Such strange forms of limitations and having other ideas too much expanded upon with no real substance, makes Days Gone inconsistent in its setup. I believe the same could be said for the enemies in this game, as they are both done extremely well and downright poorly. The freaks are fun to fight off as they wobble and run towards you, making them hard to headshot and aggressive. Though they are far from difficult, they can come in hordes of hundreds, making them terrifying and dangerous with your limited moveset taken into consideration. These are the most engaging fights, as they require preparation, planning on the go, and a steady aim. Even groups of five can easily take you off guard if they all start attacking you.
However, there is one common version you will fight mainly against, and one uninteresting kid version that is as easy to remove as popcorn from a bucket. The other two types, brutes and screamers, are present just occasionally. This makes the variety lacking, and even the wolf versions are not really anything interesting, as they are just a faster version of normal wolves. At least the annoying crows can help, but the more varied creatures do not show up until the late part of the game, making them have a short presence. There are some boss fights to take on, but they are so underwhelming and only require a dodge-hit mentality, that I actually forgot they where in this title. Luckily, there are severely few of them and the fights do not last very long.
However, the worst type of enemies to fight are actually the humans. They do have different guns at disposal and their settlements come with different traps laid out, but I found myself often camping or just waiting patiently in the bushes in order to take them out. Combine this with how they are terrible at taking cover and often stands out in the open, these fights became rather mediocre or downright uninteresting at times. At least the shooting is fun mechanically, with you being able to dodge-roll and stick to cover, but that is about it for praises I can give to Days Gone in this regard. Although I do love the minor detail of the corsair being red for a split second when you killed off an enemy, it says something when going in all melee was not a bad strategy in a shooter. A survival shooter nonetheless.
The problems do not stop here, sadly. This title contains RPG elements where you can level up skills in melee, ranged, and survival. This is a decent idea, but the upgrades range in all terms of quality. One of the better ones can be seeing enemies in survival vision or fixing your melee weapon, but then we have shallow ones like increasing damage by your crossbow or stunning enemies with thrown rocks. This unbalance comes to the point where I wish the game was retooled instead to not have this system at all. Why not focus more on what you find and utilise items for your survival, instead of a shallow levelling system? You are gaining much by doing anything besides the XP, so this seems like a wasted implementation.
Then we have the strange mix of ideas. Some are strong, like having the weather and the time of the day dictating how many freaks you will encounter and how easy you will be spotted. However, we also have the quick command for healing, flashlight and binoculars, which is useless when the wheel for selecting and crafting anything is more available. Why not have a dedicated button for throwing grenades instead? There are also other annoyances, such as tons of glitches where people and enemies get stuck in the environment, and missions not starting until you are called on the radio while driving on the bike at random.
This is where I find Days Gone fascinating, as there are a lot of solid and intriguing aspects to it. Exploring this world, fighting off freaks, taking down camps, crafting tools, and just traversing on your bike are all great things to do. However, the poor variety of enemies, terrible progression, and general lack of polish to the whole project, makes this into a nice journey that has many bumps in the road. I still enjoyed it, but if you are at all versed in this genre, you have to bump up the difficulty. It is a problematic title, but still fun. Kinda like shooting zombies in the head for 30-40 hours, depending on your take on the side activities.
Gameplay Score: 6/10
Style over tech
It is hard to not notice the plenty of glitches in this game. Textures loading poorly, things popping into existence, the frame rate taking a dip constantly, it all shows signs of a game that is unfinished. While these are issues that are hard to ignore, they do not change what an utter gorgeous experience Days Gone is. This American land with naturalistic locations is an interesting idea for a wasteland, containing diverse takes on both nature and signs of lost civilisations. There are so much to see, such as the small communities that only have one street with a thick forests nearby, camps run by military units where all that is left are the ashes of what once was, and the tall mountains that have heavy amounts of snow. All areas are unique and memorable, making me always feel like a part of a real and breathing world.
The character models are outstanding with clear representations of the past they cling to visualised in their clothing, scars, tattoos or even in their attitude. This makes everyone visually intriguing by what history they might have had. To give some examples, Boozer is your biker brother with tattoos on his head and still wears the biker jacket you have, while Iron Mike wears a cowboy hat and has a straight back to signify a wish for order and a return to a solid community. It is all wonderful and truly makes it remarkable whenever a new and significant NPC enters the frame.
However, the in-game models are rough and can feature poor facial textures and awkward lip syncing. The latter can even make them look like they are talking with their teeth, and the general NPCs you can encounter randomly are often reused. This quickly breaks the immersion, but you are thankfully pooled right back with the dramatic and well shot cutscenes. I also simply love the details of how much you can customise your bike, and that whatever tools you have at disposal are shown on Deacon. The good references to other titles this game has, like a couple to Death Stranding, are also nice nods that fit in nicely.
The atmosphere continues with solid weather effects that truly impact how creatures behave, wild animals roaming around, and the freaks walking around until they charge if they spot you. While there is not a solid variety in terms of looks to these humanoid monsters, their style is still a personal take on the traditional zombies with their pale skin and clear signs of starvation that makes them uncomfortable. Days Gone is always trying to convey an effective tone through artistic choices, with a 3D map for a better look at the terrains, and a pause screen showcasing how many days have gone. You can really tell that the developers wanted the player to be immersed in an unique world. It is all something out of a cover art to a Poets of the Fall album.
While the script is a downright mess at times, the actors are simply phenomenal. Everyone give their own personal voices and directions to the characters, making them all distinct and memorable. I cannot say that the melee sound is anything impactful, but the different gunfire sound solid at least. One unfortunate element, is that the audio will be glitching up on the occasion, but this is thankfully not as common of an issue as with the visual glitches. The environmental sounds are also something that further enhances the atmosphere, and I love how the subtle sounds the nature can provide, adds to make this world feel as real as possible.
However, what needs to be more common for anyone to experience, is this game’s soundtrack. Nathan Whitehead made a fantastic score utilising different genres to make his music compliment any scenario possible. The tense moments creep up with unnerving violins being played, acoustic guitar taking place when you are safe, and the piano creating a feeling of loss. There are even some solid songs being played on the longer rides, all fitting this American wasteland with both the symphonic scores focusing on bow instruments, and the acoustic guitar with its more humble setup. Fun fact, Nathan started bowing everything to find the right sound to set up an uncomfortable tone. This is how far this man goes to make the perfect music, and it shows here with both diegetic and non-diegetic sounds.
Presentation Score: 7.5/10
Gonna take days
While there are different things to do in the main campaign, it lacks variety because of no evolving challenge. At best, there will be an increase in the number of fiends to deal with, which makes the tasks become rather mundane. In other words, going further to complete this game is a tough sell. Even during the main campaign, there are too few reasons and opportunities early on to tackle missions in a more varied manner, making them sort of nonchalant attractions on your journey towards the end. There is an unlockable item for doing a side task to its completion, but it is a useless tool in this survival game, despite being a cute reference.
Finding collectables in the form of letters of passed victims or historical sights are nothing to truly be excited to go for, but can lead to a neat trivia. What was actually fun, was to customise your bike. It has tons of different parts to upgrade with looks and style, with even some being references to other titles like Horizon Zero Dawn. Despite that it is hard to recommend completing this title, the new game + and the other difficulties add a lot of layers for fun replay value. For those of you in for a challenge, survival one and two removes elements like fast travel and survival vision, which makes this game truly hard.
Added later on as free updates, were 12 different challenges with each being categorised for either driving, survival or taking on hordes of enemies. All are exciting challenges, taking on different stages and goals, with a timer always making sure every second and action count. You can even score to rank between three stages and through this, unlock patches for additional boosts. Yes, there are some upgrades to give your characters in this mode, making it important to do as well as possible in every single one.
Scores are tailgated to money and XP, which can be used to further unlock rings that comes with specific traits, and further customisation, like different characters to play as and bikes to drive. Even if this mode has limited appeal with only 12 challenges, it is worth returning to all of them just for their sheer entertainment. It is a shame that there are only four different races and two surviving tasks as they are the most fun, but fighting hordes in the rest of the missions is entertaining nonetheless.
Extra Score: 7/10
I am mixed on this game. I love the sense of exploration, riding my bike, taking on hordes through tight planning, and the world is enthralling. Even the challenges are a fun option to tackle. However, there are so issues in this title, such as the terrible story, awkward pace, unpolished presentation, and the lack of any reason to finish this game 100%. It is a strange title, but one I can say I was more positive than negative about. If you can get over the story and simply wish for a post-apocalyptic zombie game on a bigger scope, Days Gone is worth considering. At least get the soundtrack.