While the majority of the hype at E3 for PlayStation revolved around the likes of Insomniac’s Spider-Man and God of War, titles like Days Gone seemed to have slipped through the cracks of Sony’s crowded first party line up. Their first major console game since Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain on PS2, SIE Bend’s Days Gone looks like a solid addition to the open world survival genre. At a media event developer’s walked through a demo for the press and detailed the story, setting and mechanics. At first blush, Days Gone seems like a standard post-apocalyptic zombie game. We’ve seen tons of those and quite frankly the esthetic and premise got beaten to the ground years ago. That said, Days Gone does provide some healthy differences and subversions of the genre.
The pacific northwest setting is relatively uncommon as is the behaviour of the infected zombie-like “freakers” which can somehow use weather conditions like blizzards to their advantage. The infection also affects non-human animal life. The demo ended with an infected grizzly bear attacking the player. The method the virus uses to spread was not divulged but we were told that bites did not cause infection, hopefully ending the tired trope of having to kill some random child that got bitten. This itself is not enough to set Days Gone apart from the glut of zombie games or even Sony’s own The Last of Us. It is the combat where Days Gone makes its mark. The way the player can sneak up and dispatch groups of enemies in clever and creative ways invokes the best of the Batman Arkham series. NPCs react to a successful sneak attack with the appropriate fear and confusion that the player can take advantage of to cause more creative havok. During the demo, the developers had the player lure a human enemy into a bear trap intended for a freaker. The other NPCs rush to aid him but then executed him when he wouldn’t stop screaming, fearing the sound would attract freakers. Once they had huddled around the injured NPC, the player dispatched with all of them with a molotov cocktail. It was a great way to demonstrate the options players have and a harsh reminder that the game takes place in a post-apocalyptic Hobbesian state of nature.
Survival is a key component of Days Gone, the setting of a cruel world with limited resources isn’t new but unlike the trash heap of steam greenlight titles that toy with the concept, Days Gone promises a competent single player narrative to go along with it, not to mention a complete game that actually functions. As “Deacon St. John,” a former bounty hunter and biker, your motorcycle will be an important part of your time in Days Gone’s apocalyptic hellscape as it’ll serve as your way to get around and can be customized and upgraded. That’s not to say you can take it for granted, gas is a hot commodity and will be limited and hard to find. Like many of the best survival games, you’ll have to juggle and conserve things like gas, ammo and know when to take risks and when not to.
Days Gone doesn’t have a release date yet and while the game looks competent and snow fall looks impressive, It still seems relatively early in development. I expect the game will look much better by release as several layers of polish are added before it hits stores. The biker gang theme brings that subculture’s esthetic and visual language with it. Many have compared it to Sons of Anarchy and that’s an apt comparison. It also helps Days Gone separate itself, which I believe will be this game’s biggest hurdle going forward. I hope Days Gone delivers on its promises like it seems it will and cuts through the noise and clutter as it would inject the survival genre with some much needed narrative focus. It’s a game every PS4 owner should have their eye on.