Sony has been on a winning streak with its first-party exclusives, knocking it out of the park with great games like Horizon: Zero Dawn, God of War, and Marvel’s Spider-Man. They have a focus on both quality and quantity, so there’s a lot of pressure on Bend’s Days gone to deliver the same sort of impact. Unfortunately, it doesn’t, and critics have largely slammed the game for being repetitive, buggy and uninspired. It’s not a bad game, just not the sort of thing you’d expect from a first party one.
Here’s what critics have to say about Sony’s biggest release of the year so far:
Days Gone has moments where it reveals its brilliance, but they’re buried under a litany of uninteresting and repetitive missions and numerous technical issues.
Days Gone, when it has moments of clarity, skirts the line of being brilliant. It could have been an instant classic if it weren’t for the giant missteps that happened with regards to the story’s pacing and some very strange decisions regarding Deacon as a character. With an expansive open-world worth exploring and well-crafted mechanics, Days Gone is an enjoyable ride, but expect to get some bugs in your face.
Even with its snail-pace plot, Days Gone manages to deliver a truly chilling open world experience. The locations are fantastic to explore, the enemies are deadly and frightening, the hordes get your heart racing and the lands are teeming with secrets. While the story takes a while to get going and longer to get to the point, the journey is fun and if you persevere, rewarding. The unforgettable characters and Days Gone’s brilliant world is enough to make up for the lack of excitement that arrives too often.
Days Gone ups the open world survival ante but doesn’t have enough cash to pay for the rest of the rounds of betting, making it one of the weirdest AAA releases in recent memory. If enough people buy it, its stronger moments will likely be immortalized in YouTube videos for years to come. Yet, most people will probably remember it as the open world zombie game that didn’t bring much mechanically to the table. With some tweaks to the pacing, it could have reconciled its warm, frank look at humanity and been something special.
Days Gone is the apotheosis of the more-is-more philosophy: more bars to fill, more gates to progress, more zombies per square inch because “more” is supposed to fill the hole where some semblance of meaning ought to be. It’s the purest example yet of the video game as mere content to be consumed, down to the very fact that each storyline you’re supposed to be emotionally invested in is marked with a completion percentage. Days Gone is a void.
Days Gone has good gameplay foundations. The scarcity of supplies and ever-present threat of zombies put me on edge as much as it gave me options to escape by the skin of my teeth. But the inability to fully deliver on either the story or open world fronts makes it a title of both possibilities and limitations.
Days Gone is a grim, beautiful B-movie; its action and writing are full of pulpy thrills, and by the end of it, I found myself liking a character called Deacon St. John – an achievement in itself.
I did a lot of things in Days Gone. I burned every single Freaker nest; I cleared every ambush camp; I maxed out my bike; I took out a few optional hordes just because. Like Deacon with Sarah, I kept going because I hoped to find something, to follow a thread to a possibly fascinating or satisfying or impactful conclusion. But at the end of it all, I’d only gotten scraps.
Days Gone feels bloated, like a movie that goes on for an hour longer than it needs to or should’ve. It’s messy and confused, but peppered with genuinely thrilling encounters with rampaging hordes of zombies and occasionally breathless firefights. There’s a good game in here somewhere, but it’s buried in a meandering storyline, repetitive missions, and just too much obligatory stuff to do without an eye on the smaller details that could have given it much more character. Some fine tuning and editing could have removed the tedium and celebrated what makes this game unique and interesting, but Days Gone rides strictly down the middle of the dusty road and never finds its rhythm.
Days Gone is repetitive, unimaginative, and surprisingly rough around the edges but to our own surprise we can’t pretend we didn’t get some mildly addictive pleasure from it. Much in the manner of the more middling Assassin’s Creed titles, there’s a strange sort of comfort to playing and completing such an undemanding game, with its constant stream of minor rewards – even if they’re just a tick on a list of completed missions. We wouldn’t particularly recommend Days Gone, and it’s certainly not in the same league as most of Sony’s other PlayStation 4 exclusives, but while we don’t look back at our days with it with any sense of wistfulness we don’t resent the time spent on it either.
Days Gone is a fine addition to the evergrowing list of first-party Sony exclusives. Does it have the shine and polish comparable to Naughty Dog’s best works? No, but it delivers a dense and beautiful open world that proves that there’s perhaps a little bit of elbow room left for zombies in gaming, even if we’re not calling them that this time around.
Days Gone’s survival horror underbelly gives it just enough personality to distance it from the dozens of other open worlders already available. A dense selection of overlapping gameplay mechanics make for entertaining action, even if the title’s unremarkable mission design doesn’t always make the best of them. The story can drift, and the overall package isn’t quite as polished as its PS4 exclusive counterparts – but as far as gaming comfort food goes, you could feast on much worse snacks than this.
Days Gone is out on PlayStation 4 tomorrow, 26 April.
Last Updated: April 25, 2019