Platforms: PlayStation 4
Release Date: April 26th, 2019.
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
Developer: Sony Bend
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Days Gone has been a long-awaited return to the console space for Sony Bend Studio, whose last console game was back on the PlayStation 2. There has been a lot of anticipation for this game, after its long development cycle, we finally have a chance to get our hands on this long-awaited title. The question remains, does it live up to the wait? Let’s get dive into it.
Days Gone has to be one of the most stunningly beautiful open world games that I have played since Horizon Zero Dawn. The sheer detail that is put into bringing the world to life is stunning. Every landscape feels expertly crafted and brings post-apocalyptic Oregon to life. The dynamic weather cycle adds a whole different level of immersion, as rain turns the landscape into a muddy mess, and snow will begin to accumulate as it snows in real time. These small details including amazing lifelike character model design really add a whole different level of immersion.
However, it feels like all these details came at a big cost. Through the early stages of the game, performance in terms of framerate and texture pop-ins were rare. However, the further you get in the game the more these technical issues begin to appear. After reaching the third camp in the story, I experienced consistent frame rate drops while riding the motorcycle that sometimes would even stop the frame completely and then teleport me forward which often led to collisions with objects and sometimes death. From characters not rendering properly, to audio syncing issues created a mountain of technical issues. With all the effort that was put into the fine details of this game, it is a shame that it was bogged down by so many issues.
The first thing that I want to talk about is how great of a character Deacon St. John turned out to be. In trailers, he felt boringly generic as a character that we have seen a hundred times in action games before. However, thanks to some great writing and amazing voice performance from Sam Witwer, Deacon comes across as a very complicated character. While many of the characters within the game are very forgettable, I feel it is important to note that Deacon’s relationships with Boozer and Rikki are giving us some of the best looks at Deacon’s inner workings.
The biggest problem that faced Days Gone was the story’s pacing. The first 10 hours of the game feels very dry, with missions feeling like nothing more than drive to point A kill a few enemies and return. However, about 15 hours into the game, the pace begins to pick up significantly and I found myself unable to put down my controller after this point. While some story missions fall flat, there are simply some scenes where so much passion and emotion comes out it feels like I am watching a top caliber show such as Breaking Bad, or Sons Of Anarchy. While the beginning is very slow, and borders on absurdly boring the back half of the game is a top caliber experience.
The first and most important part of the game that I want to talk about is driving the motorcycle, as its one of the most unique features of Days Gone. The motorcycle controls beautifully, while early on in the game it feels sluggish and slow. You will quickly find yourself with enough credits through doing missions for the various camps to upgrade your bike and it quickly becomes a joy to ride. While there is a fast travel option, the driving is so enjoyable I don’t think through my whole time playing the game did I ever end up using it more than a handful of times.
While many of the side activities are standard open world cliches, such as clearing out bandit and raider camps, finding collectibles and helping strangers. The most unique aspect of the open world in Days Gone is, of course, the hordes. Ever since the reveal of this game, many of us have been anticipating fighting these massive hordes of freakers who want nothing more than to eat you for lunch. There is no more rewarding feeling in Days Gone then killing a horde for the first time, it’s challenging, its anxiety-inducing its everything you expect it to be. Unfortunately, fighting hordes early on in the game aren’t practical as the game locks a lot of the gear you need to fight massive hordes behind loyalty levels within the different camps within the game. Meaning it can be anywhere from 15 to 20 hours before you get to tackle your first horde. Many of the larger hordes simply are manageable to take on without having several tiers of perks unlocked and high-level weapons and explosives unlocked. My criticism of this would be to spread the unlocks out a bit better and to start players on very small hordes early on and then as the gear and perks begin to scale then scale the hordes larger. Though I cannot lie, taking on massive hordes and mowing your way through them is one of the most enthralling moments in the game.
Days Gone Combat In Motion
— Nicholas Downie⌨🖱 (@undead3xvi) May 3, 2019
Combat feels very weighted, similar to Red Dead Redemption 2 in terms of both movement and aiming sensitivity. Deacon has the ability to use “focus” to slow down time which early on is very important for lining up headshots with the early weapons. Melee combat feels great as mowing down freakers with crafted weapons is just as much fun as wasting them away with the various firearms in the game. Putting skill points into either firearms or melee early on is very important to figure out which style of play you prefer. As you can rush your firearm skill tree and become a one-man army very quickly.
My one disappointment in terms of gameplay was the supposed “survival” aspects of the game. As a huge fan of survival games, in general, this aspect of the game very much excited me. However, the survival elements are very lax even on the hardest difficulty. I always found plenty of gas for my motorcycle, the ammo was very affordable and easy to come by once you did enough work for one of the camps. I never found myself short on crafting supplies unless I was using excessive amounts of molotovs to clean out freaker nests in which case I usually found myself having to scavenge for kerosene. Scrap to repair your bike is plentiful, and at no point did I find myself desperately searching for these resources. If the survival aspects of this game scared you off, then you should reconsider purchasing this game as they are very mild. However, if you are picking this game up expecting a resource management survival experience, definitely lower your expectations.
The weapon audio design of Days Gone is fantastic in terms of both melee weapons and firearms. Firearms sound like they pack a punch with the shotguns offering gut-punching sound, and there is no sound more rewarding than driving a baseball bat into a freakers head. The freakers themselves are another golden point in terms of sound design, as during the night time when freakers are more abundant hearing a screech from one while scavenging can make you do a quick 360 to see where it came from. The sheer wave of volume that can be projected from a massive horde can make your heart drop into your stomach instantly. The whole cast of Days Gone brings in great performances, and some of the scenes created are so raw and emotion filled it can hit you square in the chest. There are a few scenes that I can point to where my heart was in my throat as the voice acting in the game feels so real it’s hard to remember its a video game at some points. My only major gripe was audio drop out and lag, which could be remedied by exiting the game and restarting my PS4. While a minor inconvenience it is important to note that these audio issues happened over a half dozen times so it is important to make note of them.
While Days Gone does some things very well, and some things very poorly. There is huge potential for a sequel, it reminds me very much of the original Uncharted, while a good game on its own the sequel elevated it to masterpiece level. With a tighter focus on performance, and tightening up on the length of the game, I think Sony Bend could have a fantastic franchise on their hands. However, with its current bugs and glitches, I cannot recommend it at its current full price tag. Either wait for a sale or wait for more patches to fix the glaring performance issues.