Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A global pandemic devastates the majority of the population and only a small few are left in a semi post-apocalyptic world fighting to live the life they can. Those whom weren’t killed by the virus have been turned into mindless zombies called “Freakers” and if they’re not trying to kill you then the human’s that remain likely are.
I know, I know… it’s been done. Not to mention it’s been done really damn well too. Naughty Dog’s “The Last of Us” sits proudly atop my “favourite games of all time” list and the zombie fatigue is real but none of that stopped me watching the trailer shown at Sony’s E3 media briefing and my mind screaming “I WANT THIS GAME!”
Developed by Sony owned Bend Studio (makers of the infamous Syphon Filter series) Days Gone puts you in control of Deacon St. John. Deacon is a drifter and former bounty hunter who prefers a life of solitude over life amongst the camps created in the two years since the pandemic. His motorcycle serves as his mode of transport to traverse a huge open world that covers America’s Pacific North West. An area Bend Studio and it’s team should know well, being based in Oregon it’s their own backyard.
The first thing that struck me about the game was just how amazing it looked. The environments are gorgeous, not only in the endless spanning vistas but in the detail of the structures and character models too. Since their last full console release Studio Bend have been working on Uncharted mobile titles and it would appear a lot of that Naughty Dog magic has rubbed off.
In my developer presentation I got to see them revisit the same area that Sony showed during the media briefing earlier in the week. This time it was approached slightly differently however. The same key spots were hit to trigger different events but the ensuing horde chase was stretched to show interesting interactions between Deacon and the environment as well as the use of some new and crafted weaponry like a molotov cocktail.
The most impressive part of both versions of the demo isn’t the gameplay or graphics it’s the ability for the PS4 to power the Freaker horde. When Studio Bend’s technical director Christopher Reese said he wanted to ”push the PS4 somewhere it’s never been before” he wasn’t kidding. Built of a “heavily modified” version on the Unreal 4 Engine I can’t begin to fathom how it’s working in a way to model that many AI or how they deal with obstructions be it their fallen brethren or environmental obstacles. All that whilst keeping a solid frame rate and looking amazing too… Bravo.
My demo concluded in the same way as everyone else’s; Deacon stranded atop a silo of some sorts. A lot of questions around the gameplay like “What if I just turned around and went back to my bike?” or “Can I run back to my bike or away from the area after the horde arrive?” were met with a similar – “We’ll let you know more soon” and that was that.
What I did find out is that the game will be a single player story driven title only. There are no plans for a multi player component at all. They also confirmed you may revisit areas like the lumber yard shown in the demo again if you wish and that being an open world game the weather would change and could affect how you might approach the same challenge depending on that. Finally the team eluded to the bike playing an “extremely important role” in the game but wouldn’t say anything more. We saw gauges for fuel and it could perhaps serve as a roving inventory store but we’ll have to wait for more details to be sure.
I went to E3 this year looking for a title to get excited about now that The Division had been released. For many that was Horizon: Zero Dawn, for me it was undoubtably Days Gone. What sucks about that though is it’s a long ways off, with no release date set as yet. Expect Days Gone to make another round of E3 before getting into anybody’s hands.