Hands-On With Days Gone: Fun, But Kind Of Generic

Yesterday, I checked out a handful of upcoming PlayStation games and finally got to play Days Gone. Zombie apocalypses seem a dime a dozen these days, and while the setting and characters felt generic, the teeming zombie hordes are some of the most terrifying I’ve ever faced.

Days Gone is an upcoming action-survival game by SIE Bend Studio that hits all the notes you’d expect for the genre. Players control Deacon St John, a biker roaming the lonesome roads of a zombie-ravaged world.

What I’ve seen of Days Gone before now has never drawn me in — how many on-the-fly crafting systems and snarling zombies have we seen in recent years?

But playing Days Gone is genuinely scary. The game throws zombies at the player literally by the hundreds, turning horde disposal into tense, on-the-fly battle puzzles.

The first scenario I played kept the stakes small. I snuck into a petrol station to look for a fuel pump for Deacon’s bike. While I was given plenty of gear for blasting zombies, I opted for stealth.

If you’ve played The Evil Within 2 or The Last of Us, the cadence will be familiar: Find one piece of cover or large bush to hide in, plot your path, and move to the next.

In Days Gone, this was made more complicated by highly alert enemies who sometimes clashed with each other. Group of “Freakers” — yes, that’s what they’re called — sometimes fought over scraps of food or else shifted their patrols in unexpected ways.

Sneaking led to some really gritty situations. I was able to assemble a makeshift silencer for my pistol that made it easy to pop zombies’ skulls. I also had plenty of bloody stealth takedowns. I’ve killed plenty of zombies over my video game career, so it was no sweat.

But then Days Gone threw me a manipulative curveball: Child zombies.

That might sound silly, but it did give me pause. In the moment I hesitated to pull the trigger, they leapt right at me. If nothing else, the contrast between the game’s violence and the expressive, still human-like enemies created an interesting moment, even it did feel a little cheap.

In another moment I had access to a high-level character and had to clear a huge group of zombies from a junkyard.

They piled up in a small ditch, hundreds of bodies stumbling over each other. I attempted to plant bombs in key locations, such as petrol trucks and narrow paths, in order to thin their numbers.

It didn’t really work. The zombies caught sight of me and rushed, ignoring my traps and beelining towards me.

If there’s one thing that Days Gone completely nails, it’s the sheer horror of seeing a horde of enemies crash upon you like a wave. I took out some of their numbers, but I was soon swamped by the rest and torn to shreds.

Determining the best course of action slowed things down into the type of planning you might expect from a tower defence game. A bomb here, a crafted napalm cocktail to kick things off, a sound contraption to draw them the other way, bursts of machine gun fire to blow up a truck.

Making progress was satisfying, but I worry that the difficulty of clearing out large groups — I had a ton of great weapons and gear but still struggled — might lead to trial and error gameplay that frustrates casual players.

While the gameplay had plenty of memorable moments, I’m unsure if they will be enough to draw me into its fairly generic world. The demo had tough bikers and self-scarred fanatics, but nothing that showed narrative heart.

I’m intrigued by the prospect of massive zombie battles and had a good time tackling this demo’s challenges. Hopefully the finished game will have more than the technical achievement of hundreds of enemies.


Comments

    Awww. Poor casuals might have trouble with the difficulty. Good. I don't want it to be mindlessly easy like most games these days. Too many games sacrifice challenging gameplay just to pick up some extra cash off scrubs. That's one of the things making games a generic copy of each other (generic gaming being something the author noted themself). So if the gameplay becomes a difficult puzzle to survive, wouldn't that make this game stand out from the pack? Like Dark Souls (another game that "suffered" from its high difficulty)? I just don't get people at times.

      I appreciate what you are saying, but you exude smug self satisfied bs.

        Aww Vae (and others) I'm sorry. Admittedly I was in a bit of a prickly mood when I wrote this, but "smug" honestly wasn't what I was aiming at. Im 41 and have had gaming in my life for about 37 of those. I call myself an avid gamer, yes. But not "hardcore", nor do I have "leet skillz". I wouldn't have a clue what my KDR is in battlefield. But I do like a challenge, even if that means dying a thousand times. I was trying (and admittedly failing) to be funny when I said "Scrub" instead of "Casual Gamer", but it is true that pandering to casuals for an easy dollar is a negative for those of us who want to enjoy a well crafted game. We had a time for a while where every game was made disgustingly easy so more casual gamers would enjoy them, despite everyone else hating it (did you stop to remember that while waving your Outrage Police badge, Vae?). In this article we have a journo sounding like she wants a return to that by complaining how this game's difficulty may put those poor, hardly done by casuals off. This isn't elitist thinking, this is hoping that quality isn't sacrificed for accessibility. Only a tyrant publisher looking to wring every cent out of a game puts the needs of casual gamers over those that want a game with longevity and that takes a while to "get". Do all y'all really want another decade of disposable, piss easy games? Does anyone remember that? It sucked and everyone hated it. All I'm saying is let's not do that again, yes? And also, I was pointing how the journo complained about "yet another zombie game" THEN complained about how it's difficulty set it apart. So which is it?

      This whole post just smacks of bullshit gamer elitist gatekeeping.

      Congrats on pwning scrubs, I guess?

        How is it elitist to want a standard of quality maintained? We went through an period of time when games got (too) easy in an effort to bring in more casual gamers (not out of any sense of altruism, just so publishers could make more $) and the quality of games dropped as a result. If I only wanted the best gamers playing I'd be locking myself out of that gate too, mate. But it grinds my gears when articles cite difficulty as a negative. Too me it's a challenge to overcome, and I don't want that compromised so some casual who may buy the game and might finish it feels "empowered". I'd rather a quality product aimed at the people who embrace this hobby we all love, not at fence-sitters. Sorry if my lack of eloquence did not convey that.

      So many games now are brutally, brutally hard. It's actually a golden age for people who like hard games.

      So... you should be happy? I guess?

    I feel like I'm the only person who wasn't interested in this.
    Tough biker dude fights the zombies toughly in a survival game where surviving requires toughness and zombie fights and nothing you haven't seen before.

    It looks... fine.

      I thought this was the general consensus. This write up has probably sold me on it more than anything, just on the promise that the mechanics are solid.

        Same. I loved TLOU. But I'm start to sit on a pile of shame here. This has never happened before so I'm thinking I need to stop buying games. For a while. A long while.

        But this looks cool to me!

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