Days Gone is far from the perfect game, but it doesn’t need to be. Its proposal of freaks and bikers in a post-apocalyptic world captivated me in 2019 despite its numerous flaws, and 3 years later I return to its roads to see if it continues to produce the same emotions in me. Loneliness, a howl in the distance, your motorcycle and you against the world…
Days Gone will go down in memory as that son disowned by PlayStation in the PS4 generation. Maybe fairly, maybe unfairly – it very much depends on who you ask – but I think we can all agree that, having had the same support and resources as other new franchises, like Horizon Zero Dawn or Ghost of Tsushima, we could possibly be facing a very different situation: Bend Studio would be working with little secrecy on a sequel, and it would not have been created the circus that has been set up in the last year, with (former) game directors throwing darts here and there.
It is precisely the statements of Jeff Ross in recent weeks that have led me to return to Oregon on my PS5, not to debate whether or not Days Gone deserves a sequel, but to see what has changed in these three years. And to discover if the technical problems that existed in their day have been solved, everything is said. In this time, Days Gone has added new content in the form of challenge missions, has received a new difficulty mode Survival and has even added the possibility of playing at 4K and 60 FPS on PS5 (backward compatible); all this in addition to publishing a port for PC.
But the base experience of Days Gone has remained intact all these years, with no expansions or radical changes. Is it worth it then? a second chance to Days Gone if you didn’t like it at the time? Probably not. Its flaws remain the same as in 2019: repetitive development, irregular mission design, improvable enemy AI, a duration that is too long… Symptoms of too ambitious development for a team of 50 people. But there was one thing that Days Gone shined on, a thing that managed to completely hook me when it came out on PlayStation 4 to the point that I almost ‘platinum’ it in two weeks. And it is something that has conquered me again now, in the middle of 2022, by playing it again. I mean its setting.
Days Gone, 3 years later, is it worth it?
I installed Days Gone on PS5 and downloaded my PS4 save game. At the time, I left the game with all missions and activities 100% complete except for the hordes, what better opportunity than this to annihilate them all, right? I load the game, I get on the motorcycle and hit the road. Days Gone is loneliness. It’s you, your bike and the road. In fact, I can think of few better pairings for a zombie setting than a biker story: it’s the same fantasy of freedom and independence, only with freaks looking to eat your insides and looters trying to steal your bike. And to my joy, that experience is still so satisfying today as when I played it for the first time.
Something as trivial as traveling from one point to another on the map becomes a small adventure in itself. Perhaps you are traversing a narrow mountain pass and come face to face with a zombie oso in the middle of a blizzard. You escape at full speed and fall into a highway ambush by some bandits. Then you find a still-warm corpse in a gutter, and as you trace the receding footprints, you come across the remains of a party of survivors who, ironically, didn’t survive very well. So much going from one place to another has left you almost out of gas, so you start driving like when you went to college and you didn’t even have to refuel, that is, pulling from neutral and taking advantage of every slope. And when you get to the gas station, it waits for you an ambush by looters keep an eye out for possible cousins to steal from.
It’s like turning Call of Duty zombies into a single player experienceThis is not a list of the type of situations you may encounter in the world of days gone. It is a summary of my road trip from one region of the map to another, point by point, and having missed the odd encounter. It is exactly the same that the game already offered in 2019, yes, but experiencing it again now has served to open my eyes to how well Bend Studio nails the setting of their game, how well they manage to do what they set out to do. time to create this adventure: that you feel truly alone in a wild and apocalyptic world. And if you need company, that’s what they are for the hordes. I still remember that presentation of Days Gone at E3 2016, in which Deacon faced a huge horde in a sawmill. It is a moment that I know many of us sold the game immediately. Then came the premiere and that gameplay was nothing more than the typical vertical slice that companies put together to sell you the bike – never better said – as if the whole experience were going to be up to it.
Other than that sawmill, very few levels in Days Gone offer the same level of interactivity with the environment, but it was still fun to deal with the hordes. Explore the stage and prepare traps, planning your route, tracking the horde, being accidentally seen and forced to flee, having to change your plan on the fly, using up all your ammo while running, etc. It’s like turning Call of Duty zombies into a single player experience: you seek out the horde, shoot and you start to spin around the map while killing the monsters that are chasing you at full speed. Are they repetitive? Yes, by the fourth horde it has already lost all the novelty factor. But are they fun? Very much, as soon as you enter the work you forget everything until you find a moment of tranquility. After almost three years without playing Days Gone, I’m not going to deny that I had a hard time facing my first horde when I returned, but I had such a good time So I decided to kill all the ones I had left (~50%) before I dropped the game again, and boy did I.
And the Days Gone bugs… Has anything changed?
Anyone considering getting into Days Gone right now will already know that they’re looking at an imperfect game. And part of it is due to bugs. It was not a case like Cyberpunk 2077, the adventure was playable and there were no widespread critical failures, but Days Gone for PS4 would have appreciated a few more months of development. Three years later… Well, there are still the bugs de Days Gone. In just 2-3 hours of play I’ve come across spawns “clipped” on a rock, Deacon himself going through a wall when jumping over an obstacle, enemies stuck on a curb while walking, physics glitches that sent my bike flying and shaders that do not load correctly – with a debug message included in the texture on which they should be applied. Are they game-breaking glitches? No. Are they acceptable after 3 years from the release of the game? Either. Although reports about Bend Studio published in recent years suggest that the studio was “forced” to support Naughty Dog and its sagas, so I believe that fixing them properly is something that was beyond their control.
Returning to Days Gone on PS5 after these years has served me to remember why i enjoyed it so much at the time. But, also, it has allowed me to remember the reasons why the game went wrong, beyond personal evaluations. And it’s not all the fault of the bugs, mind you. Days Gone has some design and pacing flaws that make me think twice (and three) before starting it from scratch again, not to mention a scattered story that doesn’t take off until it redirects itself – and full of clichés, although that for me is a positive. When you get on the motorcycle and hit the road, all that is in the background, yes, but you have to take that baggage with you in the saddlebags if you embark on this trip. In other words, I think the criticism we all saw in the Days Gone reviews is legitimate and still stands 3 years later. But we also have to understand that a game doesn’t have to be perfect in everything to be able to enjoy it, it is worth that it is perfect for you.
Days Gone will stand as a testament to a time of change for PlayStation StudiosDays Gone is that game for me, and it’s probably not the name that many will think of when we look back 15 or 20 years from now and think about the PS4 catalogue. But it will be like testimony to a time of change for PlayStation Studios, a transition from Layden and Yoshida’s edgy PlayStation to Hulst and Ryan’s “Triple A” PlayStation: when they could have supported a flawed yet personality-filled new IP, but preferred to prioritize their pride over a number on Metacritic.