Game review: Days Gone (PC)
The last couple of years have seen three of Sony’s much-lauded PlayStation exclusives transition to PC. Hideo Kijima’s weird walking simulator, Death Stranding was the first, closely followed by the post-apocalyptic action RPG, Horizon Zero Dawn. Days Gone is the third game to get a PC makeover.
As Days Gone starts it is strange to see the PlayStation Studios animated logo appear on a PC monitor, with its distinctive chime- a throwback to the original PlayStation console. If this is the shape of things to come, I welcome revisiting the likes of the Uncharted games, God of War, and The Last of Us franchise on PC.
On its original release, Days Gone was not as critically acclaimed as it should have been. I believe this was down to a lot of early reviews being written by reviewers that did not play the game in its entirety. Many reviews were notable in their omission of key components of the game that occur a considerable time into the proceedings. These lacklustre write-ups likely contributed to the game’s less than stellar reception. Post-lunch, the game has been rediscovered and appreciated by a legion of new players obtained the game as part of their PlayStation Plus subscription.
Days Gone follows Deacon St. John, a man with the most on-the-nose name for a member of an outlaw motorcycle club. Deacon, or Deek to his friends, is the former enforcer of the Mongrels Motorcycle club, a 1%er outfit of the type that will be familiar to fans of the Sons of Anarchy TV show.
A one-line pitch stating that Days Gone is a cross between The Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy wouldn’t be far off. The only difference is that Deacon St. John, unlike Walking Dead’s Darryl Dixon and SAMCRO’s Jax Teller, is less of a bad boy with a good heart and more of the sort of thug you’d actually find as an outlaw motorcycle gang’s enforcer. Romantic softies may have an issue with this, but may take some solace in Deeks “code”.
The game starts in the chaos of the initial outbreak, very similar to the beginning of The Last of Us. As Deacon, his wife, Sarah, and best friend, Boozer, try to escape Sarah is injured. With only two places left on a NERO (National Emergency Response Organization) rescue helicopter, Deacon opts to put Sarah on the chopper but stay with the injured Boozer.
Deacon is played superbly by the very talented Sam Witwer (The Force Awakens, The Clone Wars, Solo). His dialogue and mutterings flesh out the tortured former US Army veteran grieving for his missing wife.
Two years later, Deek and Boozer are a couple of drifters doing what they can to survive in a world devastated by the Freaker (i.e. zombie) outbreak taking mercenary jobs for the local settlements. Deek believes his wife to be dead.
The world of Days Gone is a dangerous place. Freakers lurk everywhere and attack on sight. In Days Gone, they are crazed infected humans (a la 28 Days Later) and not undead creatures. They are mostly found in small packs, but also, occasionally in massive, overwhelming groups. There are a variety of different types of Freakers, some more dangerous than others.
Violent human gangs of marauders have set up ambushes on many roads. These hillybilly marauders often guard camps with valuable items. The self-scarified cult members of the rippers worship the Freakers and have virtually given up on their humanity. They are dangerous and unpredictable and set up a major plot point at the beginning of the game.
On occasion, Deek will come across NERO scientists investigating the Freakers. They are guarded by soldiers that will arrest Deacon if spotted.
Deacon can travel with up to three guns: a pistol, a rifle, and a special weapon. His trusty boot knife is his fallback, good for stealth attacks and melee if there no alternative. Melee combat is best carried out using lumps of wood or axes found in the world. Melee items wear out, usually shattering amid a battle with a group of Freakers.
With all the enemies, the best way to deal with them is to sneak about from cover to cover and in the undergrowth. Days Gone handles itself quite well as a stealth game, suitably punishing players for utilising gung-ho tactics.
The game world is a massive representation of the post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest, opening up even more about halfway through. I think this is what threw a lot of those early PlayStation 4 reviewers. Just as you think the game is concluding, it almost acts as its own sequel, propelling the story in another direction.
Unlike many open-world games, Days Gone feeds missions to players at a slow rate, this makes for a linear experience if you are focusing on completion rather than the side activities. The missions are split up into storylines that are interwoven as the game progresses.
The game has a large supporting cast of allies and acquaintances, some benevolent and some with agendas of their own. Most missions start at one of the many settlements in the game, with tasks ranging from bounty hunting to offensive actions against enemies all the while with Deek trying to solve the mystery of what happened to his wife and what exactly NERO is doing.
Supplying items, such as herbs and meat, to settlement kitchens, earn credit and increases Deek’s standing. Similarly, turning in Freaker ears earns a bounty and also increases standing. The better Deeks reputation, the more items are available from the settlement vendors. The game invite players to collect items and trade them in at settlement as a nice side hustle.
If I had to fault the game it's that some of the side mission gameplay mechanics are very similar. The marauder's camps all have a cookie-cutter underground bunker and the Freaker nests are all dispatched in the same manner. Even so, the gameplay in Days Gone is still a lot of fun and a lot more diverse than the likes of Ubisoft’s (still excellent) Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed, and Ghost Recon games.
Deeks bike handles well and is fun to ride. The bike can be upgraded as Deek improves his standing at each of the settlements. The bike can also be damaged and needs to be repaired using scrap salvaged in the wild. The bike’s fuel gauge has to be watched and the tank filled up at one of the service stations dotted around the world or using fuel cans laying around. If you run out of fuel, the bike stops something that you do not want to happen in the middle of a load of Freakers.
The fast travel system takes into account the amount of fuel in Deek’s tank. So some locations will need to be reached via a settlement. Fast travel routes are also restricted by Freaker nests that need to be destroyed to open the fast travel route. Deek can still ride on past them, but the vast and dangerous distances are better traversed as quickly as possible. Freaker nests are dispatched with a throw of a Molotov.
The game looks great on the PS4 and looks even better on the PS5, but the PC version is the definitive version of the game. Whilst admittedly, I’m running the game on an Intel i9 10900K with a PNY RTX 3090 GPU, the game runs at a stonking 2560x1440 at 144 frames per second (my monitor’s max refresh). This makes the game butter smooth. Add in an increased render distance and ultra-widescreen support and you are in PC gaming heaven.
Days Gone is an intense ride. The story is great and the world interesting to explore. The bike is fun to ride and the combat slick and exciting. Deacon’s character, that of a very flawed drifter, may affect players hoping for a lovable rogue like Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead. Deek does what needs to be done. The Freakers and the human opponents are chilling and unnerving. The game does a good job of keeping players on their toes.
PC gamers should welcome this chance to play Days Gone, a very under-rated former PlayStation exclusive that now looks and plays better than ever.