As with a lot of games, I'm pretty late to the...uh...game...with this one. I have a habit of sleeping on games everyone else is playing, only to discover it myself years later. Part of this is borne of my inability (or lack-of-desire?) to spend $80-$100 on a game at launch. I tend to wait until it's gone through a few patch cycles and price drops before I push that "Buy Now" button. Sure, the FOMO is real when I'm watching my friends all enjoy this game while I sit around playing games which they enjoyed years prior, but hey, who's spending $80, and who's spending $40 on that same game, huh?
Anyways, this was supposed to be a review of the game, and not me arguing for frugality with regards to buying console games.
So, I knew absolutely NOTHING about this game when it came out, other than the fact that a package/marketing display designer friend of mine did all the in-store displays for the game, and that it had something to do with motorcycles. Once in a while, I like having experiences like that; where I go into a game completely blind. It helps me enjoy the game for what it is, without any prior bias due to prior hearsay from friends/peers.
Having said all that, here's the actual review, finally.
In Days Gone, you play as one Deacon St. John: Drifter, former outlaw biker, and former member of the Mongrels MC. The game opens up on a calamitous scene wherein Deacon, his best friend (and fellow MC member) William "Boozer" Grey, and Deacon's wife, Sarah, are attempting to escape the small town of Farewell, Oregon (the game is set in the Oregonian wilderness) as it is being overrun by the "28 Days Later"-Esque, zombie-like Freaks. I'll try not to spoil too much, but Sarah's the only one to escape, being loaded onto a NERO (National Emergency Response Organization, the game's FEMA-Esque shadowy government organization which may or may not have had a hand in creating the Freaks) chopper, while Deacon and Boozer are left behind to survive on their own.
Fast-forward two years, and we find Deek and Boozer eking out a life as bounty hunters and
Zombie Freak exterminators for survivalist camps in the Oregonian wilderness. Sarah is nowhere to be found, and her ultimate fate is left more-or-less unknown, with the Biker Boys having assumed the worst. Trouble eventually comes Deek and Boozer's way when they end up crossing paths with the self-scarification-obsessed death cult known as the Rippers while routinely attempting to clear out a small, abandoned hamlet that became overrun with Freaks.
For the most part, the gameplay mechanics are pretty solid, and not too exotic: Kill things, get loot, earn XP, level up, upgrade your gear, yadda yadda. Where you might get tripped up, is the monetary system.
In the game, you have various survival camps for whom you end up doing odd jobs, along with a good number of quests (main or otherwise). By doing the quests, you gradually increase your reputation with each camp and additionally earning "Camp Credits", which evidently is the monetary system of post-apocalyptic Oregon. But here's the hitch: your Camp Credits are only good within the camp you earned them; they are otherwise non-transferrable.
This might seem annoying, and it kinda can be at times, but the game provides a pretty valid reason: Each camp seems to function as its own ersatz nation-state, and it seems relations between camps are icy at best, and lethally adversarial at worst. And here you are, stuck right in the middle of each of them; try not to step on any toes, GLHF!
The game places some amount of risk on your shoulders in the form of gasoline as a resource; you really don't wanna be caught out in the middle of the night with a bike that's out of gas, especially if a wandering horde of Freaks happens to be passing through.
Having said that, the risk of running out of fuel or dealing with an inoperable bike is typically not that great, as there are plenty of locations across the map wherein you can find abandoned (but somehow mysteriously still functional) gas stations or errant jerry cans of gasoline lying discarded on the side of the road, and as long as you collect enough scrap, repairing your bike if it gets damaged typically isn't too much of a hassle.
The only other real head-scratcher with regards to game mechanics is sleeping. Sleep in-game seems to serve no useful purpose other than to advance time, which honestly seems unnecessary given that if you end up at a quest location where the time of day is a prerequisite, the game just advances time for you anyways. I suppose you can still use beds as a save point, but I personally found it more convenient to quicksave while standing next to your bike (incidentally, the game offers two options for quicksaving: a bed, or your bike).
Generally, the controls in the game are alright. Though quickly switching weapons can get a little clunky if you're standing too close to certain items or pickups. The alternative is to use the game's "Survival Wheel" which, honestly, you'll be making use of a fair bit anyways to craft in-game items such as bandages, as well as for adding mods like silencers to guns, nails to boards and baseball bats, and for use in repairing melee weapons as they become damaged. And not to worry, if you have to use the survival wheel in the middle of a pitched battle against Freaks, Rippers, and the like, the game will slow down time while the wheel is active, to give you a chance to do what you need to.
The only other sticking point I have with regards to the controls are the sequences in which you have to fire your weapon at someone (or someTHING) while riding your bike. Maybe it's just how I personally grip the controller, but I found myself having to do some Advanced Finger Yoga (TM) to keep myself from veering off in all directions, and firing wildly at nothing in particular. I could feel my eyes start to cross as my brain struggled to make sense of the awkwardness of these sequences. Easily my least favourite part about this game.
Honestly, pretty solid. Everyone in the cast turns out a decent performance...except...well, except the odd time where Deacon (voiced by genre actor Sam Witwer) apropos of nothing sounds like he's had too much caffeine. It seems to happen in moments where Deacon is idly talking to himself (which happens more often than you'd think...he's a bit of a chatterbox). It's stilted and unnatural, and kinda takes me out of the game a little whenever it happens. Aside from that one sticking point, however, like the rest of the cast, Witwer turns in a more than competent performance.
Mostly okay, but there are definitely some glitches, at least on the PS4 versions. Textures don't always render fully. Makes me wonder how good this would look on PS5 (If I can ever get my hands on one...)
Again, pretty solid. I've not quite finished the game yet, so I can't even comment on the ending, but so far, it's incredibly engaging. I don't wanna spoil too much, but there are definitely some unexpected twists in the story thus far. I'll probably update this post once I've finished, and flesh out (apologies for the bad Zombie humour) this section a little.
UPDATE 06-17-2021: Holy crap does this game ever have a lot of false endings. Just when you think the story is going to resolve itself finally, there's another twist. It seems like the game plays out in a three-act story arc. And by the looks of things, I'm on the final arc now.
On the whole, I'd give this game a solid 7/10. Decent story, decent characters, reasonably difficult, but suffering from a couple of quality-of-life issues which don't necessarily drag the game down entirely, but do hinder the experience ever-so-slightly. If you have ever found yourself asking what might happen if The Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy had a baby, Days Gone is exactly that. Bikes,
Zombies Freaks, and survival in the wilds of Oregon. Definitely worth a playthrough, but I don't see myself picking it back up again once I've finished it.