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Days Gone

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Bend Studio
Release Date: April 26, 2019


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PS4 Preview - 'Days Gone'

by Thomas Wilde on June 16, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Days Gone is an open-world action game set in the high-desert of the Pacific Northwest two years after a mysterious global pandemic has decimated the world, killing most but transforming millions into mindless, feral creatures.

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Days Gone has been pushed back repeatedly over the course of its development process, until a trailer at last year's E3 represented a sign of life. That trailer — where the protagonist, biker Deacon St. John, barely managed to stay one step ahead of a nearly endless flood of running, infected not-zombies — convinced a lot of viewers that Days Gone would be a lot like Valve's Left 4 Dead.

There's a different side of the game being shown at E3 2017, though, behind closed doors at Sony's booth. The overall impression I came away with is that Days Gone has a little bit of a lot of things in it. It's an open-world, survival-focused, action/stealth game with some crafting, some room for creative problem-solving, and a living and dynamic world that changes without your input. It's also one of those postapocalyptic games where, by the time you're done, you'll have become a statistically significant cause of death in the lawless wastelands of the zombie-infested Pacific Northwest.

The development studio for Days Gone is in Bend, Oregon, and they've designed the game to take place in what's basically their backyard: a place with widely varied terrain and where the weather changes on a dime. In-game, the same holds true, to the point where the current time of day and the inclement weather can affect what does and does not happen as you explore.

The example they used was part of the scenario in the demo. Deacon is forced to set out to rescue his buddy from a camp of bandits, who have holed up in the wilderness near a local settlement. It's daytime out, with a light snowfall, which influences what he'll run into and what tactics he can use. In the version of the same scenario shown at Sony's E3 press conference, it was a clear day out, which meant the woods had infected wolves to deal with along with the usual bandits and zombies; this would have given a player the option of using the wolves to distract or deal with the bandits. With the snow, the wolves have cleared out, which forced Deacon to go in alone.

In the demo, he'd also unlocked an upgrade that gave him an ability the developers called "survival vision," which highlighted traps in red in his field of vision, as well as gave him ghostly afterimages of what must have happened to create the marks he saw on the ground; someone abducted his friend and dragged him in a certain way. By moving quietly, Deacon got the drop on the bandits' advance camp and was able to decoy one into a bush where he ran into a bear trap Deacon had set; when that bandit wouldn't stop screaming, his friends were forced to shoot him to shut him up. By that point, Deacon had snuck into their camp, stolen the materials to make a Molotov, and used it to take out the remaining bandits. The lone survival got a woodsman's ax to the temple, and that was that.

When they reached the bandits' main camp, an alarm hadn't been raised, and it was time to survey the perimeter with Deacon's binoculars. You can mark distant targets to highlight them in your UI in Days Gone, and use a crossbow with crafted bolts to take out guards silently. Once things go loud, Deacon also has access to a slowdown move, like bullet time, to let him land precise hits; he used it at one point during the demo to take out a guy with his backup pistol.

The end of the demo came when, after rescuing his buddy, Deacon ended up face-to-face with what appeared to be an infected grizzly bear, wrapped in barbed wire and roaring angrily. I can only assume the next sequence is a panicked, screaming escape.

You may get the idea there. The scenario presented for Days Gone was changed by the weather but also contained a pick-a-mix bag of features that have been implemented successfully in many other recent games. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, and it seemed like a smooth, common-sense combination of useful features, but I wasn't able to take the game for a test run myself and see how it controlled.

I did end up nominating the game for a Best of E3 award because it hits a lot of my particular favorite beats in a game: the option to go into a situation with pure stealth, a post-apocalypse zombie scenario, being able to decoy enemies into traps, and turning one group of enemies against another. (I'm willing to put up with having to drive everywhere in a motorcycle while scrounging for food and potentially having to fix it up after it's damaged. Nothing is perfect in life.) For a game that seemed like it had quietly disappeared not too long ago, that's a winning group of features, and I look forward to Days Gone strictly on the basis of potentially turning Deacon St. John into the leader of an anti-zombie bear army.

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