From the very moment it was revealed at E3 2016 something has bothered me about Days Gone, Sony’s upcoming zombie-action title from the creators of the Syphon Filter series. But I figured that might have just been a problem with the build they showed during E3 and I decided to bench my opinions until we got a better look at what the game’s all about. Well now that we have, thanks to an extended demonstration at E3 2017, I can now with confidence say that Days Gone looks like it might be a pretty bad game when it releases.
Now I say ‘might’ because, well I might be wrong and the game might actually be an enjoyable title that brings a lot to the PlayStation 4’s lineup. After all it seems to have all the things that make a modern game popular; gritty character, varied gameplay, unique setting and zombies (well those might be a bit dated now) and the developer SIE Bend has delivered strong games in the past though mostly for handheld devices like the PSP and Vita, so on the surface things seem pretty good for Days Gone’s prospects, but in our two (admittedly) short looks at the game I just can’t shake the feeling that this game isn’t going to turn out very good.
The very thing that sticks out to me is the premise. Zombies are around and you have to save a loved one from a rival faction blah blah blah of some bad dudes and did I mention zombies? It’s a painfully generic setting that feels totally played out in 2017 (and might be even more when the game is released) and one that even ardent fans are starting to abandon (does anyone still watch The Walking Dead?) and actually plays against Days Gone based on the internet’s reaction to the game’s reveal. To the game’s credit the sheer amount of zombies on-screen at once is truly impressive and that alone makes the shambling undead scary again but it’s probably not going enough to convince those who see it as just another zombie game.
And then there’s the game’s main characters. Now while we admittedly don’t know much about their backstories and personal histories they seem really, really generic in what we’ve seen so far, with motivations and personalities basically copy and pasted from the Uncharted or Last of Us book of character design. Now you can’t blame Bend for trying to emulate some of the success of those games as they have proven extremely popular with PlayStation gamers and other media channels as one (based on the success of films like Logan) but playing the some old thing with cookie-cutter characters doesn’t sound appealing and is not a great way to try to sell people on a brand new IP.
When it comes to the game’s presentation (graphics and sounds specifically), no one in their right mind would say that Days Gone looks bad but it definitely has a hard time standing out in a crowd, especially a crowd that consists of Horizon: Zero Dawn, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and God of War (PS4). Each of those games stands out thanks to their unique art styles, settings and unique characters – all things that Days Gone seems to be lacking. Actually certain screenshots of Horizon: Zero Dawn, God of War (PS4) and Days Gone can hardly be told apart if it weren’t for elements like the mechanical beasts in Horizon or Kratos’ trademarked scowl. Days Gone doesn’t have anything like this and risks being washed out and marked as unremarkable on a system that has a plethora of ‘realistic’ looking games.
But of course when it comes to determining the quality of a game how it plays is kings and this is definitely my biggest problem with Days Gone. Simply put it looks dull and overly scripted, especially for an open-world title. What I mean by this is that, even though the developers have promised many options and ways to tackle different situations it all seemed very similar to things we’ve seen in other games. For example, using the horde of rampaging undead to clear an enemy base (while very cool) isn’t much different than setting a swarm of bees against your foes in Zelda or orchestrating the chaos of a wild animal stampede from the latest Far Cry. I suppose my biggest gripe is if there’s so many ways to experience the game why were we shown elements that are just a different aesthetic to tried and true mechanics.
So will Days Gone be any good? Honestly, no one knows. Obviously the game still has a lot of development time and we’ve seen time and time again games with poor showings turn things around and become smash hits. But for this game, more than any other that I saw at E3 I feel like it may be heading in the wrong direction, mostly from borrowing too many elements from successful games and franchises to stand on its own. Maybe I’m being too critical of a game we have literally seen less than 30 minutes of and I would love to be wrong about it, but as it stands Days Gone looks like a bad game in the making.