, something prior Sony games have sometimes struggled with. Thankfully, Sony Bend's "Broken Road" provides for a gorgeous port, giving a whole new player base access to one of the finest post-apocalyptic games in the world.
Days Gone PC Review: Road to Greatness
The premise of Days Gone is quite simple, as the team once admitted to Game Informer during the magazine's cover-story trip to Oregon. It's The Walking Dead meets Sons of Anarchy. As one of the few post-viral outbreak survivors, Deacon St. John roams central Oregon's jagged forests and snow-capped mountains on his motorcycle and often alongside his best friend and former club member, Boozer.
While the pair still wear their colors, their biker gang is all but disassembled. They ride through a world where most people have been turned into Freakers, crazed albino-like zombies that rip and tear at the flesh of the living when they aren't traveling in massive hordes or curled up in their offensively-scented nests.
Days Gone is the personification of the adage "write what you know." Taking place in the region where Sony Bend operates, the setting feels rich and well-traveled. Real-life vistas like Crater Lake are supplemented with authentic-looking small-town gas stations, general stores, churches, and homes. What once were quiet mountain towns are now overrun with the filth and decay of two-plus years of societal collapse.
In their place have sprung up several settlements, each with its own leaders and group dynamics. Some survive on slave labor, others are havens for the region's right-wing conspiracy theorists (now feeling vindicated for spending their pre-virus years building prepper stashes). Others still are fledgling, often struggling democracies, where good-natured people are trying to keep their heads on straight in a world where most have abandoned those pretenses once the pharmacies emptied out and the wolves started hunting people.
The world of Days Gone is very much inspired by its undead predecessors, which tend to depict similar disarray, but in the game's long-running story mode, it ends up succeeding despite — and sometimes because of — its tropes. The full game plays out like a seasons-long zombie epic, and each new community Deacon travels to feels like the start of a new season, like Rick Grimes' group moving from the CDC building to the prison to Alexandria and so on.
While past storylines continue to ripple into the present, Deacon's North Star is always his presumed-dead wife, whom he lost on the first night the world went to hell. Deacon's story is not always as clever as it seems to think it is. Some story beats can be seen a mile away, but it's certainly interesting enough to make this 40-hour adventure well worth exploring.
It all makes for a familiar yet captivating story that gives context to Deacon's open-world running about better than some other games in the genre. He clears out Freaker nests to enable fast travel, which provides for more dynamic recurring content than climbing the towers of Ubisoft games. He can unlock safe havens and improve passive skills by securing abandoned evac zones, which almost troll players with their unseen alarms ready to blare if Deacon acts too hastily.
In the game's best moments, Deacon can take on massive hordes of Freakers, which move like violent schools of fish across the Oregon backwoods, intimidating to look at and even harder to put down. With dozens of map icons to get familiar with, Days Gone doesn't often subvert the rules of the open-world action-adventure, but it fulfills the zombie fantasy better than virtually all other comers in a crowded genre.
And on PC, it's consistently gorgeous.
I was worried Days Gone would arrive on PC in a troubled state after PlayStation had previously hit a snag with getting Horizon on the platform, but it's simply not the case here. In dozens of hours, I haven't had an issue. It's really that simple.
Offering an uncapped frame rate, Days Gone far outshines its PS4 version and can even outperform the PS5-enhanced version currently available in the PS Plus Collection, provided your hardware can carry it beyond the 60fps. For those who like to play on ultrawide monitors, Days Gone makes excellent use of the presentation mode, where the sprawling wilderness and massive hordes fill your stretched screen. This is especially helpful when taking on Freakers, since they love to flank Deacon pretty smartly, which gives the feature some function on top of its fashion.
On top of standard PC port features like keyboard and mouse support and greater visual customization options, my favorite part of Days Gone on PC is the photo mode, which was present in past versions of the game but now looks better than ever on PC.
Seeing every stitch and tear in Deacon's hat, every blemish on his bike, and every wrinkle in the skin of the Freakers in crystal-clear quality is remarkable at first sight — I instantly set a photo of mine as my desktop background. For virtual photographers, Days Gone has been a fan-favorite thanks to its detailed environments and lifelike character models. Now that niche feels properly spoiled with the PC port.
Like Avalanche's Mad Max, Days Gone transfers the affection for one's horse (Ghost of Tsushima or Red Dead Redemption) to a mechanical beast instead. For Deacon, it's his bike, and Sony Bend succeeds greatly in making players ever-aware of its condition and location.
With the bike, players can fast travel and quicksave, while for Deacon, he can escape hordes, mow down enemies, and coast down hills from one point of interest to the next, all while conserving gas and upgrading it regularly, both functionally and cosmetically. Deacon's bike is an extension of his own being, and thus the player's.
You'll never wander into a locale without knowing exactly where you left it and no matter how far it is, you'll see its icon on your mini-map. In the surest sign that this is a brutal world, you'll quickly learn to park it primed for a quick getaway. Days Gone delivers excellent moments both scripted and, more importantly, organic. Guiding a horde into a camp of enemies or watching a few Freakers come upon an aggressive bear are the sort of zombie fiction dioramas I've come to crave in my constant consumption of the genre, and Days Gone delivers them in droves.
Days Gone PC Review — The Bottom Line
- An engrossing mix of scripted and organic moments
- Gorgeous open-world intimately inspired by real-world locations
- Enemy hordes provide for recurring chaotic fun
- Story is satisfyingly delivered like a seasons-long saga
- Great mix of survival horror resource management and RPG-lite upgrades.
- Some typical open-world pitfalls
The throughline in Days Gone is hope lost and hope clung to. For Deacon, it's his often foolhardy search for his wife. For others, even lower portions of Maslow's pyramid are crumbling, giving way to total hopelessness. Be it when you're hiding in the grass as a horde passes by mere feet away, or when Deacon is desperately tracking down every false lead he believes will bring him to his partner, there's just a flicker of hope that things will work out okay.
And as fun as the decay is in its own right, when that sliver of hope does pay off, Days Gone shines.
If you're still without a PS5 and never got around to Days Gone before, understand that it's not a game that breaks the mold of the massive sandboxes we've seen so many times before. But what Days Gone does right is that it gives players a world where nothing comes easily. Dozens of hours into my multiple playthroughs, I still evade even just a small group of Freakers if I can.
But overcoming those struggles and making something out of the new world is always the lifeblood of great zombie fiction, and though Sony Bend gives its monsters a different name, Days Gone is one of the best genre video games ever produced.
[Note: Sony provided the copy of Days Gone on PC used for this review.]