2019 seems to have seen a rebirth, somewhat, of the zombie genre of games and, too be honest, we’re loving it!
Following on from the brilliant World War Z, Playstation owners have been treated to Days Gone, an open-world zombie apocalypse style game which sees you taking on more hoards of undead while trying to survive for as long as possible.
Ok, technically the “freakers” in Days Gone aren’t undead, they’re actually infected humans who have mutated, but you can be forgiven for not realising this as they seem to fit all of the zombie stereotypes with their shuffling around and incessant groaning, but this is only a minor detail and it actually doesn’t affect anything.
So, now we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on to the game.
The opening cutscenes show you in a world that is already halfway to hell. You hear screams bellowing through a small town in Oregon and people are frantically running as they’re trying to escape from the feral herds of Freakers. Hazmat cladded emergency response units are there telling people that they need to evacuate.
Amid the chaos, you’re introduced to Deacon St. John, a veteran and local biker gang member. He secures his wife a seat on the helicopter and then decides to travel with other gang members to a nearby refugee camp and, instead of finding survivors, you find more Freakers and a downed helicopter.
The intro to the game reminded me of The Last of Us, where you see all the world go to hell and then you’re left trying to help Joel and his daughter escape the ensuing madness, however, the opening scenes of a downed helicopter and presumed dead wife lacked the emotional whirlwind that was sparked inside of me when Joel was left cradling his dead daughter.
Once the madness has subsided, we see Deacon and his friend “Boozer” working as “Drifters”. Basically, this involves them doing mercenary work and odd jobs for the surviving community. While it sounds like a simple, idyllic life, it’s not, especially when you consider that the world has been taken over by Freakers and cults.
This is where the game really takes off.
The missions see you travelling across gorgeous scenery in the post-apocalyptic Oregon on your trusty motorbike as you’re hunting down bounties, recruiting survivors and destroying entire camps of Raiders.
By completing the missions, you’re earning trust in the communities and this helps you to unlock better gear which is satisfyingly rewarding.
While some of the tasks and challenges do feel a bit rinse and repeat, the game wins when it comes to fighting the hoards of Freakers.
The game allows you to fight using your own play style, whether you’re a steal kind of player, or if you prefer to just run in gung-ho, the mechanics make both styles easy and enjoyable. This gives you the freedom to stake out areas, plan your attacks, snipe some enemies from afar and then just ignore everything and run in with your shotgun and let loose hell on the Freaker scum.
While the game might sound like it’s the same old, it also features some surprise elements such as elaborate traps which are set up by the campers and other communities which provides unique and interesting challenges along each path that you decide to go.
It’s not an easy open-world shooter either. The game creates tension by ensuring that ammo is scare and it also limits the amount of ammo that you can carry at any one time. Think you can just melee your way through the game? Think again. Melee weapons and add ons – such as silencers – degrade over time which means that you have to carefully plan each attack and decide whether or not it’s worth swinging your weapon or just fleeing the scene and preserving your weapons.
You can also craft weapons, such as molotov cocktails, flashbangs, and mines but, in order to do this you need to get equipment and in order to do that you need to earn the trust of the camps and that makes it important to continually work through the missions, no matter how many times it feels like you’ve played them.
It’s not just the weapons and ammo which are scarce either. Travelling from place to place requires you to stock up on fuel for your motorbike which means looking out for scattered fuel pumps and gas cans. Running out of fuel means that you’re on foot for the rest of the distance and this creates more tension, especially when you consider that there are many things out there which are hoping to make you dead.
One of the downsides is that the game tries to create an atmosphere when the Freakers around around by using music and audio, which does work well as the undead sounds are disgusting and the sharp musical score does, at the start at least, make you stop in your tracks for a quick underwear change before taking on the hoard. The downside with this is that audio provides more of a clue that danger is approaching and it alerts you to the presence of the heard before you actually see them. This takes away the element of the surprise and it means that you don’t need to worry about a hoard sneaking up on you and this makes you feel freer running around with the knowledge that if the music isn’t playing, you’re relatively safe.
However, the game tries to combat this. When you hear the music playing and you’re alerted to the presence of a herd, it doesn’t stop them from hearing your movements and you alerting them of your presence. This means that you can’t run around with total freedom that if you hear the music you can just stop, instead you need to be a bit careful when you’re sprinting around otherwise you could find yourself unloading bullets into to stop them from getting you.
As you progress through the game and you start to build trust with the different communities, your weapons will also upgrade as well and this helps you to defeat enemies quicker while also making it easier to play the game how you want to play it. By giving you better options in the weapons that you can take with you, the game is basically saying that you can be stealth or gung-ho, just choose the weapons to match your style.
Crafting traps becomes more essential as well because it helps you to take out more Freakers and this means that you can effectively thin out a hoard by planting mines, leading them towards where they’re planted and then watch as the mine takes them out for you while also saving you ammo in the process.
All in all, Days Gone is like a mixture of The Last of us and State of Decay and, while I won’t say that it’s as good as The Last of Us, it’s a great game with epic gameplay moments which makes it thoroughly enjoyable and you can easily pump hours into the game without realising where the time went. The quests do become repetitive but the rewards for completing them outweigh the negative aspects.
The graphics are simple stunning and you’ll find yourself in moments where you’re lost and in awe of the beautiful landscape before being dragged kicking and screaming back to earth looking at grotesque faces and listening to eerie music which can drag you from enjoying an overgrown Oregon to running for your life in a moments notice.
While the biggest drawback will be the offline only, it’s not a deal-breaker. The offline game is fun and enjoyable so you won’t really notice that you’re not mixing it up with other people online although having an online multiplayer or team co-op would have been a nice touch, once you’re immersed in the game, it’s not something that you will pay much attention to.
With the release of the brilliant World War Z, released another zombie title a few weeks later could be seen as a challenge, but it’s one that Days Gone has risen to and they manage to deliver a fantastic title which is set to rival World War Z and maybe even The Last of Us.
Do you have any opinions of the game? Let us know in the comments below.