Around 10 hours in Days Gone, you’re thrown in a hunting manual with nothing. The over-the-top character takes you out with a gun and shows you how to track a deer, although you’ve already had a deer tracking manual. You’ll then be instructed to get more meat for you and your mate as you run out of supplies, something you’ll never have to do again. You don’t cook or eat either; you can only donate meat to camps around the card to earn the least amount of trust and money with them. This is our Days Gone Review.
Days Gone Review: About
- Platform: PlayStation 4
- Developer: SIE Bend Studio
- Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Release Date: 26 April 2019
- Genre: Action-adventure, Open-World
Days Gone: Trailer
Days Gone Review: Gameplay
Like many things in Days Gone, the hunt only exists to be there, an idea that is picked up and then left at random. Unlike hunting, some of those ideas are even good at the moment. But most aspects of Days Gone don’t make sense. The many storylines flirt with meaningful and exciting, but never fully committed, with characters whose actions and motivations do not make sense. Riding a staged motorcycle around the world and eliminating zombie nests and hordes is satisfying in the way open-world checklists are often filled in, but at the end, you wonder what the point of all this was.
The first act of the game – about 20 hours or so – sets quite a few narrative arches. Two years after the first “Freaker” outbreak, biker buddies Deacon St. John and Boozer have become drifters who do strange things for nearby surviving camps and usually keep to themselves. Deacon’s wife, Sarah, was stabbed at the beginning of the outbreak; Deacon put her on a government helicopter on her way to a refugee camp so she could get medical help, but when he and Boozer arrived, the camp was overrun by Freaks, and Sarah had died.
The bike is central to everything you do and during my Days Gone review. To get somewhere, even by traveling fast, you’ll need your bike, and if you want to save up while you’re in the world, you’d better be wrong. Getting off your bike is a way of both your entrance and exit; you must stop far enough away from enemies, so they don’t get any idea of you coming. And also, you need to be able to run to your bike quickly when things go south, and you need to escape.
And as you sneak past Freakers to loot things like bandages and ammunition, you’ll also have to look for a gas bottle and some scrap to keep your bike in top shape – if it breaks down or runs out of petrol, you’re screwed. That said, gas and other loots do regenerate when you leave and return to a location, so you’ll never be short of anything as long as you take the time to look for it.
In the beginning, you do work for two camps: Copeland’s conspiracy-theoretical stronghold and Tucker’s infernal forced labor camp. Copeland’s has a mechanic who can upgrade your bike, while Tucker’s has a well-stocked arms dealer. Your starter motor gets about a mile a gallon, and you can’t store a gas cylinder on your bike or person, so you’ll either have to return to a camp to refuel or continuously search for gas cylinders in Freaker territory. This makes wandering and doing things in the open world difficult at first, so you do a lot of disposable missions to start the two camps.
Many of these early missions involve bounty hunts for biscuits and rescue work where you go to a place, follow someone with your seemingly psychic Survival Vision to mark footprints and other clues, and then kill several bandits or Freakers. Some of these need you to take the target alive. If you happen to run out of gasoline or ammunition, or if your bike is already weak and breaks down after a few bumpy turns, you’ll have to do these missions yourself and start again.
But if you upgrade your bike a little, the world opens up. You’re no longer tied to low gas miles and a weak arsenal, but you can go further out and more conveniently tackle the enemy-controlled areas around the map. Unlocking the map and neutralizing enemies is satisfying in the way that clearing clutter is little by little, and you can see your work pay off in the upgrades of your bike. However, there’s a slight variation between each ambush camp and the infestation zone, and they’re repeated early – especially since Deacon dries and whines about the nests that smell terrible with each one of them.
The real motivation to do all this is twofold. Early in the game, Deacon’s best friend Boozer is attacked by a group of Rippers, a cult of doom with some bizarre rituals. The Rippers put a tattoo on Boozer’s arm and leave him with third-degree burns, so Deacon’s goal in life is to keep Boozer alive and healthy. This usually involves finding sterile bandages and the one mission where you collect meat for him.
There have been some flashbacks to Deacon’s relationship with Sarah before the outbreak, reinforced by his hope that she is still alive. They’re mostly clumsy cutscenes interspersed with short stretches of slow walking, while Sarah and Deacon talk about surface-level topics, and they never give a convincing reason why they’re together. Deacon is a biker, and Sarah is a scientist, which is fine, but “pulling opposites” isn’t enough to make their relationship coercive.
It’s romantic that Deacon hasn’t given up on Sarah, but the main advantage of the flashbacks is that they are physically attracted to each other, and Deacon doesn’t talk about his feelings. As you learn more about NERO and the Freakers, you’ll be introduced to new, more powerful Freaks, including a berserker and an all-female version that screams to attract more Freaks your way. They don’t so much create new challenges as delay, and they feel like a palliative to get you into the game for the first hurdle-based mission around 40 hours.
That first horde mission is exciting: running around tight spaces and Molotovs to keep the horde away from you, eventually taking out hundreds of Freakers, is a well-deserved victory. But that mission is quickly followed by another, and after a short break, you’ll have two more almost back-to-back hurdle-missions that lead to the end of the main story. Without any breathing space, the hordes are tiring to deal with, and you’ll probably have to stop everything to loot and rebuild your supply of resources after each mission so that you can move on.
Days Gone Review: Conclusion
I did a lot of things in Days Gone review. I burned every Freaker’s nest; I cleaned up every ambush camp; I made the most of my bike; I took a few optional hurdles just because. Just like Deacon with Sarah, I kept going because I was hoping to find something, to follow a thread to a possibly fascinating or satisfying or impactful conclusion. But at the end of all this, all I got was leftovers.
Days Gone is an open-world action-adventure game where you play as Deacon St. John, a Drifter and bounty hunter who would rather risk the dangers of the broken road than live in one of the "safe" wilderness camps.