Days Gone is a title I’ve had my eyes on for a little while now. Ever since the success of The Last Of Us, I think many gamers have realized just how brilliant single player games can be when they’re driven by interesting characters and emotional stories. Days Gone drops you into the shoes of Deacon St. John, and it definitely presents itself as one of those experiences judging by their initial launch trailers, and that’s the first thing that really got me interested in the game. Having seen bits and pieces of gameplay I was anxious to get my hands on the game, and as soon as I saw the post-apocalyptic styled booth at Insomnia, I knew I’d have to get in there and try the game out.
The booth offered about 20 stations at which people could play the game. Players had roughly 20 minutes to play the game, and had a selection of two demo levels to choose from. The first level involved a search-type mission, with a small amount of Freakers (infected humans), many buildings to search, and an introduction to some human characters. The second level involved dealing with a massive Freaker horde, this time with access to heavy armaments such as grenades, gas canisters, automatic machine guns and more. I chose to play the search-type demo first, leaving the horde level last, and whilst I did not get to complete the horde level, I spoke to many other players who had chosen to play that level first. So, lets take a first look at Days Gone.
Days Gone‘s Gameplay is quite simple at the core, offering a variety of combat options, along with a looting aspect similar to The Last of Us, though you are able to collect some interesting items such as batteries, sanitizer, rags, oil canisters for firearm suppressors and more.
The actual combat itself is relentless. Whilst there is a big focus on stealth as an option, once you’re caught by the freakers, you’ll know about it. Shaking off a pursuing enemy is difficult, as they will constantly hunt you down, and this mentality only continues to become even more fearsome when you’re unlucky enough to draw the attention of a horde. Freakers are absolutely bloodthirsty and will come straight for you if you’re not discreet enough. Another type of freaker that the demo showed off were smaller, almost child-like Freakers named Newts. These enemies shied away from combat, but always remained vigilant in an eerie kind of way, only ever choosing to attack if you attacked them first, were low on health, or encroached on their territory. It cannot be overstated how creepy it is to have infected and mutated children stood on a rooftop just watching you. Newts also attack relentlessly when they choose to, though due to their small frames, are much weaker.
In terms of looting, it seems like a decent resource balance. Items that you’d expect to be commonplace, such as rags, are easy to find. Firearm Suppressors can be crafted from oil canisters salvaged from cars, yet items like Sanitizer, a main component of making healing items, can be somewhat scarce. You can also find the healing items themselves, though they seem just as difficult to find as Sanitizer. Overall, looting seems very similar to The Last of Us, and whilst I do hate making that same comparison over and over again, TLOU was always highly praised for its balance of loot and how it affected the difficulty curve of the game, though we’ll have to wait for full release to see how this aspect is handled within the open world of Days Gone.
Unfortunately, the demo didn’t give much room to commandeer the motorbike that will be your main tool of traversal throughout the map, though overall handling seems pretty decent, allowing for skill-based aspects such as dodging and weaving, gas conservation and keeping control of the bike in mid-air to ensure a safe landing from a height.
Another small note was that the controls were slightly cumbersome at first. The best way I can reference this is similar to the control scheme of, well, The Last of Us (last comparison, I promise). It might just be a “me” sort of thing, but when I first started playing The Last of Us, I found the controls slightly cumbersome or clunky, but within half an hour or so, I had grasped the controls properly and its a control scheme that quickly became natural and one I’ll probably never forget in terms of muscle memory. Days Gone feels much the same, and within the 20 minutes of demo time we had, it was already starting to feel fluid and natural.
GRAPHICS, SOUND & PERFORMANCE
Unfortunately, the exact technical specifics of the machines Days Gone was being run on weren’t available. The consoles were hidden from plain sight to aid in keeping the atmosphere at the booth, and information on the technical specifications of the screens used and resolutions chosen were not available. Therefore, I’m going to be assuming the game was being played on a PS4 Pro, with the settings of 60fps at close to 4k. I’m taking this assumption from a variety of other games I saw at Insomnia that were played at these settings, though this cannot be confirmed to be accurate.
Actual graphical quality in Days Gone was very good. The game looked visually impressive with a brilliant atmosphere, aided by a pretty decent sound design that adds to the atmosphere. Freakers look grotesque and shriek as they give chase. Fire and explosions also add to the atmosphere with great lighting effects illuminating the dark, though they do have their downsides, which I’ll get to in a moment. My only really issue with the graphics themselves were a few low detail textures, and some slight graphical inconsistencies within cutscenes. My main example of this would be a scene in which a character’s arm is burnt by a blowtorch. Not only does the burnt flesh texture look fairly low detail, but it also did not seem to correctly update with the position of the victim’s arm. However, this is a very minor graphical gripe and doesn’t negatively affect the game in any tangible way. If these graphical glitches were on a larger scale then it could be an issue, though there was no evidence of anything of the sort during the demo. Given the game’s various delays, I would assume that base level graphical glitches like this have been cleaned up for release, and only a few smaller ones might remain.
However, the performance of the game itself was not great. My main problem with bringing this up is, as I said earlier, it was never made clear what sort of technical specifications the game was running on, which is why I make the following statements solely in terms of the demo I played, and as statements that I hope don’t ring true in the final product. During the i64 Demo, performance wasn’t the best. It felt like the game was trying to run at 60fps, but only managed around 40 – 45fps on an average. During the search-type mission I played, the performance was noticeable but not a huge issue. However, when I spoke to a few people that chose to play the horde level, the resounding opinion on performance was that fire and explosions had the potential to tank the game’s FPS count, dropping it extremely low. Personally, I’m hoping that this is more of an issue with an older version of the demo, and I have enough faith to think that these sort of issues will be cleared up in time for launch, or at the very worst, fixed shortly afterwards in a patch. Solely within the demo, performance was something of an issue, but graphical fidelity and sound design were pretty great.
Days Gone is a game I’ve had my eye on for a while, and I was definitely excited to playtest the demo at Insomnia 64. I feel that the demo was a decent example of the sort of gameplay you can expect in the full release, though I feel like the game relying heavily on characters and an emotional story isn’t something you can really show too well within a demo setting, and I think that aspect is what will truly define Days Gone as the great game it could be.
Overall, I’m giving this preview a 7/10. Sony presented the demo well at i64, and getting some playtime with the core mechanics gave me a decent taste of what I can expect in the full game, and I have high hopes that on release, Days Gone will live up to the hype it has built up.