Days Gone takes on the open-world zombie genre in a way that had a lot of potential, but unfortunately didn't deliver to the standards of a usual PlayStation 4 exclusive. Playing as the game's protagonist, Deacon St. John, the journey of survival and healing was one filled with bikes, booze, and good 'ol fashioned murder. Unfortunately, it wasn't a knock-out hit - but it was "fine."
The setting of the game starts out as many of the same genre do: trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. After the opening scene where Deacon makes a choice between his wife and his best friend, the catastrophic events that followed set the pace for the overall narrative - a story that held high potential, but ultimately fell flat due to lack of direction, forced conclusions, and odd design choices for the characters and how they react within this "Freakers"-ridden world.
One thing I did love about Days Gone is the protagonist. When Bend Studio first marketed the game, I wasn't too excited about playing as a seemingly red-neck biker looking to shoot the shit. When I dove into the title, however, my opinion quickly changed. His gentle nature paired with his unwavering loyalty is frankly adorable. I immediately felt charmed by him as a character, even if it was a bit trope-y as far as the "I'm a leader but don't call me a leader" direction.
Deacon's relationship with his bed friend Boozer was also a charming addition, the ultimate "bros before hoes" mantra following the conclusion of the opening sequence added a level of bonding that makes you feel like there's more at stake than just yourself. Both he and Boozer were battle-worn, built to survive - and they never lost that sense of camaraderie in a world where loyalty is a fickle thing.
His bike was also more fun than I thought it would be given how much I absolutely suck at driving games. The motorcycle plays a very key role in the game and its progression and adds a level of realism to the game that I felt was absolutely imperative to offsetting the more mundane aspects of the title. The riding aspect of Days Gone was perfect, one aspect that the studio knocked out of the park - just not enough to distract from the other issues the game faces. Not to mention its fragility added to that feeling of realism, forcing players to pay attention to how they care for the bike throughout the massive open-world.
The overall story felt very convoluted. There was a point but not 'A Point', if that makes sense. There wasn't anything about it that truly set it apart from any of the hundreds of zombie games out there, which is something that the studio was very adamant about during the initial marketing push for the title.
Progression was way off. The story stumbled, the cutscene-to-gameplay flow was nonexistent, and honestly - a lot of the in-game choices just didn't make a lick of sense to me as a player. There's one scene in particular where the church where Deacon and his now-deceased wife got married in was vandalized. Once the problem itself was cleared, he just straight up nuked the church into oblivion to stop anyone else from hurting it again. The "if I can't have it, nobody can" felt way off a character and just didn't feel believable and the emotional pull was just left dangling awkwardly.
It felt like the entire story was built up for these epic, brutal moments but the studio only took them to about 70%. None of the conclusions felt earned, none of the victories felt won, and none of the losses felt real. For a game as massive as this (40-60 hours), the authenticity is necessary otherwise the quests in-game feel monotonous, tedious, and just repetitious.
On the note of unfulfilled potential - the Freakers (zombies, remember?) aren't the only enemy. Humans show their dark side as well, as to be expected and very much in-line with The Walking Dead, though again - nothing about them stood out either other than the scaring in their skin. It was a carbon copy of every stereotypical bad guy and just replicated throughout the game in terms of character interaction, dialogue, and combat. No risk, no reward, and it did a lot to dampen the genuine nature of Deacon as a character and his own growth that never reached its peak.
The gameplay for Days Gone is a mix of stealth-oriented missions, all-out gunfights, and a few fetch quests. One of the missions in particular that relied on stealth had to do with snooping an organization that was researching what led to the Freaker outbreak, which then splintered off into a few smaller eavesdropping objectives. It was tedious, but most of these types of missions are, but it did provide a little much-needed bulk to the story.
When not shooting off that fire-arm, there are a few melee options available to Deacon and that part I have to say was really satisfying. My playstyle is I love to go in and do some major damage and the melee aspect of Days Gone was so in-your-face, so bloody, that I usually just opted for that route when in combat to shake things up a bit. Tossing in a Molotov every once in a while too was delightfully fun and an easy way to clear out hordes and obstacles that players will eventually face.
Overall, Days Gone felt alright. It wasn't great, it wasn't even good at times, but was saved by select charm found in Deacon as a character, the bike mechanics that offered total immersion in the open-world, and the few moments within the story that offered something of value outside of the traditional zombie trope.
It's a decent game, one worth trying out and one that hides a few secrets for those willing to find them, but it seemed to be shipped in pre-pubescent stage, never truly reaching its fully-grown potential.
Our Rating: 6/10