Preview: Days Gone isn’t about a cure, it’s about survival

Running shoes at the ready.

by on July 7, 2016
 

Despite feeling like a bit of a weird thing to end on, especially after being revealed early in the show, Days Gone was one of the biggest and most exciting demos at the Sony press conference this year. The initial showing left a lot of questions but the longer gameplay demo shown at the end showed us a post apocalyptic world, where thousands of freakers will follow your every move if they spot you.

At E3, I stopped by Sony’s booth for a behind closed doors extended showing of the gameplay that we saw at the conference. Things started off exactly the same way — Deacon St. John, the playable character whose name is really Deacon St. John, got off his bike, grabbed some supplies from it, and proceeded to look for a man with another ridiculous name: Two Dog.

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While watching the hands-off gameplay demo we’d already seen sounds like a bit of a waste of time, it was actually a great way to analyse it closer. The first thing to note (evident from the first few seconds) is that Days Gone, much like God of War, looks incredible. We are finally starting to see what the PS4 is fully capable of, and it makes the rumoured of a PS4.5 seem somewhat unnecessary. As we run through the dilapidated barn, beams of light shoot through the gaps in the wood, in which you can see dust particles in the air. It was easily this small detail that impressed me the most in this demo.

Anyway, as we round the corner, we get our first extra tidbit of information. All of the zombie-like enemies in Days Gone are collectively known as freakers, but there are various types — all of which have different behaviours. Our first, albeit brief, encounter is with the Newt, a small creature that somewhat resembles Gollum off of Lord of the Rings. Alone, the Newt won’t pose much of a threat, but when in a group they can be deadly, and their speed makes them difficult to bring down.

As we move on, we find Two Dog, who decides it’s a grand idea to tackle us off a roof and then as we hit the floor we are at the mercy of the horde, the second type of freaker. The horde is a mass of thousands of individual freakers, they aren’t overly quick but the numbers pose a serious threat and killing them all is nigh on impossible. Your only choice is to run, and boy can you run.

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It’s worth noting that this was a fairly late game demo, or at least “not towards the beginning” I think were the exact words of our guide, so when Deacon unloads a ton of bullets into the horde, just remember that won’t be possible at all times. Back in the demo and Deacon is doing just that, run a few steps, shoot the hell out of them, run a few more steps while reloading, and continue to shoot the hell out of them.

Of course anyone who saw the demo knows that the running part is a key portion of Days Gone. As you run away from the horde, you can interact with conveniently placed environmental objects to block their path and hopefully take out a few of them. Doors, machinery, logs and sneaking into small gaps make up the majority of the obstacles we saw, each of which slowed down the horde for a few seconds. It was clear that this run, which was longer than the press conference one, was designed to stay close, but this will supposedly be the best way of escaping the horde. I just hope that it doesn’t become too regular, and that there are multiple routes that aren’t all as obvious as the demo showed.

During the chase there were a few times where the Horde got a little too close for comfort. Here, Deacon used an axe he picked up to take out a few of them, and at one point rammed one of the freakers face first into a giant circular saw. If Deacon is grabbed it starts a quick time event to break free — fail this and you’re dead.

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Gameplay wise, we only saw a few things that weren’t in the conference demo. At one point, Deacon planted some C4 on a massive stack of timber logs which he then blew up to crush the front runner of the horde. We also saw a few extra weapons, but other than that it wasn’t too much.

What we did learn came from the devs, and boy were they good at selling their game by just listing features. So freakers behave differently during the night and the day, standard stuff, but the randomised weather effects will also affect their behaviour, and weather will affect other gameplay elements such as the bikes handling. Most of the buildings in the world will be fully explorable, and while they declined to give a specific number they did hint that we could be looking at 90% or more. You can make bombs from air bags. One of the main tasks in the game is bounty hunting. Look, I could go on with things that sound amazing, but I won’t.

What I will end on is a fact that almost elicited a small cheer from myself when the developers mentioned it. This won’t all be about finding a cure. We have all played games in a post apocalyptic where you have to find a cure to save a loved one, and to be honest, I’m tired of it. Hell, even The Last of Us, one of the greatest games of all time, was about that and I disliked it for that reason. So to know that this will be a game where I can just live in a shitty world, hunting bounties, killing freakers and making bombs out of airbags makes me unbelievably happy.

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