Sony might have given Days Gone one of the most concerted marketing pushes of any exclusive this generation. They’ve been dropping a string of promotional trailers showing off virtually every aspect of the game each week or so for what seems like months.
If you’ve been sensible, you’ve averted your eyes to avoid spoilers and start the game a blank slate.
I know I certainly did, which is also probably why, despite Sony’s best efforts to plaster Days Gone’s main protagonist across the internet, it never occurred to me what a nonsensical and irritating a character Deacon St. John is.
From his silly name to his backward facing cap and tacky rings, Deacon resembles a caricature of the quintessential gruff biker-gang member. You literally couldn’t outfit him with anything more than he’s already wearing to telegraph that.
Basically, he’s Daryl from the Walking Dead mixed with Jax from Sons of Anarchy; a rugged, no-nonsense man with a tragic past who rides with hard, tattoo ladened men like his brother-in-arms, Boozeman (Boozer for short –yes, the absurd names continue).
The notion of two men drifting across a harsh, post-apocalyptic world trying to make the best of the bad hands they’ve been dealt isn’t actually all that difficult to get behind. The problem is that the personas Deacon and Boozeman portray on are a) totally unrealistic, and b) completely unrelatable.
They have the appearance of men you’d expect to bump into in some backend biker-bar in a washed up desert somewhere. The ones where woman dance on the table and drug deals go down between skin-head gangs in the backroom; where you get punched in the face for gazing in someone’s direction for more than half a second.
As it happens, I’m a passionate motorcyclist myself who’s encountered many of the so-called one-percenter outlaw motorcycle clubs Deacon and Boozeman represent in my time. They’re typically not nice people.
In fact, Deacon wears a biker jacket with ‘Mongrel’ and a chained bulldog on the back; the same name and emblem as the Mongrel Mob, a notorious biker-gang based in New Zealand, feared for organized crime and violence. The likeness is so uncanny, Days Gone’s reveal made headlines in the country for that very reason when it appeared back in 2017.
Sony Bend hasn’t confirmed the Mongrel Mob as inspiration for Days Gone’s ‘Drifters,’ but regardless, the point is that these are the sorts of people one associates with anybody who dresses and looks like Deacon and Boozeman.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, they’re not as rough and ready as they look, though. While Deacon and Boozeman dress like thugs, they’re actually complete sweetie-pies. Deacon is the perfect gentleman with a heart of gold. He’s very well-spoken, caring, honorable, and extremely respectful of women.
In other words, there’s a confusing disparity between Deacon’s appearance and his demeanor, between the activities he performs in the game –murdering people, transporting drugs, and trafficking human beings to a slave labor camp — and his gentlemanly mannerisms.
I can’t help but feel that Days Gone’s vision of biker-culture has been conceptualized by middle-aged men. The sorts that dream of buying a Harley Davidson when they retire and donning the leather jacket and bandanna to look the part.
We’re just supposed to accept that Oregon’s high desert is full of misunderstood, chivalrous thug-knights riding around on their metal steeds. It’s a little far-fetched, and it comes off as corny.
The game’s story, which is desperately in need of deeper character development and a more interesting overarching plot, would actually have benefited immensely from taking more time explaining this strange juxtaposition.
Better yet, I’d have preferred for the game to present a totally different, unfiltered, and x-rated story about, say, two city boys caught up with some sort of genuinely nasty biker gang amid the post-apocalyptic chaos –that would have been much more interesting.
At the very least, I could have gone for a rougher, more convincing version of Deacon. While it wouldn’t have changed the relatability factor, at least he would have made sense. If you’re going to give me a hardass biker as a protagonist, give me the full-fat product, not some watered down, mild-mannered facade. Saying “goddam” and “son of a bitch” three times a sentence doesn’t make him convincing…
But Days Gone doesn’t take any of those risks. It’s a conservative tale with watery characters about basically nothing at all, and it feels as though Deacon and Boozeman’s attire and biker status exists simply to give the narrative some sort of edge. Unfortunately, it’s this misguided attempt that makes its main protagonist feel so contrived, nonsensical, and completely unrealistic.