Days Gone is a post-apocalyptic open world game that merges two classic genres into one, the themes of zombie survival and action-adventure come together to provide an exciting, vastly interactive world with some truly thrilling moments. At times however, those highs are brought down by somewhat one dimensional characters and repetitive side missions.
The game begins two years after a disastrous series of events, in which a virus has caused an outbreak of zombies (referred to as freakers in game) that now overwhelm every corner of the world. Humanity has reverted to a tribal nature, with humans either banding together or breaking apart to form the various clans occupying the encampments that scatter the map of post-apocalyptic Oregon. You play as Deacon St John, an outlaw biker who is searching to find answers over his wife Sarah, whom he tragically lost before the game begins. She is first shown to us in the opening cutscene, gravely wounded and airlifted to a nearby medical centre which is then overrun by the freakers, this sets the scene for the rest of the story.
The main focus of the story starts off as carrying out missions for the encampments, gaining upgrades to your bike, purchasing new weapons and unlocking supplies in a bid for survival in the brutal new world; it then slowly evolves into a gripping finale, as Deacon slowly uncovers information to piece together the truth about Sarah. All in all the main story is very enjoyable with tense, nail biting moments and unexpected twists, but these highs were often met with the lows of overly-generic characters. The voice acting in the game as a whole is very good, Deacon often surprised me with the level of emotion added to the acting which added to the realism and severity of the world he lives in. Unfortunately in comparison, the writing of the characters leaves something to be desired, with the majority playing the roles of generic antagonists lacking backstory, damsels in distress and knights in shining armour, there rarely was a character that broke this mould.
One of the best features is your bike, and Deacon’s companion throughout the game, it handles well and feels brilliant to ride. It starts off as very basic but there is a wealth of performance and visual upgrades that can be applied to vastly improve the experience – the nitrous upgrade providing great moments boosting off of ramps and avoiding danger. In order to unlock these upgrades, side missions need to be carried out for the various settlements scattered around the map, but after a while these can prove to be repetitive: drive to a location, shoot up the bad guys, cash in the profits and repeat. Whilst this format did start to get old as the game progressed, I found myself taking them on at any opportunity, with the end product of improving the bike proving too great a reward to pass up on. With all of these elements combined I found the fast travel mechanic rarely touched, instead opting to traverse across the map to quest markers, and upgrading & maintaining it gives a very similar vibe to Edward’s ship in Assassins Creed Black Flag.
Whilst Days Gone’s story is largely based around the human characters in the game, the zombies are in the thick of the action, densely populating the world and providing some of the best moments. They mainly roam the map as individuals or in small packs, which can usually be picked off with a good shot from a gun or hit from a melee weapon, their movements and voice acting- have a very real feel to them and provide some great combat. The moments when this is at it’s peak is when you encounter a horde, a seemingly endless wave of zombies that travel, attack as one giant entity, numbering in the hundreds on occasion. Each horde comes with it’s own unique challenges to take them down, usually requiring careful planning and strategy to execute an attack, the thrill of defeating a horde is a feeling that gets better with each challenge.
Gameplay largely feels very solid and well polished, with hard hitting guns and weighty melee weapons making Days Gone’s combat fall into the upper tiers of most open world games. There is also an array of explosives and traps that provide a different edge to the fight, allowing for a wide range of play-styles and approaches to be used. Stealth does play a large part in the game, utilising the classic tall grass and cover dashing mechanics. At times however, this does become repetitive with missions frequently forcing it upon the player and the stealth mechanic as a whole being very forgiving. The game’s world also leaves something to be desired in terms of depth, with a lot of the locations and optional activities becoming a bit too similar too quickly. Visuals wise, it definitely is one of the best looking and best performing games I’ve played recently, running at a smooth 60 frames per second on PS5, with very few framerate drops and bugs.
Days Gone is an enjoyable experience and a brilliant idea on paper that is too commonly let down by it’s limitations and corner cutting. The gripping story and nail biting moments are there, and do frequently present themselves, but they are let down at times by sloppy character writing and lack of back story. The optional activities and side quests become old very quickly, but the world makes up for this by throwing waves of zombies and hoards at Deacon to keep the gameplay varied and exciting. Overall Days Gone is a game full of highs and some lows, but has a compelling enough storyline and solid enough gameplay to make players want to fight on to the end.