I’ve been looking forward to Days Gone on PS4 since it was shown off at E3 2016. As with any ambitious title I’ve also been a little nervous about how the final game would turn out. Originally scheduled for a February 2019 release, the game was delayed for extra polish and finally released on 26th April.
A play through of the campaign is expected to take at least 30 hours. While I’m still working towards my full review I thought I’d jot down my first impressions after my first 2-3 hours with the game.
This article contains some spoilers from the first couple of hours with the game. If you prefer to avoid spoilers then please stop reading now.
Players take the role of a man named Deacon St. John who is described as a drifter and bounty hunter. The game begins after a mystery virus has spread turning infected humans into violent zombies known as Freakers. With little explanation as to what’s going on Deacon begins with his wife Sarah and his friend Boozer. They manage to get to an evacuation chopper but someone needs to be left behind as there’s not enough room for all of them. Sarah has been stabbed so Deacon put her on the chopper. The also injured Boozer tells Deacon to go with Sarah but instead he decides to stay and help Boozer and tells Sarah he’ll find her later.
Watch the Days Gone gameplay launch trailer below:
The game begins properly, two years later, where you find Deacon and Boozer both survived. They come across a bit like Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) from The Walking Dead – both motorcycle riders and skilled with weapons. Boozer favours his shotgun while Deacon can use pretty much anything he gets his hands on. Early in the game I spent time borrowing Boozers shotgun, then later a mix of found melee weapons, a pistol, rifle and crossbow. Melee weapons I’ve tried include a knife, a 2×4 piece of wood, a baseball bat and hatchet. Melee weapons have a durability so you need to keep that in mind before taking enemies on.
Early in the game, Deacon damaged his bike so with the help of Boozer I went to raid a garage for spare parts. The problem was that the garage was surrounded by Freakers. Boozer used his bike to distract some of the undead while I went in on foot to investigate. This is an open world game and the areas are large. How you tackle things is up to you. You can run in guns blazing but will soon run out of ammo. For this mission I opted to try a more stealthy approach.
It’s possible to creep around and by staying crouched you make less noise. A click of the right stick briefly activates ‘Survival Vision’ which lets you see things of interest. These include footprints when you’re tracking someone and the location of items you can collect or objects you can interact with. When you’re going for stealth, the gameplay takes a slow pace. Here you’re scavenging around for useful items while trying not to be seen.
Some items are lying around, while others might be in cupboards or inside car boots or bonnets. Opening these requires holding a button while Deacon gains access, often using his hunting knife. At times you’ll find the thing you want to investigate is surrounded by Freakers. You have a variety of options such as waiting for them to move, attacking them head on or taking them down stealthily. Stealth takedowns are preferred because shooting alerts nearby Freakers. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by just a small group so you need your wits about you.
One thing that’s been added to Freakers over traditional zombies is that they like to nest. These nests can be taken out with Molotov Cocktails which you can craft using bottles, kerosene and rags. When you do hit a nest, you’ll often find the nesting Freakers will run out to attack you. Another type of Freaker I met early on are called Newts. These appear to be infected children and they mostly stay out of your way. However, if you move into their territory or threaten them they will also attack.
The game holds your hand a certain amount, pointing you in the direction of your next objectives. It does pay to save the game when you can and quicksaves can be performed when near your bike. One mission I had to drive to a particular location and took a wrong turn from the suggested path. Without warning I was knocked off my motorbike by a rather angry wolf. I emptied my sidearm clip into it but didn’t kill it and found myself wrestling with it for my life. After throwing it off I got to my feet but was soon set upon by an additional two wolves and swiftly met my end.
My first couple of hours with the game have been enjoyable as I’ve found my feet and got to grips with everything. I like the survival focus and how the game forces me to scavenge and craft to survive. Similarly you have to take care of your bike as crashing it causes damaged that then needs repairs. Your bike is essential to getting around quickly so you soon learn to be cautious. Your bike also requires fuel so you need to be mindful of what is in the tank and always on the lookout for more. Another feature that impacts the gameplay is the time of day as there are more Freakers around at night.
I’m enjoying taking my time to look around and scope out areas with binoculars from afar. It’s possible to tag enemies when using the binoculars which really helps keep tabs on the nearby dangers. So far the Freakers haven’t posed too much of a challenge (I’m playing on Normal but there are also Easy and Hard difficulties). I haven’t yet come up against a Freaker herd which look to be far more dangerous to survive. The wildlife I’ve met so far seems very hostile and then there’s a faction called Reapers which look like they’ve arrived from Mad Max.
Overall my early impressions of Days Gone are very positive. It looks and sounds great with brilliant characters, environments and voice work. So far it feels like there’s plenty to do but I’m hoping the game manages to keep things fresh and interesting with variety as I progress. There’s also a fantastic camera mode to play with.
EF Games will be bringing you a full Days Gone review in the near future.