Zombie games have become a dime a dozen over the last few years, a trend popularized by some fantastic games like Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising, and Call of Duty. These days it’s hard to do something with a zombie story that sets you apart, and unfortunately, the same can also be said for the open world genre. Days Gone, sadly, hits both of these pitfalls, never managing to rise high enough to be something truly unique.
On paper Days Gone sounds like a great idea, a post-apocalyptic setting with dynamic zombie hordes, infected animals, and humans. The tagline “This world comes for you,” used in the game’s marketing, certainly fits this idea. While the enemy encounters in Days Gone certainly can be tense, they never really feel unique.
Part of this is because the shooting in Days Gone just doesn’t feel all that great. It’s fine, sure, but it feels comparable to something like Watch Dogs, where the shooting mechanics feel a bit floaty and imprecise, and at the end of the day you’re just using typical weapons like assault rifles and crossbows. There’s no uniqueness here.
This is where games like Dead Rising flourished because it gives you absurd weapons to piece together, using anything and everything you can find to fight zombies. Similarly, the melee weapons just lack a visceral feel that they really need.
There’s no weight behind the blows that Deacon launches, as they just feel hollow compared to something like The Last of Us, which really doubles down on sound design, and shakes the camera as you hit enemies.
Again, the same can be said for Days Gone’s stealth mechanics, which like everything else feel fine, but not exceptional. It doesn’t help that enemies can be dumb as bricks sometimes, not seeing you when you’re a mere four feet away.
I’ve said it already but all of Days Gone’s gameplay mechanics are fine, however, this gets compounded by the frequent technical issues and hiccups the game experiences, like framerate drops and janky animations.
You might be able to overlook these problems, though, if the game’s story was really something exceptional but it’s not.
Days Gone tells a typical tropey story of a man caught in the apocalypse, haunted by his past and what he’s lost, with flashbacks fleshing out the relationship between Deacon and his wife.
The dialogue can be incredibly ham-fisted at times, and frustratingly Deacon feels the need to narrate literally everything he does, a trope I thought we’d left behind last generation. The villains are completely uninspired and uninteresting, although some of the side characters do feel more fleshed out and engaging.
While there are some emotional moments, the problem is that Days Gone’s story just feels to meandering, like it doesn’t get to the point for too long. Like everything else in the game, it’s not bad, just fine.
Days Gone has anything and everything you might expect from an open world zombie game, from crazed lunatics that try to hunt you down, to a darker more sinister truth behind the Freaker virus. It has side quests, collectibles, tons of upgrades, experience points –all that jazz.
But it seems like as Sony Bend tried to make it fit all those typical tropes of the genres, they didn’t find any unique identity to give Days Gone. It doesn’t have the emotionally gripping relationships like in The Last of Us, it doesn’t have the tight nail-biting gunplay of Left 4 Dead, it doesn’t have the wonderful variety of Dead Rising or any number of things that could help it stand apart.
Don’t get me wrong, Days Gone isn’t bad, just bland. However, in the face of so many fantastic PS4 exclusives, like 2018’s Spider-Man and God of War, it’s a bit disappointing to not see Days Gone reach higher.