PlayStation’s first-party freaker-fragger is a bit rough around the edges but has a lot going for it.
I was dropped an hour into Days Gone’s post-apocalyptic survival world. I started in a camp/safezone with my motorcycle and a very limited quantity of ammo for my pistol and assault rifle (and sadly, no bolts for my crossbow). The freakers (don’t call ‘em zombies!) were a danger anywhere outside of the camp’s walls, and here I was, with a few tasks on my ledger, free to do whatever I pleased.
A tap on the bottom quadrant of the DualShock 4’s touchpad brings up hero Deacon St. John’s skill menu. You can upgrade yourself just like you can anything else in one of three categories: melee, ranged, and survival. Sadly my 20-minute hands-on didn’t allow me much time to plumb the depths of any of them, but I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into each tree in the final version (which isn’t out until 2019, by the way).
Systems abound, everywhere around you. Your motorcycle must be maintained — I found that out the hard way when I rode a bit too recklessly through a tunnel whose road was littered with car corpses; every errant whack dinged 20% of my bike’s condition. It also requires gasoline, which I managed to stumble on in a gas station.
Anyway, I ventured out into the woods-y hellscape, baseball bat in hand and motorcycle in tow. An ally at camp needed clean bandages to help heal a wound, and so I’d volunteered to run the errand. I found an abandoned medical pop-up, if you will — a portable building which, when I finally gained access, contained a clean room and a lab. The electronic doors were locked though, naturally, so I needed to power up the generator to get them juiced and unlocked.
And yes, that meant activating the generator which — you guessed it! — was out of gasoline. It turned out that a filled gas canister was conveniently placed on the back of a nearby tow truck, but I’d managed to miss it like an idiot for a while. I’m going to blame that on the freakers distracting me. They’re hardly cannon fodder — at least not this early in the game — and as such it was best to try and sneak up on them to take them out quietly rather than rush in, guns blazing. A tap of the triangle button when you’re at close range from behind them triggers an execution-via-stabbing sequence that I’m quite certain I’ll never get sick of no matter how much I time I spend playing Days Gone.
Like many open-world games, almost everything can be looted and used to upgrade or craft items. The wealth of options this should provide as the campaign goes on ought to allow for some fun and interesting strategies. For instance, I always enjoy stealth wherever possible, so I have no doubt I’ll be able to pump a lot of skill points into my melee tree and tailor my weapons accordingly.
Days Gone has more systems to interact with than Naughty Dog’s more character-driven PS3 classic.
My final activity provided a good example of how gameplay variety should be effectively baked into Days Gone. I arrived at the Cascade Radio Tower Ambush Camp, tasked with eliminating all 11 human occupants. On my first approach, I brought my bike a bit too close and they all heard me and swarmed, killing me before I could take more than a few of them out. On a retry, I parked the motorcycle farther away and snuck around the perimeter, strategically targeting what order to try and take everyone out in — starting with the laser-target-using sniper perched atop a building overlooking the camp. Mantling up there via a dumpster worked just as intended, though I managed to get spotted and killed once again before completely eradicating the occupants of the camp.
Don’t expect Days Gone to be a forgiving run-and-gun romp, based on what I played. I also wouldn’t expect it to release with the obvious framerate difficulties it had in my build. Sony’s track record suggests that Days Gone will be nicely cleaned and polished when it does ship, but nevertheless the strained framerate both at the camp and at points out in the open world does bear mentioning — and monitoring — between now and release. It does feel like a cousin to The Last of Us in both setting and story, though it’s seemingly not as narrative-focused. But it also has more systems to interact with than Naughty Dog’s more character-driven PS3 classic, so I’m looking forward to seeing exactly what identity Days Gone ends up crafting for itself.
Ryan McCaffrey is IGN’s Executive Editor of Previews and Xbox Guru-in-Chief. Follow him on Twitter at @DMC_Ryan, catch him on Unlocked, and drop-ship him Taylor Ham sandwiches from New Jersey whenever possible.