Being quarantined at home has got me buying games on the PSN store like it’s no body’s business. I know I’m not alone in this because, of course, PSN has been exploiting the hell out of this offering all types of sales and cheaply priced games for all of our stay at home needs. Out of all the games I’ve splurged on so far, I’ve had mostly misses, with the exception of a few – one game in particular (alongside The Forest which I also plan to review upon completion) is SIE Bend Studio‘s (of Syphon Filter series fame) zombie survival horror game Days Gone released April 26, 2019. So far I’ve beaten the game on Hard I and am close to beating a New Game + on Survival II difficulty, so it’s a good time to give it a thorough review for anyone that is thinking about purchasing the game.
The game takes place in beautiful, post-apocalyptic Oregon after a global pandemic has ravaged mankind (yes, yes the irony is not lost on me). You take control of our hero Deacon St. John, a biker who’s a bit rough around the edges but possesses a heart of gold, as he treks the wasteland in search of his lost lover Sara while trying to keep his best friend and fellow biker Boozer from meeting his doom. Traveling around the map primarily takes place on Deacon’s motorcycle, which must be tended to regularly and can be upgraded in various ways. You meet a handful of characters, most of which run or work in friendly camps that are trying to rebuild humanity in some capacity.
The game is heavily story oriented, supposedly possessing over 6+ hours of cut scenes (that can be skipped if you’re so inclined). For some, this can be a set back, especially for those that itch to jump back into the action while the game forces you to watch the story develop, but for someone like myself that appreciates a good, crafted narrative, I found it to be a treat while doing my first play through. Something about playing this game made me feel that Bend Studio put a lot of work and passion into creating it, which made appreciating the story fairly easy. There has been heavy criticism from reviewers about the story and its “lack of character development”, but I personally don’t share this sentiment. I think it’s incredibly difficult to develop a story and characters of such depth, while at the same time attempting to integrate consistently engaging game play, but Days Gone makes a pretty solid attempt at doing so.
The story DOES have a tendency to drag a bit and force you to do a lot of filler missions that can be annoying at times, (such as “walk with character x” for like a half hour while they talk to you), but the side quests are what truly kept me captivated and constantly at the edge of my seat. Littered throughout the map are marauder camps that you can infiltrate and kill anything that moves, and then gain access to the camp via a bunker that can be used as a save point. And then there are the NERO facilities, which you have to strategically restore power to to gain access inside which hides an injection that can help boost Deacon’s stats. But the side mission that truly stands out and makes this game memorable is the horde missions.
Anyone at least familiar with the title that I’ve recommended this game to have all mentioned seeing game play videos or pictures of large hordes of zombie flesh eaters ravenously chasing after the main character. This is truly the games bread and butter – one moment, your exploring the beautiful, vast Oregon wasteland, and the next, you turn around a corner to be met by a 100+ zombies waiting to devour you. The first few times I was caught off guard by a horde, I jumped proclaiming “HOLY SHIT!”, and even now during my second play through I still find it fun and engaging.
Dealing with hordes takes a level of strategy and planning that keeps it consistently interesting – a good understanding of the area you are in, stocking up on every weapon at your disposal, and a good understanding of mechanics and controls of the game are key to survival. The use of environmental factors, such as explosive barrels and gas cans, also help trim down that 100+ number. And the sense of accomplishment after you wipe out so many is quite elating.
More recently, a Challenge Mode has been added to the game, giving players various side challenges (separated from the main story mode) to test just how much of a bad ass zombie killing machine you actually are. There are also driving and marauder camp challenges which are also great.
My final verdict: 7/10
Overall, Days Gone is an extremely impressive effort. My biggest criticism are with the way the story feels as though it drags (especially when you sit through all the cut scenes as I did first time around) and I didn’t find the game that difficult. The difference between my first play through on Hard I to my second on Survival II it terms of difficulty felt minimal. The addition of Challenge Mode helps quell this a bit, by being insanely difficult and a true test of player skills.
I highly recommend it for fans of the genre – a great open-world adventure game (similar in gameplay style to the Red Dead series) that will keep you busy and engaged for hours on end. I’m absolutely hopeful that Bend Studios brings us a sequel or continues on to make games of this caliber.