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Old 05-07-2019, 06:55 AM   #1
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The Evil Avatar Days Gone Review

Title: Days Gone
Platform: PS4
Platform Reviewed: PS4
Developer: Bend Studio
Publisher: Sony
MSRP: $59.99
Writer: Aaron Birch

Days Gone Review

Sony's big first party releases have gained quite the reputation over the last few years, especially with the PS4. We've had classics and GOTY releases like The Last of Us, Uncharted, God of War, and Spider-man to name a few, and this has grown a very real feeling of security with the Sony faithful that the next first party release will be yet another hit, winning high scores and GOTY nominations left, right, and centre.



As you've probably read by now, with Days Gone, Sony's latest exclusive, this doesn't seem to be the case, and reviews of the open world, biker survival game have been very mixed, but why?

I feel there are many reasons for this, which I'll go into with my own thoughts, but first I wanted to get one thing out of the way – this is not a Naughty Dog title. You see, I think there's been a big rug pull here, one that fans have fallen victim to, and one that Sony foolishly tried to capitalise on. During the initial E3 reveal, and subsequent coverage, Days Gone has always been given that Last of Us spin, with characters, dialogue, and cut scenes all undoubtedly going for the high-end story quality The Uncharted studio is known for. Of course, Days Gone isn't developed by Naughty Dog, and it isn't long after you begin to play the game that you realise the polish and presentation of the title can't live up to that hype. This, I feel, is one of the reasons many fail to stick with the game, as they just don't find the kind of game and story they were expecting.



Does this make the game bad, though, and does it deserve the middling scores? Well, I can't say I agree with that, but I can see why this hasn't been given the same reception as previous exclusives.

For one, we knew Days Gone would be an open world title, but given the Sony exclusivity calibre of late, we felt this could be an open world game that really pushed the envelope and stood above the myriad of other, similar releases out there. After all, Spider-Man was a blissfully great open world, and God of War, whilst not open in the usual sense, offered a wonderfully crafted, Metroidvania-style semi-open world. Days Gone, on the other hand, doesn't really deviate from the open worlds on offer by any other developer, and the content within is hardly ground-breaking.



As Deacon St John, member of the Mongrel's biker gang, you eke out a living in a post-zombie apocalypse world. Well, I say zombie, but that's not true, as the “Freakers” here are more akin to 28 Days Later infected rather than actual undead, but they function much the same. Deacon and his biker brother Boozer survive in the Oregon wilderness, performing jobs for various survivor camps, and hunting for food and supplies, and taking on bounties. With their trusty metal steeds, they're amongst the best at what they do, but they live in a dangerous world with a hopeless future. Deacon is also still grieving for his lost wife, and has more than a little death wish going on.

It's into this situation the game throws you, with minimal exposition and no explanation of what the infected threat is, where it came from, and how wide spread it is. Over the course of the game we find out more, of course, but initially, it's just you, Boozer, and your bikes trying to survive.



This means you'll be biking around the wilderness of Oregon, through forests, plains, snowy mountains, and more, undertaking story missions, side quests, and other, staple open world fare. And when I say staple, I mean it.

This is where the generic, and often repetitive nature of Days Gone comes into play, as there’s just not a great deal of variety, and the gameplay systems in place are all very basic. Missions often involve simply going to a location and either killing enemies, or spying on people; or you may have to destroy various Freaker nests to cleanse an area, or clear out an enemy camp. All the while, you need to loot the world for supplies and ammo, and utilise a simple crafting system to fashion weapons, medkits, and so on, in order to survive.



Your bike is your best friend in this dangerous world, and the game treats it as a central character all its own. You can customise and improve it, alter its paint jobs, and as you roam the world and get into scrapes, it can take damage that needs to be repaired. You also need to keep it fuelled, as it drinks gas like there's no tomorrow and runs out very quickly. Get stuck out in the wild, at night when the Freakers are more active, and you're in deep trouble, lest you can sneak elsewhere to find fuel. Luckily, the game has a stealth mechanic, and by crouching, avoiding enemies, or hiding in bushes, you can stay unnoticed, and get the odd easy stealth kill or two to thin our the heard.

Yes, it's all fairly trope-ridden stuff, and after a while, the game does end up feeling not too dissimilar to every Ubisoft open world title of the last few years. Hell, there's even an early missions where you have to reactivate a radio tower. Whether this was a serious, planned feature, or a dig at other open world games is unclear, but yeah, it doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the creative process.



All of this gameplay is built on the driving and combat foundations, and whilst driving around on Deacon's bike can take a little getting used to, it's fun, and unlike other vehicle-based open world games, here your only real ride is your bike, and you come to value it greatly and have the urge to improve and take care of it, not like the disposable cars and other vehicles of games like GTA and Saints Row.

Combat is also pretty solid. Gunplay is a decent balance of twitch shooting and more tactical, long range sniping, and thanks to limited ammo, you need to make each shot count. Melee is particularly emphasised, not least due to the up-close and personal nature of the Freakers, but also thanks to the ability to craft ever increasingly deadly weapons of murder, such as saw bladed baseball bats, or nail-covered 2x4s. I feel the weapon degradation of melee arms will annoy some, as it always seems to do in games, but it does mean you can't rely on one single tool, and constantly have to either repair it, or search for new ones to use. Likewise, thanks to Freakers' killer, cross body wrestling move abilities, you're not even able to rely on your bike if you're careless, as enemies can easily knock you off. This means you're always on guard, as enemies can not only sneak up on your, but many, especially the bad guys gangs like the Marauders or Rippers, will set raps for you, such as bear traps, or tripwires stretched across the road. Yep, it's a dangerous world out there, that's for sure.



It's this world, and the random events and situations you can find yourself in that initially caused me to see Days Gone in a different light, and eventually, see past its shortcomings. You always feel on edge, wary of the next ambush or unexpected turn for the worse, and you do find yourself in genuine fights for survival, having to retreat if things don't go your way. Yes, the game world and the missions you take part in are fairly generic, and there's no real ingenuity here short of mixing zombie-style hordes with an open world title, and even that's been done before in games like State of Decay, but there's a genuine slickness of it all. It's a very well developed game, and all of its mechanics work perfectly with each other, even if they are basic.

I agree, the actual story delivery and voice acting are far from the Naughty Dog calibre I was hoping for, and the game falls flat on its face when attempting emotional scenes, and making us actually care for any of the, mostly unlikeable characters. The writing here is mediocre, that's undebatable, and if given the same level of treatment as the likes of The Last of Us, Day Gone would be hugely improved.



I also found the vaunted zombie hordes we saw in the demonstrations, although they do exist in the game, nowhere near as cool, and deadly as how they were presented to us before release. It's scary when you're wandering the world and find a huge groups of Freakers milling around, a group that sees you and then runs, en masse, for you, but rather than the claustrophobic and frantic fight Deacon has in the E3 demo we saw, there's usually always a fairly easy way to escape. I even simply ran away on foot more than once, with no real consequence.

Visually it's a looker and then some, and having to constantly weigh up your decision to use loud weapons to take down a foe, lest you attract a horde of Freakers, makes each engagement thrilling. The Freakers, as they're not zombies, can be fast and deadly, and are a very real threat if you're not careful, especially if you're in the midst of a fire fight with enemy Rippers, and a horde of them are nearby. Your priorities quickly turn to getting out alive, rather than swapping lead with your foes. Indeed, if you're smart, you can even lure a group of infected into an enemy camps and just watch as they take care of it for you.

In the end, Day Gone is a very good, if formulaic game in my opinion, one that's fallen victim to high expectations, and its prized position as a Sony exclusive. However, if you just take the game for what it is, and ignore the hype, you'll find a solid, and fun title that delivers an open world romp you'll enjoy throughout.

Score: 4 out of 5



The Good
  • Solid combat
  • Great visuals
  • World is dangerous and thrilling
The Bad
  • Repetitive missions
  • Crafting and other systems are very basic
The Ugly
  • Weapon degradation and fuel use will annoy many
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Old 05-07-2019, 07:43 AM   #2
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I looked up Bend Studios. They made Syphon Filter back in the day! I enjoyed that game. Even though there are bugs (some of which have been resolved in post-release patching), I think they distinguished themselves enough with this effort to warrant further support.

I am approaching this title as someone who no longer consumes gaming media religiously or plays every single title, so I am probably getting more out of this game than reviews where the reviewer has to say "the game does end up feeling not too dissimilar to every Ubisoft open world title of the last few years." I also did not play Last of Us, but I wasn't going in expecting Uncharted 4, which was demonstrably, monstrously good story-telling.

There is great writing and facial animation throughout the game. Deacon in particular is expressive and his voice actor draws great characterization out of the lines. A non-Deacon example is one scene where a character is threatening another in a stand-off situation. You can see the conviction in his eyes and in his expression.
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Old 05-07-2019, 08:48 AM   #3
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My daughters boyfriend worked on this and he said they ripped a lot of the story line out at the last minute due to running out of time. It's a shame really that most of this game won't ever be seen.
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Old 05-07-2019, 11:43 AM   #4
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Shame. It is a good, character-driven low stakes affair (deal with friends/family/past and learn about the apocalypse along the way, not "let's fucking save the world!" comic-book shit). The world-building is nuts in its current state and in its promise. The game leaves open future development with how the Freakers are evolving and aren't dependent on eating humans to survive. Callouts to areas that are completely overrun, including one no-go game area that has more Hordes in it than most others combined.

If this was a trilogy, I'd be down.
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Old 05-07-2019, 11:56 AM   #5
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My daughters boyfriend worked on this and he said they ripped a lot of the story line out at the last minute due to running out of time. It's a shame really that most of this game won't ever be seen.
that really sucks.... thought sony had better patiance ...
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Old 05-07-2019, 05:01 PM   #6
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that really sucks.... thought sony had better patiance ...
There is a limit. This game has been in active development for 7 years. At some point, you have to get it out the door.
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Old 05-07-2019, 05:59 PM   #7
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I've only had a couple of play sessions with this one, but I'm enjoying it. I agree with the review, the massive hordes that they showed off at two E3's don't seem to be present and they are mostly nothing to be feared. You can literally run in a straight line for a few minutes and they lose interest and wander off. They are a challenge to kill and take some planning, but aren't much of a big threat.
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Old 05-07-2019, 06:05 PM   #8
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The Horde from the demo was the one you could cheat by jumping into the water from one of my travelouges. When I came back for ... Two Guns? ... he bugged out and I killed him without incident. Disappointing and a waste of a set piece. Was it created for the demo and left in the game? No other area comes close to all the things to do there to slow down a Horde. My Survivor playthrough should go differently.

The only surprise I have had with a Horde so far was while I was torching a nest. I waited outside the nest as a Breaker (roided Freaker) appeared to be killing guys inside the nest. What I didn't see was that the Breaker was in the middle of a hiberating Horde in the cave. Once the nest cleared, the Breaker died and the Horde started swarming out of the nest. That was a good "Oh fuck, opened that can of worms" moment!
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Old 05-07-2019, 07:18 PM   #9
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The Horde from the demo was the one you could cheat by jumping into the water from one of my travelouges. When I came back for ... Two Guns? ... he bugged out and I killed him without incident.
I think the designers thought you would chase him, rather than try to more stealthily approach him, so you would have ran into the 20 odd Freakers as well. So how you experience this mission will greatly determine how exciting, or not, it was.

Quote:
No other area comes close to all the things to do there to slow down a Horde.
For all the small or medium hordes, there is not much in the way of environmental interaction that you can exploit. The game sorta expects you to be using tools to take them on.

For the large hordes, like the one in the Rippers territory, there are large trucks to climb on/through, trenches, explosive barrels, boxes and tanker trucks, and hills and fences that you must utilize to keep one step ahead of the Freakers as you dwindle down their numbers.
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Old 05-08-2019, 06:36 AM   #10
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My daughters boyfriend worked on this and he said they ripped a lot of the story line out at the last minute due to running out of time. It's a shame really that most of this game won't ever be seen.
That is a shame but I bet it happens way more often than not in game development. I guess a lot of this type of stuff could live on in DLC format or something but to me, it's never quite the same when you have to download an addon to experience more and it's not just because you usually have to spend cash to get that DLC. Once it's outside of the core experience of the game, I usually lose interest.
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Old 05-08-2019, 09:28 AM   #11
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I think the designers thought you would chase him, rather than try to more stealthily approach him, so you would have ran into the 20 odd Freakers as well.
You realize fairly quickly after playing the game that the world moves on your actions, not someone else's, so I never feel a sense of needing to chase someone or that I would "lose" by taking my time (except in Stay Close To This Person missions).

The game doesn't appear to support the Explorer type. I would usually canvas an area before doing Missions, finding the occasional abandoned camp or odd structure. Later, I find the places I had visited are populated from the mission I accepted. Random events also add people to camps. It isn't as seamless or well-integrated as Assassin's Creed Odyssey in inserting open-world camps. When I do Survivor, I will go to areas as jobs take me there. Besides, Deacon going from job to job is more true to how Deacon would do things.

For the Sawmill, you can kill the Horde before the mission, so even if I was forced into a chase situation, there was nothing to add tension. They had a lot of individual elements that just didn't come together in the final product.

If I was to improve it, I would have cut the earlier visit with Rikki Patel to the Sawmill to see the Horde or moved it to another ingame location. The job would play out like the trailer, using tracking beacons to guide the player through the area until the critical moment when the Horde becomes active. The existence of Hordes aren't a shock at that point in the game to the player or the character, so it needs to be more of a surprise that they show up where Two Guns is hiding out (and also why the hell he is there in the first place in the middle of a Horde zone).

I would have also added a fence on some areas to prevent someone from falling into the water from up top.

The E3 2016 trailer has great foreshadowing and tricks to make it compelling, but it would be impossible to replicate that experience in-game given everything that took place prior to that moment.
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Old 05-08-2019, 12:09 PM   #12
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For the Sawmill, you can kill the Horde before the mission, so even if I was forced into a chase situation, there was nothing to add tension. They had a lot of individual elements that just didn't come together in the final product.
When it comes to human opponents, I am much more willing to just run in guns blazing because I know I can more easily shoot and kill them before they have time to heart me, while with Freakers I am always worried about being swarmed and stun locked.

So in this case I would say that the sequence would have been worse if you had taken out the Horde already because you would have thought that the area was clear and would have chased the guy with wreckless abandon.

And in general, since the world is populated by Freakers, there is always a sense of tension because you are worried about engaging in combat because it will reduce resources (scrap for melee weapons, bullets for range weapons, health items if you get hit) and increase the overall time it takes you to perform a task.
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Old 05-08-2019, 01:07 PM   #13
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You know what would really add to the tension? No healing or crafting except the use of Cocktails in combat. You can pop a pill, but not apply a bandage or craft.

I don't know why it didn't occur to me before, but after your comments, I realized the game is trivialized because I can shrug off hits on Normal in most encounters. I never run out of medkits or bandages. The NERO injectors start to make you superhuman.

That choice would fundamentally change the experience and really make combat consequential. All told, this game is a good seed for a better game and experience in this vein because it does such a great job with mood, tension, graphics, etc.
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Old 05-08-2019, 01:11 PM   #14
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And the thing is, if they changed the game to be more like The Last of Us, where you had to take off the backpack, make an item, then equip it, I would have likely stopped playing Days Gone long ago. The fact that they made crafting and item use so easy is the only reason why I continued to play the game initially. Otherwise, the sloppy gunplay, omnipresent enemies and all over the place story telling would have had me rage quitting fairly early on.
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Old 05-08-2019, 03:52 PM   #15
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This game looks better than it did prior to release. I've watch Sam Witwer, the lead actor, stream himself playing...himself in this game. He's cool, but when I see this game it looks better than I thought. I'll get it eventually, still thinking it'll be in the summer lull.
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