Game review: Days Gone is the PS4’s most contentious exclusive
The mechanics and key gameplay elements are each introduced fairly gracefully but they’re so generic that if you’ve played any open world game in the last 10 years you’ll instantly feel at home. Stealth is a little more important than most similar games, but it’s no more complicated than just crouching all the time and hiding in long grass if it’s available – there isn’t even a dedicated cover system for combat.
There have been a lot of comparisons to The Last Of Us in the run-up to the game’s release and the location and zombies are clearly very similar. You craft traps and health potions in a near identical fashion, throw rocks to distract enemies, and attempt to make zombies and human enemies fight amongst themselves if you can. But the gameplay was never the primary draw with The Last Of Us and Days Gone benefits little from copying it.
These complaints are not as serious as they might seem though and the basic action in Days Gone is perfectly enjoyable. The stealth, shooting, melee combat, and motorcycle riding are all perfectly competent – which may not sound much of complement but many open world games get one or more badly wrong and it’s actually unusual to play something that really is a jack of all trades. The only major mechanical flaw is the fiddly item wheel and the curiously unresponsive weapon swap button on the joypad.
What really lets the side down though is the artificial intelligence for human enemies, which is embarrassingly poor. Everyone not only has a goldfish memory and myopic vision, but they respond to stimuli in such a robotic manner that we frequently ended up shooting (with a silencer or crossbow) multiple enemies in the same spot, making a pile of dead bodies to rival the zombie hordes. We’re still not sure if it’s a bug or not but human enemies seem oblivious to dead bodies and will often stand right on top of them without saying a word.
Perhaps the inevitable day one patch will fix them, but the game is filled with low-level bugs and glitches, not just in terms of the artificial intelligence but characters floating in mid-air, broken physics, and landscapes that suddenly turn into bare hills. Although almost as annoying is the frustratingly long load times that pop up between each switch from gameplay to cut scene and back again – completely ruining the atmosphere and making you wish everyone would just shut up and get on with it.
The first third of the game is a slog to get through and manages to make the game seem so bland and predictable we almost wanted to give up. But the second act revolves around a cult of crazed zombie worshippers that finally adds some momentum to the story, which leads into the third act that in turn also switches up the locations and threats. So unless you absolutely hate the game from the start we would advise persevering, even if the final chapter never lives up to its initial promise.
Days Gone is a very strangely structured game in general, not least because the zombie hordes play no real role at all until right near the end. They appear in a couple of side missions before that, where you learn that they’ll chase after you in a huge swarm but give up if you go too far and snap back to their lair as if pulled by a giant rubber band. They’ll do this so quickly at times that it looks comical, as they pile back into whatever train car or cave they were hiding in.
You only get the weapons needed to combat hordes halfway through the third act and there’s only a handful of story missions that involve destroying them. A peculiar process that ends up like an ultra-violent Benny Hill sketch, where Deacon insists on taking on 400 zombies on his own by setting traps and ambushes, getting the zombies to chase him, then hiding and coming back to do it again and again until they’re all gone.
It’s precisely as silly as it sounds (we kept wondering why they didn’t just get a hot air balloon or something) but we liked the fact that the game gives no real instruction on how to tackle the hordes and you have to evolve your tactics with experience – most of which occurs in side missions after you’ve completed the main story.
The use of the hordes seems a terrible waste, considering we thought that was the whole point of the game. But it seems even more wasteful given how unimaginative the missions design tends to be, with most of it being some variation of ‘go to a location and kill a small camp of humans.’
Days Gone is repetitive, unimaginative, and surprisingly rough around the edges but to our own surprise we can’t pretend we didn’t get some mildly addictive pleasure from it. Much in the manner of the more middling Assassin’s Creed titles, there’s a strange sort of comfort to playing and completing such an undemanding game, with its constant stream of minor rewards – even if they’re just a tick on a list of completed missions.
We wouldn’t particularly recommend Days Gone, and it’s certainly not in the same league as most of Sony’s other PlayStation 4 exclusives, but while we don’t look back at our days with it with any sense of wistfulness we don’t resent the time spent on it either.
In Short: A peculiarly constructed open world zombie game that sidelines its most unique features in favour of generic action and unengaging storytelling.
Pros: The zombie hordes are an impressive technical feat and learning to deal with them is interesting. Competent gameplay mechanics and plenty of content.
Cons: The story and characters, and really the game as a whole, is very derivative and dry, with repetitive missions and a strange lack of zombies for a lot of the time.
Formats: PlayStation 4
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Bend Studio
Release Date: 26th April 2019
Age Rating: 18
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