E3 can have its moments where a developer showcases their project, and it happens to be nothing like the product shown. Days Gone happens to be that title. This was my most anticipated game for 2019, and I have been let down by this miserable experience with a cookie cutter open world game that has little to no substance.
The world has become overrun by an infection that turns people into zombies, sorry, BendStudio has coined the term “Freakers.” Deacon and his biker club buddy William “Boozer” plan on heading up North for a fresh start away from other people and the Freaker infestation, along the way they get sidetracked and must prepare for a more extended amount of time than initially planned. This sets them on a path of conflict with rival factions and having to work with allies to survive. On top of that, Deacon has an unbearable journey to find out what happened to his wife that takes far too long to get to the point.
The narrative stumbles every step of the way with overly dramatic moments with characters that nobody playing will know right away or have objectives that waste time. The game starts off with a long-winded cut scene that does not make any impact because everyone has had zero time to develop, but I guess drama needs to happen at some point, so let us jump head first into the chaos. Instead of a 30 or so hour campaign, this should be cut in half due to the amount of filler and overabundant amount of plot points.
Transitions between cutscenes to gameplay are rough. The editing does not feel seamless, and loading screens appear for no apparent reason. Sometimes in the middle of a scene, a loading screen will appear to disrupt the flow of what is happening. Most of the loading does not take a long time, but on some occasions, a long wait must be endured.
The personalities are abundant and feel like individuals without feeling cluttered with too many people to interact with. Sadly, nobody is that compelling, especially the protagonist. Deacon is an illogical man who is way too inconsistent and contradictory with his actions and words. Sam Witwer who plays Deacon overacts too often, and the rest of the cast have their acting issues but are much more stable in delivering their lines. Some of the acting problems could occur from poor writing and possibly just as poor directing since some people yell or speak softly at the wrong moments. If freakers are nearby and Deacon says everyone needs to stay quiet, then he is the one who ends up screaming always.
The tone feels like a day time soap opera with its overly dramatic beats that never stop. Even the music feels out of place by being too over the top or giving weird vibes in areas that should not have any music.
Much of the gameplay relies on riding a motorcycle to get around the vast environment. The bike is fun to drift with, but riding feels off with the bike’s physics and mobility.
The bike is like another character who is your child that needs taking care of at all times. Finding fuel or parts repair the bike to keep the engine running. Getting upgrades feels worthwhile, but any cosmetics purchased will feel like a waste of resources.
Deacon can get new abilities by three skill trees or finding a shot that injects him with either better health, stamina, or survival vision. The skills varied from melee, ranged, and survival. New attributes significantly turn the tables when situations get difficult. Out of everything done in Days Gone, upgrading the protagonist is one that is not ruined.
Combat can either be ranged or melee. The guns have a weight that feels nice to shoot, especially some of the heavier weapons like shotguns. Using melee may come in handy, but it is painful to use. Trying to guide Deacon with the left analog stick and smash R2 to hit any Freaker or crazed survivor is unnecessarily clunky with some terrible animations.
Enemies can be taken down using stealth. Just like most other games, hiding behind tall bushes and other methods of staying out of sight might seem generic, but it works well. Going around with a silent weapon or takedowns will bring anyone down immediately. The only issue runs into the inconsistently moronic AI who either cannot spot you even if you are crouched directly in front of them or they spot you instantly, but this won’t be the only issue with the dumb foes you will meet in this world.
To spot materials for crafting or other supplies, you can use your survival vision. Think of every other game post-Assassin’s Creed, and that is what you get. A magical sight that highlights what you need for objectives or survival. The overly used mechanic goes away too quickly unless you take your time to find upgrades, but that will take up many hours to get this ability to become efficient.
In the beginning, the world feels full of interactive items and mechanics that can make for an exciting survival experience. After a few hours, everything starts to show its true colors with how repetitive every task and obstacle is out in this North Pacific landscape.
Activities from doing jobs for camp members, clearing out infestations, and other side tasks have their rewards, but everything is a slow burn to gain much out of these optional objectives. Camps build trust levels to unlock new gear, but that takes a lot of time to build and then you need credits which can be earned by completing missions or turning in items that these bases can use.
Enemies have plenty of different types from various humans with varying levels of armor or weaponry to the kinds of freakers that are waiting to eat your flesh. The diversity does not get utilized well with new freakers getting introduced out of nowhere and feeling forced rather than an organic evolution of tougher threats. Other survivors wanting to kill Deacon take too many bullets to die unless they are shot in the head. I understand if an undead creature takes a lot of bullets, but a regular dude with no shirt should not take that much damage to kill.
Weather and time of day make a huge difference in anyone’s ability to see or hear Deacon while also radically changing the behavior of the living and infected. Snow and rain storms come in and out naturally while changing the look of the environment in refreshing ways.
Visually, Oregon looked pretty in this post-apocalyptic scenery. Nothing took my breath away with the graphics, but it did ease some of the misery down a notch.
Completing the story has some endgame objectives for other conclusions to people’s individual stories while still having room to complete any side activities that were missed. The post-game gives an extra boost in playability, sadly any urge I have has been beaten out due to this wretched journey.
Technical issues here do not generally ruin the experience, but make it that much more painful to play through. Sometimes the game would slow down, not significant frame drops, but enough to be noticeable especially on a PS4 PRO. The most consistent issue comes from lip and audio syncing. Eventually, every cutscene became people’s mouths moving then the dialog coming in later.
Audio comes in at many different levels. Sometimes characters sound too loud or too quiet when they are talking normally. This along with Deacon’s need to comment on everything happening makes it impossible to hear what anyone is saying without subtitles, a requirement to understand what is happening in this occasionally incoherent narrative.
PlayStation had a ride of successfully compelling singleplayer titles, and this is their biggest dud of the current generation. Full of uninspiring ideas from the bland collectibles, dull story, and inconsistent animations. Days Gone fails its premise that was shown during E3 all those years ago and goes beyond with its painful narrative with the worst protagonist I have had to play in recent memory.
If you do want to buy Days Gone to support the blog or are curious enough to try it for yourself then you can do so below: