Days Gone Hands-On Preview: An Unforgiving Post-Apocalyptic Game

Sony Bend Studio's Days Gone is one of the PlayStation 4's most-anticipated games - and for good reason. It's the first new IP in almost 20 years from the studio that made Syphon Filter and it promises a harrowing, post-apocalyptic adventure filled to the brim with freakers (the game's version of zombies) that will challenge even the most skilled gamers. At its core, Days Gone aims to establish gritty take on the survival genre for it's unlike any other post-apocalyptic game, mostly because its world is truly post-apocalyptic. That's where the game shines - and it shines brightly, at times - but overall, it might be a slow burn with little payoff in the end, which may not be worth the effort for some players.

It's difficult to gauge an entire game from a two-mission demo that starts off about an hour into the story - especially a demo that doesn't reveal any spoilers, according to Sony Bend's studio director, and has players running what are essentially supply runs for the encampment - but there's certainly enough to see that, outside of the central story, there will be some repetition that could evolve into an annoyance over time. Borrowing elements from other post-apocalyptic titles have put Days Gone in a predicament of being compared to those games, namely The Last of Us, with gamers looking for ways in which this game stands out from the pack. Those differentiating factors revolve around the main character Deacon, his trusty motorcycle, and the surrounding world that's more like a World War Z version of The Road than anything else.

Related: Stop Comparing Sony's Days Gone to The Last of Us

In Days Gone, players essentially take control of two players: Deacon and his motorcycle. The bike is almost entirely upgradable and requires upkeeping in order to journey throughout the world; that means anything from upgrading its durability to searching for gasoline at abandoned, gas stations, power plants, or even randomly in the forest. Sure, players can ride other peoples' motorcycles (which weren't available in the demo), but don't expect the upgrades to transfer over. What's interesting is that players can also attack from the motorcycle - using a bat or shooting a gun - but the mechanics were wonky enough to make it a less than desirable option, with the only exception being if players were chasing someone. Sadly, the gameplay itself is rather bare and lacks intuition, but that may be fine if players are looking for a general experience that's set in a new world, one that's comparable to the size and scope of Horizon: Zero Dawn. While fighting bandits and freakers head-on may seem simple, which it certainly can be, an appealing factor of Days Gone is that the game can be approached from a stealth perspective, though that doesn't mean players don't have to kill something and/or someone at times.

Days Gone

As for the story, given the time constraints, we opted to explore the world and complete a side mission requiring Deacon obtain supplies from an abandoned NERO (the in-game's version of  FEMA) facility. Finding a way to get inside the lab while avoiding being killed by freakers isn't as difficult as one might imagine - and it can be more of a nuisance when trying to complete an objective - but once inside, the game switches genres and feels horror-esque, which is arguably how Days Gone should feel at times. Shortly after entering the facility, multiple freakers come after Deacon all at once - and that's where the game starts to hit its stride, when players are faced with an overwhelming swarm of freakers. It becomes less about fighting and more about survival.

Everything from the 30-minute Days Gone demo shows lots of promise - from the real-world inspirations to random survivor encounters, to even the hordes of freakers that are supposed to show up later in the game - but if players aren't interested in another zombie-filled world that feels all too familiar, though still has some unique aspects to it that are far in-between, then there may be a layer of disappointment that overshadows the overall experience. But, it's worth noting that the post-apocalyptic world Sony Bend has built for Days Gone is unforgiving. It's by far the most tormenting of all the post-apocalyptic games (at least those that have released this generation), for the studio wants players to take on the story as if it were really about survival - and, in that regard, they deserve commendation. After all, it's not just about the freakers attacking Deacon, it's also about the bandits, the animals (like the wolves), and the world itself.

Days Gone doesn't release until 2019, so the studio clearly has plenty of time to fine-tune the technical aspects of the game. However, the alpha build demo that was recently made available to press isn't exactly a great showcase of Days Gone's technical abilities. There were constant frame-rate drops (even while riding the motorcycle in a straight line without any freakers on-screen) and drift lag, especially with regards to melee combat. But, again, this was an alpha demo so there were bound to be some glitches. Hopefully, that's all squared away when the game hits store shelves sometime next year.

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Days Gone releases on the PS4 in 2019.

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