I got my hands on the upcoming PS4 game Days Gone a few weeks ago, and if you want to hear more about it, you can listen to this week’s Kotaku Splitscreen. Or you can read this post.
First up, we talk about Bloodborne (which I’ve finally finished), Danganronpa (which Maddy’s almost finished), and the many games Kirk is playing, like The Division 2 and Ape Out. There’s news of the week (36:13) on Pokemon, Anthem crashing PS4s, and THQ Nordic’s major screw-up.
Then I share some impressions of the upcoming zombie game Days Gone, which is pretty much a hodgepodge of every AAA video game mechanic you can think of (more below).
We close with some off-topic talk (59:16) on Killing Eve, The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel, and Big Mouth, followed by Kirk’s music pick of the week and a brief Russian Doll spoilercast.
Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt:
Jason: So a couple of weeks ago, I went to an event in New York where they set up some copies of Days Gone. I played about an hour and a half of it. A bit of context: Days Gone is the next big PS4 exclusive, it comes out April 26, it is developed by Sony Bend, which I believe is the only triple-A studio in your state of Oregon, Kirk.
Kirk: It’s such a lovely place, oh my god. Bend, Oregon is this extremely beautiful place. If you were going to work at a triple-A game studio and toil away at the salt mines, you could do worse than Bend.
Maddy: Next to a window, hopefully.
Jason: If anyone at Sony Bend is listening to this and wants to invite the three of us to come out, me and Maddy will fly into Portland and do a road trip.
Kirk: Backpacking, ski weekend.
Jason: That’d be sick, I’d love to do that. Anyway, so it’s a zombie biker gang... It’s kind of like a cross between Sons of Anarchy and The Last of Us. And I think the best way to describe it is, ‘This is the most triple-A-arse video game I’ve ever played.’
If you think of a checklist of like, ‘What should I expect in a AAA video game,’ it’s got every single thing: It’s got the open world, the side quests, the crafting, the skill wheel you can open up and then you can pick different things—create healing bandages, use those—it’s got the zombies you can sneak up on, the town outposts where you can do side quests and go shopping and trade in stuff you found in the wild. It’s got the list of side quests you have to do, and go around the world filling checklists and destroying things.
Maddy: Are there audio logs, though?
Jason: I’m sure there are. I’m sure there are. Everything you can think of in a triple-A video game is in this game—it’s the most generic video game that you can possibly think of. It’s got the gruff main character whose emotional arc is triggered by the death of his wife...
But here’s the thing: After I played it, and I came back to my desk the next day, I kept thinking, ‘I want to play more of this game.’ It’s good. It’s very fun. It actually reminds me of Mad Max, the game that came out a few years ago, which I never actually played, but was very much—
Maddy: I heard it was so good, and I keep meaning to go check it out, because that game has a cult following.
Jason: Well it’s very much like this, it’s the collection of triple-A things.
Kirk: Yeah, it’s very much Triple-A Video Games, the Video Game. It is good, I’ve played enough of it. And it was a game that kind of got written off by critics, and then the people who liked it were like, ‘Hey wait a minute, this game was really fun, I played it for 40 hours filling up all the bars and unlocking all the little things on the map.’ It sounds sort of similar.
Jason: Yeah. So this, I feel is going to have a similar reception. A couple of things worth noting. One is that the story is surprisingly well done—I was really impressed by the writing and the acting.
Maddy: You felt really bad when the wife died? Like, really bad.
Jason: Well, you don’t actually see her die. So a little bit of context here. The demo doesn’t actually show everything. The first thing I saw was your main dude is escaping someplace, and there’s a chopper coming, and his wife is hurt, so he puts her on the chopper. Then his friend is left behind, and the chopper can only fit two people, so he decides not to go with her and instead to stay behind with his friend and fight off zombies.
Then it cuts to the future, and it says ‘A few months later.’ Then you find out through context that his wife died at some point. And I don’t know if that’s actually what happens in the game, or if it just skipped ahead story stuff for me for the demo.
Maddy: For all we know, later in the game she’ll still be alive.
Kirk: Or she’ll be a zombie. She’ll come back, and he’ll become a zombie. And then it’ll be a “zombie biker” game.
Maddy: She’s a zombie queen.
Jason: The mission you play in the open world, you actually go to her grave... So that’s the thing, I’m intrigued to see where the story’s going. And the performances are really good. I like the main character a lot, even though he’s this typical gruff triple-A white dude biker.
Maddy: It’s Booker DeWitt.
Kirk: Is it Troy Baker? Who plays him?
Jason: I don’t think so. His name is Deacon St. Claire. [Note: It’s actually Deacon St. John.] Which again, is just a triple-A video game name... And he has a biker buddy. One of the first missions I did was tracking down this dude, and he had a bounty on him. I remember there’s this super-cinematic scene where you get him, you knock him down, and he’s like, ‘Kill me.’
He wants to be finished off before the zombies come and tear him apart. There’s this dramatic moment where you don’t know if Deacon is going to shoot him or not, and I was really hoping you’d get the choice, because it’s a video game. But no he just shoots him and it’s like aw.
The cinematics are well done. The shooting is not great from what I’ve seen so far—the reticle aiming is very weird and soft and imprecise. I got into a shootout with a few dudes at one point and it was very typical cover-shooting, it didn’t feel great to shoot people. Almost like an old Uncharted.
Maddy: Is it over the shoulder?
Jason: Yeah, it’s all third-person. Driving around the world is pretty cool, it’s really gorgeous. You get all these grey skies. It’s set in the Pacific Northwest, so it’s very much that kind of game.
Kirk: I like that my backyard has become the new cool default setting for video games. Only because it is a beautiful setting. It’s really gorgeous looking, and you get a lot of nice weather effects to use your HDR lighting or whatever, as the sun comes through the clouds.