Days Gone. Image captured by Marty Friedel using Days Gone's Photo Mode

Days Gone

Published June 8th, 2019

Note: this article is SPOILER FREE.

Well, I wasn’t expecting this.

When Days Gone was announced, and teased at E3, I thought it looked cool but horror-type games aren’t really my thing – especially with the devs stating how hard it is, hordes of hundreds of enemies trying to get me, you know the drill. But then, “The Wedding” story trailer dropped before its release.

I’m a sucker for a love story – and also loved the song used for this – “Hell or High Water” – written for Days Gone.

And a pre-order of the Special Edition was made. Given the tendency for Sony Special Editions to sell out, yes, I pre-ordered – and what a mighty fine package too – I mean physically, for real. The box is sturdy, as a box should be, but is embossed with a sandpaper-like highlight in places. Inside, the Steelbook (no idea why I have a thing for these) with the game and score on CD, plus the usual bonus codes. No regrets at all.

The score is the first thing that really stood out for me – Nathan Whitehead’s score has been listened to countless times since. Heads up, if you’re new, don’t got looking at the tracklist – a few minor spoilers or conclusions can be found. Whitehead’s score captures the tense action, the romantic drama and on-going suspense so well, and compliments the mood and style of gameplay.

I do like my Platinum trophies, and have just earned that for Days Gone. And… still wanted more, so completed all of the post-story activities too – 100% Collectables, 100% Horde Completion, a “bonus” ending – all ticked off. And with patch 1.10, “Survival Mode” has just dropped, so will have to take a look at that to play the game again – shame it’s not a New Game+ sort of thing, and a complete restart, but hey.

I do enjoy open world games – and Days Gone is set in the gorgeous landscape of Oregon. Each region captures a distinct feel, and I always found myself active within the open world, with so much to do. Critical reviews for the game were negative towards repetitive gameplay and lacking imagination – and while I kind-of see where these comments come from, actually found it far more enjoyable and less repetitive than 2019’s Far Cry: New Dawn. As the game continued, I learned new skills, new weapons, new ammo types, and this made for different strategies to taking down camps along the way – and finally, the hordes.

Now, these hordes. These things are frightful – especially the big ones. Imaging a swarm of up to hundreds of enemies flowing at you with amazing speed and agility. And the noise. The variety of weapons and strategies to take them out made this such an enjoyable experience. Yes, when I encountered my first one by accident in the first region (Cascade) – and a small one that that – I ran, and quietly shit myself. Little did I know just how big they would become – AND, that there were a few, quite large ones, that were part of the story. Managing ammunition and resources to craft one of the many options for defence made these a little more challenging, but after hours of gameplay, felt really confident in taking them on – and winning too. OK, maybe the odd death, but ultimately winning.

As a treat for myself, I grabbed a pair of Sony’s Platinum headphones and enjoyed my last few hours in Oregon with (I think) 3D audio – and damn that scared the shit out of me, I’ll be honest. Totally immersed in the world, with amazing clarity to the virtual surround field, it was quite a change of atmosphere to my usual sound system. Oh, and I say “I think” because, well, even Sony can’t tell me what games support 3D audio. Blank face. Yes, really.

Anyway… Days Gone.

Never once did I find myself bored. Never once did I find the game too “hard”, and FYI, completed it on Normal mode, never once getting frustrated at any difficulty spikes. The first “boss” type fight where you meet a new enemy type was actually the most challenging as I was still so fresh and new. I found the game to be fair in its challenge, and its rules, and if I failed at something, could see why. And this is great – I play for the fun and enjoyment factor, and getting frustrated isn’t on my radar. Absolutely no frustration here. Although that new Survival Mode may change that statement.

This post-apocalyptic world creates a stunning set piece for Days Gone’s story, and while there’s plenty of action, running and gunning involved, at its core, is an emotional and powerful story about love, about loss, and about mateship. Bend Studio have brilliantly told this tale, and had me hooked from the very beginning.

And hey, remember I said I wasn't a fan of horror games? Still true, but this is beyond a horror game - yes, a few jumps along the way, but more action than horror if you ask me. 

However… yes, there is that small “but”, the game does suffer from some at-times frustrating performance issues. Even running on a PS4 Pro, two particular regions have massive framerate drops, especially when snowing or raining. Not just a slight judder, but insanely jerky. There are the odd glitches that crop up too – like being unable to throw a rock (kinda core to stealth gameplay tactics) or refill ammo from the bike – but nothing that was ever game breaking. And Bend have been relatively active on Reddit with announcements and details of patches (even there have been some bumps along the way).

These technical issues aside, the game is gorgeous. It sounds incredibly (even better with those Platinum headphones). It is also thoroughly engaging and entertaining to play – and I haven’t had my attention snatched by a game since 2017’s Horizon: Zero Dawn. Side note too, I still have 2018’s God of War to play, but all in good time.

Days Gone was a very welcome and enjoyable surprise for me, and I am actually really looking forward to giving Survival Mode a try – and can’t wait to see what is next for Bend Studio.

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