Sony Bend have been hidden from the public eye for years now, so I was personally excited at the chance to finally see what the in-house studio has been secretly cooking up for years at the Sony conference earlier in the week. Days Gone might have had a strangely lukewarm debut during the show, so you could say that I was at least looking for more reasons to be a little intrigued by the new PS4 exclusive after stepping into a room for an extended hands-off demo.
A demo which did a little more pushing away than reeling in.
Days Gone puts you in the shoes of Deacon, a former biker gang member turned bounty hunter in a world that is still adapting to a cataclysmic event that has changed the landscape of civilization globally. Bend don’t go into detail as to what happened, but it doesn’t take much to guess how normal, functioning society rapidly turned into mindless, hungry creatures they’re calling Freakers. Not zombies, Freakers. There’s a difference (or so we were told).
The demo itself veered only slightly from what was shown on stage at Sony’s conference, and the differences did a little to establish some of the different ways Deacon can deal with the seemingly endless horde of Freakers he finds himself suddenly in the middle of. The mindless horde is exactly that at the best of times, which allowed Deacon to shuffle their movements using the environment around him. Bringing down conveyor belts to block paths or simply ducking under low gaps to force a choke point, the freaker horde struggled to adapt to the more nimble movements of the protagonist, which gives you an edge in combat.
Sometimes though, Deacon won’t have the intricacies of building layouts at his disposal, which means weapons and gadgets are the next best thing. At one point he pulls out a previously crafted airbag mine (Deacon can basically make anything he wants from salvaged parts, like that pistol silencer from a car oil can), and attaches it to a nearby stack of felled logs. As the horde approached the mine detonated with great effect, sending countless enemies flying and the rest crushed under the weight of the shifting mass, and still more freakers pressed on.
It’s around this point where Days Gone started losing me a little, because there didn’t seem to be any real endgame in sight. Just like on stage, most of the demo time was spent showing different ways Deacon can deal with a admittedly impressive number of enemies, but it failed to really show why it’s even necessary. When you’re wasting hundreds upon hundreds of bullets on a force that seems to simply shrug it off, the meaning behind it gets muddier with each encounter. And by the end, which sees Deacon stranded atop a large metal storage drum and completely surrounded, it was hard to really see anything at all.
I’m inclined to think a lot of it comes down to Sony Bend just not wanting to reveal too much too soon. They offered up some small details about the game’s dynamic open world, and even more so on the bond Deacon has with his almost companion-like motorcycle (which doubles up as your only inventory too). But there was just so much about Days Gone that remained a mystery to its own detriment.
Deacon himself seems like a man without motivation beyond his bounty hunting, which makes him a strangely hard sell to empathise with. I’m almost certain that there’s a backstory to his current line of work that should make players connect with him on a more personal level. But right now there’s just no way of knowing how he fits in this world, if he’s in any way connected to this event and just what his motivations are for hunting people in a world that has simply lost touch with civilization.
And until more of it is fleshed out, it’s difficult to get excited over Days Gone over mechanics alone. There’s pieces of a game here that could sound very interesting if extrapolated on, especially if it plays to some of its strengths with crafting, open-world exploration and the constant fear of massive hordes of freakers. But sitting through a demo that is little more than stop start shooting without any real impact, as left me a little sour.
Last Updated: June 16, 2016