2018 was one of the best years Sony has ever had when it comes to putting out stellar exclusive games. Marvel’s Spider-Man and God of War were fantastic and put an exclamation point on PlayStation’s dominance on this console generation. With this in mind, coupling the fact that the zombie/survival horror genre is becoming oversaturated, Days Gone needed to achieve a lot to stand out. Unfortunately, Days Gone is riddled problems that range from a bad story to tons of bugs.
The Story, I think
The game starts with one of the coldest openings I have ever experienced. The game starts by immediately introducing you to the main characters in a tough situation, without any context as to what even is going on. While the performances from all the actors are fantastic, there is no setup to feel any connection to the characters. This is a continuing theme in Days Gone. The voice actors consistently give intense performances, but the story does not provide a good setup as to what is about to happen next.
You play as Deacon St. John, voiced by Sam Witwer. Deacon is a biker who lost his wife when a major virus broke out two years ago, turning everyone into “Freakers” (basically, zombies). All Deacon has is his motorcycle and his best friend, Boozer. Deacon runs jobs for various camps that range from taking out ambush camps, destroying Freaker nests or even saving survivors. Most of these missions simply make the game longer and don’t impact the story at all.
While Deacon is an interesting character, not much else about the story or the characters within it are. Most of the supporting characters are terrible people with little to no redeeming qualities. Despite all of their (particularly Tucker’s) monstrous ways, you still run jobs for them. In fact, all you really do is run those jobs for the camps and visit your wife’s headstone. It seemed like the story was simply to survive for the first 10 hours of my play-through. When the story finally did start to form, it was so spread out between busy work that it was difficult to care about what was going on.
Deacon’s main mode of transportation is his motorcycle. Much like Red Dead Redemption 2 and its horses, you have to make sure your bike is well kept so that it runs well. This means refilling its gas tank and fixing it up after it takes damage.
There are some customization options for the motorcycle. You can upgrade its performance and tweak its visuals. I say tweak because there are few visual customization options you can choose. The most interesting options are the custom accents, which you get for completing various quest lines.
The biggest issue with the bike is the controls, or lack thereof. It feels like your TV is experiencing latency, but that’s just how the bike controls. I found myself running into trees about once every ride. Sure, it’s annoying when you make a mistake and mess up. It’s even more annoying when you mess up because you have a lack of control of the outcome.
How Many Times Do I Have to Hit You?
The combat in Days Gone is pretty average as far as third-person action games go. The crafting system was very similar to The Last of Us and made you use your surroundings. The ability to craft while you run works perfectly in this game since you spend a lot of time running from Freakers.
The melee combat is the best part of the combat system. Picking up melee weapons is the way to go, as they can take down an enemy quicker than your knife. There are lots of fun and gory melee animations and a wide variety of melee weapons you can choose from. The biggest issue with Days Gone’s combat is the bullet sponge enemies. It is frustrating when an NPC requires three or four shotgun blasts to the chest to die. Even more frustrating is when it takes ten to twelve knife jabs to take down an enemy. These all slow the combat down to a level where even main story missions felt tedious.
Lots and Lots of Zombies
Hordes are one of the better parts of Days Gone. Seeing a horde of literally hundreds of Freakers is both technologically impressive and terrifying. Taking on a horde is challenging as it takes planning and patience. If you can somehow take down a horde, it is a tremendous feeling of triumph as it is no easy task.
While hordes are intense fun, taking on a group of five to ten Freakers is just annoying. More often than not, they are only getting in the way of completing my objective and serve no other purpose but for me to waste ammunition or time hitting them with a spiked baseball bat. The only thing worse than this is when you are actually running from Freakers. Your stamina runs out very quickly, especially early in the game. Once your stamina runs out, you go from sprinting away to taking an easy jog. Watching Deacon go for a stroll while a bunch of zombies stays just out of reach takes you out of the moment. Instead of keeping a fast pace, Deacon’s stamina slows it down.
A Bug’s Life
Days Gone is one of the best looking games of this generation. The world itself and the facial animations are some of the best I have seen in a video game. Unfortunately, bugs run rampant in Days Gone and can impact your experience.
I watched one cutscene where the characters were just floating in space. There were no walls, floors or anything, just the characters. This was one of the least annoying bugs I encountered. Frame rate was a constant issue in Days Gone, most commonly when I rode the motorcycle. The issue that frustrated me the most is that you have to be in the exact spot the game wants you to be in if you want to do something like start a mission, pick up your bike or search a corpse.
Days Gone is not your usual Sony Exclusive, because it is not the usual level of quality. The story is uninteresting and delivered so clumsily, it’s hard to keep track of all the pieces of the puzzle. Deacon is a cool biker protagonist, but no other character in the game comes close to being as interesting or likable.
While the melee combat feels good, enemies feel like bullet sponges who just don’t want to go down. There are some awesome animations that go along with the wide variety of melee weapons. The game looks beautiful and the hordes are spectacular, but the game has lots of bugs that can take you out of the action.
Days Gone is The Last of Us, Far Cry 5 and Red Dead Redemption 2 rolled into one game, it is just not as good as it should be. Unless you are an avid fan of zombies, survival horror or PlayStation exclusives, I would pass on Days Gone. At least wait until the price drops.