Zombie games! In the days before remasters and remakes became the norm, zombie games were the flavor of the week. We got tons of them. Resident Evil, Dead Rising…the works. Gaming and zombies seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. These days they still show up every now and then, even if they aren’t as ubiquitous in times of yore. That’s how we ended up with PlayStation 4 exclusive Days Gone and World War Z released within a month of each other, and today we’re going to be talking about the former.
After a pandemic sweeps the country, one-percenter biker Deacon St. John and his friends and family are left to the mercy of the hordes of zomb–er, Freakers. Deacon lost his wife in the initial outbreak, but his pal Boozer’s still around, so that’s something, right? As a Drifter, a sort of mercenary vagrant-for-hire, Deacon wanders the post-apocalyptic world killing baddies, collecting goodies and helping camps as he discovers the mysteries of the outbreak and the loss of his wife.
It’s pretty typical post-Walking Dead zombie fare. Days Gone is fairly gritty and dark, and unlike many zombie games there’s more of a focus on resource management and survival. That doesn’t mean there’s nag meters like hunger or thirst – thankfully – but it does mean that ammo and supplies are more of a concern than you might expect. Deacon does best when he gets the jump on enemies and can take care of business while expending as little effort as possible. Drawn-out conflicts tend to waste a lot of supplies such that you won’t break even, so attrition is a thing and you need to play safely.
Days Gone has a lot in common with modern open-world adventures like Horizon: Zero Dawn and Red Dead Redemption 2. Deacon plays much like Arthur from the latter title; he’s fairly slow and ponderous, so actions have a lot of weight and commitment associated with them. Likewise, combat feels like it has consequences, as each bullet has a noticeable impact on enemies. Given that much of what you’ll be doing consists of fighting human foes and fleeing from infected Freakers and animals, it’s nice that the combat feels so good.
It’s a solid framework for the main gameplay loop, which consists of doing fetch and kill missions for the local survivor camps to build up trust and credits that you can then spend on gear, motorcycle upgrades – your bike is essentially your horse per RDR2, so you need to take care of it – and so on. There’s an overarching plot as well, which also tend to consists of fetch and kill missions with the odd escort and trail mission included. It’s nothing too groundbreaking, but there’s something to be said for a mass of content built on study fundamentals, and that’s what Days Gone has to offer. As a zombie game that plays a little more slowly and messily than most, it’s got a somewhat unique feel as well.
Naturally, as a AAA console exclusive title, Days Gone looks and plays absolutely fantastic on a PS4 Pro and passably on an OG PS4. I’d still rather be playing on PC, especially with the awkwardness associated with aiming ranged attacks on a controller, but if Sony insists on keeping this game to itself then at least it’s done as passably as possible. You’re coming into this one expecting a presentation masterpiece and, insofar as the aging PlayStation 4 can deliver it, that’s what you’re getting.
Days Gone doesn’t do much that similar other games don’t do. In a world where there’s a lot of different zombie killers competing for your time (and money) already, that might be something of a flaw. However, as an open-world zombie adventure with plenty to do, Days Gone respects your time and offers a nice chunk of fun for the price. It’s probably not going to top any Game of the Year lists, but there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had in its post-apocalyptic world regardless.