Days Gone Review: Gone Killin'
From Dying Light and The Last of Us to World War Z and Resident Evil, zombies have been a fixture in gaming for years. That's mainly because there are always those that fear the undead monsters and find the end of the world a fascinating place.
But given the number of zombie-centric games that have been released in the past 20 years, it can be challenging to stand out amongst the crowd.
Days Gone tries its best to stand out from that over-saturated catalog with its open-world approach to the zombie apocalypse. While it struggles to find new ways to differentiate itself from those that came before and has quite a few noticeable blemishes, it still manages to be a fun, if somewhat derivative, title that has its heart in the right place.
If you have seen, read, or have played anything zombie related in the past ever, you know exactly what to expect from the story of Days Gone.
Deacon St. John (played by Star War's Sam Witwer) is a biker who's lost a lot from his previous life and finds himself forced to take odd jobs from various post-apocalyptic rival camps to survive. Along the way, he brushes arms with a research group that was responsible for the disappearance of his wife.
From there, tropes from the genre abound. From showcasing themes on what it means to be human to examine the definition of the word "monster," you've seen all of this done before and much better. It isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does take away from the tension of what's going to happen next, as you can guess what's next.
While Day's Gone won't win any awards for originality, it still manages to tell a compelling story thanks to solid writing (save for a few instances) and great acting from its cast. Deacon and the gang might be stereotypes of other characters, but the game manages to flesh everyone out enough to give them likability and intrigue. Though it can get overly melodramatic, Day's Gone manages to engross you in its world for the nearly 20-30 hours it'll take to finish it.
Gameplay in Days Gone is a mixture of hand-to-hand melee combat, gunplay, and driving around.
Main missions have the right amount of variety to keep things interesting. Some have you sneaking around, while others have you driving to catch up to someone. Others are just good ol' fashioned kill-everything-in-sight missions.
Combat encounters give you a wide variety of methods to take down your foes. You can take a stealthy approach and silently take enemies out, or go in guns blazing. Melee combat is satisfying thanks to a large armory of weapons. From simple wooden bars and metal pipes to hatchets and knives, you'll be happy with the tools on display. Later on, you'll also be able to craft weapons like Spike Bats; however, weapons easily break down, so you'll have to approach combat strategically and make sure there's something for you to use nearby.
Gunplay is mostly serviceable, thanks to positive feedback from your weapons and smooth aiming. The big issue with the game's gun combat is that the aiming reticle can be imprecise, making you lose a few of your shots. Ammo isn't too scarce, but you'll have to manage your ammunition.
Resource management plays a big part in Days Gone, too, as you'll often need to collect things to craft items like bandages to regain health and create weapons like Molotov's to burn enemies alive. Luckily, you won't have to craft too much, and there are plenty of times where dozens of collectible resources are in abundance in a single area.
Along with combat and resource management, a big part of the game is spent taking care of your bike. Seeing as it's your only form of transportation, you'll want to take care of it. You'll need to fix it up when it takes a beating, and you'll need to fill it up with gas. It might sound annoying, but you're given enough resources to keep things from getting too tedious.
The bike has a nice arcade-like feel to it, as well, though realistic physics are still bounded to it. Don't expect to jump high in the air and crash unscathed like other games in the genre. The bike can be a little sensitive here and there, but it mostly controls well.
As you progress, you'll upgrade your bike from the various camp factions you come across and customize its appearance however you like. You can also purchase new weapons from these places and do different odd jobs.
Doing these tasks will build your trust with the settlers and grant you access to better weapons and upgrades. Some will give you better bike parts while others will provide you with better weapons. You can also send random survivors you meet on the road to specific camps you visit.
While the gameplay is mostly solid, side missions could have been much better. Most revolve around clearing out enemy strongholds, like in Far Cry, burning down zombie hives, or reactivating checkpoint stations. While the rewards, like new craftable weapons and increases to health or stamina, are great incentives, it can't mask the repetition that unfolds while carrying them out.
Graphically, Days Gone is a looker, though it's not without its hang-ups.
The world is meticulously detailed, giving the environments some personality. Each place you visit tells its own story, and even hints of what life was like before this version of the zombie outbreak took place. If you have a 4K TV, the game supports HDR, and it's put to good use, adding some liveliness to this dark and dreary world.
The biggest issue with the game's presentation is its technical troubles. While none are game-breaking, most will take you out of the experience. From characters glitching into the environment to spotty lipsyncing and textures not loading properly, it can get annoying.
Another issue has to do with the constant fade to black that happens before and after missions and cutscenes. It's a nitpick, but it does take you out of the experience.
- Refined gameplay
- Solid visuals
- Entertaining story and characters
- Technical issues
- Frame-rate hiccups
On a base PS4, the game runs well enough. Combat encounters and walking around generally runs at 30 FPS. However, there were some noticeable framerate drops whenever driving around. It's better on PS4 Pro, but it's disappointing. Seeing how well other PS4 exclusives like Uncharted 4 and Horizon: Zero Dawn on both machines, it's sad that playing on Days Gone on base PS4 is a slightly lesser experience.
Familiarity is something to keep in mind when deciding to purchase Days Gone. Almost everything you've seen here has been done in other open-world games and, in some cases, much better.
That said, Days Gone might not do things new, but it manages to do them very well. It presents a well-told story with characters that you slowly start to get attached to and mostly polished gameplay.
It might not break the mold, but it does an efficient job in replicating other titles. If you're not sick of the zombie genre, you'll want to give this one a shot.