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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 Redmond Carolipio on June 29, 2018 @ 1:00 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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At this point, I feel like we know as much about Days Gone as we can possibly know without actually playing it at home. I remember seeing it in a theater demo during last year's E3, an experience that built upon the trailers and video I watched in the year before that.

The appeal has been there for me since announcement day. Bend Studios is assembling a third-person, action-survival zombiefest with some brains (but not braaaaaaains) and heavy doses of fear and consequence. It's a little "Walking Dead," a little "Sons of Anarchy," a dash of "I Am Legend" and a chunk of "World War Z" run-for-your-life ethos. However, instead of wondering what other kind of postapocalyptic zombie gravitas could be packed into this game, there are still some questions as to how it would actually play, and some of those questions were answered during our hands-on time at Sony during E3 2018.

You're in the boots of biker-turned-bounty-hunter Deacon St. John, whose goal is simply to survive as a drifter in a world where disease has wiped out most of humanity. Left behind are the "Freakers," which are the feral zombie-like creatures you've seen running around in the trailers, along with infected animals as well as the perpetual hazard of other surviving humans.

The first half of our demo was a side mission, where Deacon and one of his surviving biker buddies, Boozer, arrive at a small, abandoned not-quite-a-town area to find some replacement parts for Deacon's bike, which is out of commission. Of course, it's rife with freakers. Boozer rides loudly through the town to draw away the freakers from the area, leaving Deacon relatively free to make his way to the abandoned garage, where there will hopefully be some usable bike parts. There's only a scattered few freakers left behind (mostly the creepy, child versions called Newts), giving players ample opportunity to pick the best approach.

If you've played The Last of Us, then you'll already have a feel on how Deacon works. I got an immediate sense of the game's tone of action — meaning, I could go in guns blazing, but it's probably a bad, bad idea. I played it safe and used the stealth elements, crouch-walking through abandoned structures while stealth-killing newts and more grown-up freakers, only switching to a shotgun when things got hairy. Using the gun, however, made me wince, and for good reason, according to the demo's overseer.

It turns out that the more noise you make, the more of a chance you have to attract The Horde, which can be as horrible as it sounds. The Horde is a giant mass of freakers that can wash through the area like a flood of death. They'll run after you and pursue you until you find a way to ward them off, shake them or perhaps even eliminate them. According to Bend, they can also be used strategically to flush out areas filled with the unfriendly kind of survivors — like cultists who worship the freakers. More on them later.

I got to mess around a little with the weapon crafting system, which is essential when you realize the melee weapons are perishable with use. You'll have to scrounge through areas and pick up scraps and materials to improve, strengthen or replace what you have. I went to guns, however, when I encountered the end of the mission, where some crazed cultists (are there any other kind in video games?) have cornered Boozer and have taken to blowtorching his arm. Deacon gives them shotgun body treatments, and he and an injured Boozer ride off.

The demo then switches to a taste of a Horde mission, where the mass of seemingly 100 zombies are churning and growling in a large pit, with a few dug-in trails leaking out. A fat red meter that signals the overall strength of the horde lies at the top of the screen, and the area is littered with exploding barrels, fuel trucks, trucks full of logs and other potential traps. For the demo, Deacon carries a full pack of death-dealing gear, which includes grenades, Molotov cocktails, proximity mines and a heavy machine gun.

The objective is simple: Eliminate the horde by any means necessary. You have time to set up your traps and obstacles, and you can mentally plan your route when the horde starts chasing you. When it's time to roll, you can "wake up" the horde by chucking a grenade into it, firing at it — whatever you think would attract the attention of a ravenous army of running zombies.

I did not execute this well. The Horde generally flows like water when chasing you, leaking around cracks and circumventing structures and routes in unexpected ways, which can blow up any plans you may have had of a linear route of death traps. The people who have defeated the Horde have their traps spread out and have less of a "route" and more of a general, reactionary plan that required them to be aware of where they had set up all their stuff in the area. They were also ready to run like hell, create some space and mow down pieces of the Horde with machine gun fire when necessary. Eventually, if you whittle down the Horde enough, you can run around and finish off the stragglers.

The thing I worry about regarding this aspect of Days Gone is whether or not this will become an essential and dangerously formulaic part of the main story, meaning that every few missions, like clockwork, you'll have to take down a horde to progress. That could turn this fun exercise into a chore, which would dampen what could otherwise be a visually stunning and very clean and promising title. There's more than enough here, however, to be excited about exploring what Bend has built when the game arrives in February 2019.

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