Retrospective Review: Days Gone

It’s been many days gone since Day’s Gone was released… ok bad pun. On PS5, it’s enhanced by unlocking the frame rate to 60fps, so what better time to revisit this biker cross zombie open-world shooter.

Days Gone tells the story of Deacon St. John, of a motorcycle gang. Come the apocalypse, Deacon and his friend, Boozer put Deacon’s wife on a chopper as people were evacuated, to ensure her safety while he stayed behind with Boozer. The game begins as Deacon mourns Sarah, unable to find her, with little news of where she was taken (since the location has since been overrun by undead).

Days Gone attempts to do many things, and it does them all at first, very slowly. It’s an open-world, third-person, action, stealth, zombie survival, combat adventure racing game. Travel is primarily on Deacon’s bike, which is tricky at first but can be upgraded at camps by trading in favours (side-quests) and Freaker parts (Freakers are what Days Gone calls zombies). 

There’s a levelling and upgrade system for the bike, for weapons, and for Deacon – his abilities split between things like the ability to forage, combat, and constitution (health, fatigue levels etc). The bike also needs fuel to run; if it runs out, you’ve got to go hunting for more. This is initially very annoying. Fast travel is possible but you firstly need enough fuel, and the ‘way’ to where you’re travelling needs to be clear from Freaker nests (you can clear these out by burning them down).

So there’s a lot to do. An overwhelming amount at first. And it’s slow going. Deacon is weak, the bike can’t hold much fuel and it’s slow uncovering parts of the map. Freakers are tough, and they’re fast. They are also deadly in large numbers (when I say large, in the early game being rushed by about 10 can kill you). To top it all off, there are NPCs in the wasteland of Oregon too, and they aren’t all friendly…

You quickly encounter the main antagonist faction, known as the Rippers. The Rippers are a Freaker worshipping cult, who take pride in cutting and scarring themselves and brutally killing others. It’s grim stuff and highlights Days Gone’s adult tone pretty early. There are others out there too just looking to survive and will kill you to do so, but similarly, you’ll come across folks just trying to survive and be glad of help – on rescuing them you can select which camp to send them to, bolstering your reputation with that camp, but you may decide to change this up depending on what’s available at each camp as well as your internal philosophy (I personally began to struggle to send people to what was effectively a forced labour camp).

After a while, it all sort of clicked for me. The world is quite stunning – and playing on PS5, the game runs flawlessly at 60 FPS (off the internal SSD) with fairly sharp load times, a massive improvement from when I first played it on PS4 and couldn’t quite get my teeth into it. The combat is probably the best thing about Days Gone, it’s weighty and brutal, and you can approach situations in a number of different ways. Stealth, guns blazing, traps luring people out and into things – for a biker, Deacon is pretty well equipped. 

Driving around, Deacon frequently checks in on his various contacts via a radio. Think GTA style, where your cousin keeps calling you up to go bowling, but the voice acting is absolutely superb, and the plot genuinely grabbed me – I found the majority of these to be interesting. There are a few moments where Deacon moves into a new ‘area’ of the map, noted by a longer drive, some dialogue and some incredibly stunning music choices.

They’re not all winners. Boozer, your biker buddy, is a bit of a whiner. He gets injured very early in the game, and the first part is really about making sure he’s ok, but boy does he milk it. In the end, I sort of wished the Rippers would just get him, which is horrible, but it all gets turned around, and the relationships between Deacon and the characters unravel, layers become clearer and it turns into a very nicely thought out piece. 

There’s quite a bit of variety throughout to keep you going in what is a very, very large game. Side-quests range from burning Freakers, chasing down looters, some investigation and tracking, rescuing people, freeing up scientific outposts. Forest land, dessert land, snowy hills are all here, and make for interesting combat terrain – collectables are in abundance too, never feeling over-the-top. The map does a good job of helping highlight these, with some puzzle elements often for you to figure out how to get to things. 

The world is so brilliantly crafted, it really did take some time for it all to sink in how good Days Gone is. I think middling to good reviews initially didn’t help, but the performance increase for PS5 is a really good reason to pick it up (or get back into it) especially as it’s free as part of the PS5 Plus Collection. Then there’s the big pull, the USP of Days Gone. The hordes.

The hordes are groups of Freaks, and they can range from a lot, to seemingly hundreds. You can sneak by them, but you can’t hope to fight them until a lot later in the game, and even then it’s always a challenge. As once one sees you, they run. And they run fast. As you see a horde, if it’s roaming you can let it be. You can wait till daytime where if it’s a cave horde, it may go in, and you may decide to use the cave bottlenecks to your advantage. Some of my best Days Gone (and filed into my ‘Memorable Gaming Moments’ folder) were approaching a big horde, laying down a series of traps, and then luring it through my maze of death whilst I turned and started attacking it with a light machine gun, only to see seemingly hundreds still left as I had to begin to improvise.

It’s possible to get open-world fatigue with games, and ‘another big game’ is sometimes just a bit of an ask, but I’d highly recommend Days Gone for PS5. Top tip though, play it off the internal SSD (rather than an external if that’s how you’re running PS4 games) as it can cause some texture pop-in problems. Internally though, it was perfect. I really hope there’s a sequel.

Reviewed on PS5

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