I Lost My Wife To Zombies In ‘Days Gone’ And I Miss Her
Racing through the landscape of upcoming survival game Days Gone, I wondered why nobody had built a post-apocalyptic video game around motorcycles before.
They just make sense. Unlike cumbersome cars, a motorcycle allows you to nimbly maneuver around abandoned vehicles on unmaintained roads. You can divert off-road if things get too dicey. Your tasty limbs may be exposed, but nobody can eat you if they can’t catch you, and you just have to be faster than the fools in cars.
It therefore follows that, in a post-apocalyptic scenario, a good number of survivors would be bikies.
In Days Gone you play as bikie Deacon St John, AKA Deke. A mysterious disease has transformed millions of people into mindless, cannibalistic creatures called “Freakers”, while violent human factions such as the cult-like Rippers roam the landscape. Deke has thus turned to bounty hunting in order to survive in the two years since civilisation crumbled.
This is a pretty bad situation in itself. However, during my three-hour preview of Days Gone, it was clear that the downfall of society as we knew it wasn’t the cause of Deke’s deep-seated melancholy. It was that, in the early days of the pandemic, he lost his much-loved wife Sarah.
I’m not typically a big fan of the “gruff white guy motivated by beautiful dead wife, too good for this world, too pure” trope, but Days Gone does it well. Tattooed plant biologist Sarah is fleshed out via flashbacks, and you get the feeling she is fully capable of taking care of herself. Both she and Deke have strong, independent personalities that compliment rather than rely on each other, and like Deke, you really wish she was still around.
Days Gone works to imbue the whole world with the same grounded characterisation found in Deke and Sarah. The people in the world of Days Gone remain tied to who they were before the pandemic in a way that lets you see who they might have been. Few people threw away who they were – they merely adapted.
Rather than the generalised view of post-apocalyptic humanity that we so often see, my time with Days Gone focused specifically on how this particular demographic in this particular area survived. I’ve never been to Oregon and I’m not involved in bikie culture, so I can’t speak to the accuracy of either’s portrayal. However, the characters do feel like people you might recognise from a roadside rest stop.
Ammunition in the world of Days Gone has to be used conservatively, as there isn’t much of it around. Unfortunately, melee fighting without a weapon felt incredibly ineffectual, which was disappointing to me, a notorious face puncher.
Though melee weapons deal a good bit of damage, they break fairly quickly, leaving Deke with only his default boot knife – AKA the bluntest butter knife in the world. Often I found myself frustrated as I hacked away at an enemy for an eternity, while their friends quickly surrounded me. If you’re down to a boot knife and stealth isn’t possible, your best option is just to run.
Fortunately, depending upon your point of view, I did find that sometimes Freakers were less situationally aware than I’d expected. I was able to navigate an overrun petrol station largely undetected, crouch-running through the open parking lot between loitering Swarmers.
There was little reason the Freakers wouldn’t have noticed and made a quick meal of me, but I appreciated it. It also let me crouch-run up behind them and deliver a stealthy boot knife to the neck. One of the best feelings in video games it executing a stealth kill, and I’m happy to say that Days Gone continues the tradition.
The most notable bump I encountered during my preview were the transitions between cut scene and gameplay, which often wouldn’t line up. For example, in one instance I was soundly winning a fistfight, only to suddenly find myself losing badly in a cut scene. While necessary for narrative purposes, if my assailants were more aggressive they could have thrashed me and made the transition a bit more coherent.
One or two brief cut scenes also felt unnecessary, and simply interrupted gameplay where a voiceover would have sufficed. Overall, it felt like it could do with just a tiny bit more polish.
Even so, I was engaged enough by Days Gone‘s setting, characters and story that I didn’t mind these relatively minor irritations, and I had fun sneaking up and one-shotting Freakers.
I’m looking forward to spending more time with Days Gone. I want to know where the story will take me, and there are Freaker nests to burn out, a bike to upgrade, and people to help across various settlements. And, if I’m optimistic, hopefully a wife to find.
Days Gone will be released on PlayStation 4 on April 26.