The world’s gone to hell in Bend Studio’s Days Gone — we take a look at the game behind closed doors.
Bend Studio’s debut PlayStation 4 title has been long-awaited, and its reveal at Sony’s E3 press conference brought a heck of a lot of cheers and grins, even though it joins a slew of games embracing the world of zombies and the problems they can cause to the world. And while they may not be officially dubbed zombies, it’s fair to say that the Freakers in Days Gone exhibit the brain-hungry craze the flesh-eating dummies have done in many films, tv shows, and other video games over the years. The big change here, though, is that Freakers operate in numbers — numbers that stretch into the many hundreds. It’s simultaneously frightening and exciting, and the game’s behind closed doors session — while only an extended demo of the E3 reveal — exhibited the same tension and intensity felt as the game’s protagonist Deacon runs for his life from the brain-hungry beasts.
Set in the Pacific Northwest, Days Gone takes place two years after a global pandemic has consumed the world, in the process also turning millions of people into Freakers — feral creatures who, while lacking the mind of a human, are still very alive and have the potential to evolve. You take control of Deacon, a drifter and bounty hunter who continues to roam the wilderness on his motorbike. My initial reactions to the premise and idea of Days Gone have been fairly positive, and while zombies seem to love to make their way into video games these days, Bend’s direction with Days Gone still feels fresh enough to have me interested.
Before the session began, one of the developers from Bend commented on Days Gone’s direction, mentioning that bikes are, as expected, going to play a massive role in the game. Similarly, resource management and item conservation will play a big part in whether you stay alive throughout the game’s missions.
This is a world now overcome by Freakers, and while the landscape shown in the demo is certainly gorgeous in its own right, it doesn’t take long for that beauty to be swallowed by despair as Deacon’s quest to find Two-Dog quickly turns for the worst. Hundreds upon hundreds of Freakers swarm the area Deacon and Two-Dog are currently inhabiting, and the latter finds himself as the next item on the menu for the few Freakers at the front of the horde. Deacon, realising the problem he’s in, quickly makes an attempt to get to higher ground.
Days Gone looks to aim to constantly keep you running away from the enemy rather than taking them head on. You have quite a bit of ammo, but when you’re constantly rushed by hundreds upon hundreds of the Horde (the title assigned to grouped Freakers), it seems that ammo will eventually run out. This is where I can see the idea of bikes and resource management becoming an important part of Days Gone’s experience — scavenging for items, crafting new weapons, and constantly staying on the move is the name of the game, and that’s something I can get behind.
I’m interested to see how the story progresses, too, with very minute mentions of Deacon’s past and his motivations in this crazed world given away in the reveal trailer and demo. It all feels very Last of Us in a sense, and I’m completely fine with that — it’s a formula that definitely works. The extended demo I saw behind closed doors didn’t necessarily show off a lot of new footage from what was shown at Sony’s press conference, but it definitely felt a little more open and explorative when compared to the frantic nature of Deacon’s maiden voyage in the public’s eyes. An axe was picked up in a barn close by and was used to decapitate a couple of lone Freakers, but other than that it was more or less about getting as far away from the enemies as possible.
Days Gone is shaping up to be an interesting proposition. I’m certainly fascinated with its world and I’m keen to hear more about how the Freakers were created. Whether or not that will be directly disclosed remains a mystery, as does a very large chunk of the ideas and mechanics in the game, but one thing’s for sure — I’m excited to see what new ideas this crazed world has to offer.
Days Gone will be coming exclusively to PlayStation 4 sometime in the future. No release date has been given as of yet.