I’m looking over at the pause screen for Days Gone right now and it says “758 DAYS GONE” which I think is very cool. It’s a running tally that tracks just how long you’ve spent in the zombie infested wilderness of Oregon. I’ve been playing it as much as I can every day since it came out and even now as I write this I am hungry to pick the controller back up. Open World game fatigue is certainly a real thing, and I don’t begrudge anyone who’s tired of running all over hell's half acre ticking of boxes. Days Gone has its hooks in me though and I wanted to share a few of the things I think make it stand out.
Any open world game needs a good way to get around and Days Gone gives you a motorcycle to accomplish the task. It controls great and tearing around all the muddy back roads is a blast. Fast travel is an option but I find myself driving most places because it’s fun and the scenery is incredible. As someone who grew up in the Pacific Northwest I can tell you that Sony Bend has absolutely nailed the look and feel of this area. It turns out our oppressive rain and constant dreariness makes the perfect setting for a horror game!
You’re bike needs love while you’re out adventuring which is another of the systems I really like in Days Gone. You’ll need to manage your gasoline and the overall maintenance of your back as it takes damage. Being out in the wilderness surrounded by zombies with an empty gas tank is a scary feeling. Thankfully gas is not impossible to find in the world and in my experience it’s perfectly balanced in terms of its scarcity. I’ve started coasting down hills to save fuel and rolled into a few towns on fumes before dying right at the gas station. I’ve also had some wild nights where my objective stops being whatever mission I’m currently on and becomes “FIND GAS DON'T DIE!”
Killing things is hard in Days Gone. Ammo is very scarce and shooting a gun and a twitching freak is no guarantee you’ll hit it. As you progress you’ll get to invest skill points in the styles of fighting you like most. You can make yourself a beast with ranged weapons or a melee zombie threshing machine. No matter how you do it, killing stuff starts out pretty difficult and gets easier. Stealth is almost always an option but there’s an arsenal of craftable weapons, traps, explosives and other goodies that make going in loud and pissed just as fun.
There’s a bunch of other small stuff to love about this game. The radial inventory system that allows you to select and craft gear from one simple pop up menu. The voice acting sells the character of Deacon incredibly well and I love how he talks to himself in that “barely keeping it together” sort of way. The way quests are organize by overarching story line makes it very easy to track your progress and jump between objectives without losing the plot. The story is well told and acted through various cut scenes. I totally believe the relationship between Deacon and Sarah which is honestly something I don’t even need in my fun zombie killing game but is great all the same.
Deacon St. John (if you could not tell from the name) is a video game protagonist and his solution for most problems is violence. In much the same way that Sonic the Hedgehog is designed to Go Fast, Deacon is designed from the ground up to kill zombies. Every so often he pushes a car so he can get up on a ledge but this guy isn’t solving the Davinci Code out here and neither are you. This is a game about killing shit in fun ways. If you’re hoping to see the metamorphosis of a broken man whose circumstances have driven him to the edge of insanity, grapple with the morality of this new hell that he finds himself in only to discover at the end of it all that the real enemy was not the zombies but his own unexplored thirst for violence, and that a true victory over the monsters would actually be the thoughtful rebuilding of a society based on sharing and kindness, and the game would end with Deacon becoming a kindergarten teacher/ brick maker in a communal paradise.… this is not that game. In this game you attach saw blades to the ends of baseball bats and get shit done.