'Days Gone' Review: Dead Men Sell No Tales

6.5/10 (PS4)

I really dislike Deacon St. John. He's the protagonist of Bend Studios latest PS4 exclusive, Days Gone, a game that would be a much more enjoyable open-world apocalypse if he wasn't part of it. It's a shame, because Days Gone is an ambitious single player title that does a lot of things right. But Deacon, a biker with a haunted past and his inner edgelord set to 11, isn't one of them.

Maybe it's not all his fault; he's being held to a high standard, after all. Last year Sony had two stand-out single player exclusives, God of War and Marvel's Spider-Man, that were driven by compelling protagonists. Deacon can't keep up with Kratos and Peter Parker. But he is the tug that pulls the thread that unravels Days Gone . When you start to recognize the hero isn't as good as you're expecting, other cracks begin to show.

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Bend Studios

DAYS GONE REVIEW: THE GOOD

Days Gone is Sons of Anarchy meets The Walking Dead. Deacon tools around on his motorcycle doing odd jobs for different factions, most of which involve killing Freakers or bandits or both. Riding the motorcycle became a high point for me. Like much of Days Gone, there's isn't any major innovation on display, but solid vehicle mechanics are easy to enjoy. Hurtling off of cliffs in a mad rush to escape a Freaker horde was thrilling, and the scenic Pacific Norwest setting is easy on the eyes. If you played Red Dead Redemption 2 , think of your bike as your horse. It's a permanent companion, and you have to take care of it. This means gas and repairs are mandatory, and upgrades are encouraged. Once you get a few upgrades, the bike becomes a lot more fun. I honestly hope for a "freaker-free" mode where we can just tear around the map.

The motorcycle mechanics are one aspect of a well-balanced resource system. There is light crafting in Days Gone, and you'll find a steady supply of raw materials like rags, kerosene, scrap metal and nails. It does an excellent job of giving you just enough to get by without letting you stockpile. There were several missions where I ran out of something crucial midway through, and had to take a few moments to scout around for what I needed (usually kerosene for molotovs). Open world games can fall apart under the weight of their crafting system, but Days Gone gets it just right.

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Bend Studio

The same can be said for fast travel. In Days Gone , you can't fast travel on roads that run through areas with heavy Freaker infestation. You need to go in and clear out nests (with FIRE) to make roads safe for fast travel. Given that gas is a constant worry alongside the anxiety of driving through a dangerous world, fast travel is nice. Earning it makes it even better. And just when you have all the fast travel unlocked for a section of the map, the story advances and you head to new territory and start the process again. Days Gone is a big game, but exploring it isn't a chore.

Like the vehicle mechanics, the combat in Days Gone is solid but not revolutionary. Freakers more or less bum rush your bullets and melee attacks, and cover shooting against armed foes doesn't deliver anything tactically demanding. It's just basic, mindless carnage and an easy way to zone out.

But this is a PS4 exclusive, a current high bar in the world of gaming. When the best things I can say about it is that the background looks nice, the crafting isn't annoying and the combat is mindless, things aren't looking good.

DAYS GONE REVIEW: THE BAD

Deacon St. John is the biggest liability in Days Gone. I don't know if it's bad acting, bad mo-cap, bad audio or all three but there are many, many moments where Deacon's reaction and tone seem at odds with what's happening. Case in point: radio broadcasts. Throughout the game Deacon gets radio broadcasts from Copeland, a faction leader who fancies himself as the ultimate wasteland Truther. Think Alex Jones. Copeland will broadcast some long message about the government, and then Deacon will start yelling. I mean, no one around, middle of a forest full of dangerous Freakers who react violently to sound, and Deacon is yelling a rebuttal. It's meant to convey his anger or edginess, show him as someone who doesn't like "the system." But it runs at odds with what's going on in the game and shatters the immersion Days Gone manages to achieve with a well-built open world.

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Bend Studio

Days Gone doesn't manage to create an open-world that feels uniquely its own. At so many points I felt like I was playing a different game. Riding my motorcycle on muddy trails felt like the upstate portions of GTA V. Creeping around a suburban house looking for loot and listening to footsteps felt like PUBG. Days Gone feels like it took two percent of 50 different games. It doesn't have enough distinction.

Where it does attempt distinction, it falls short. The messaging before release was that Days Gone offered a violent, reactive world. For the most part, it is. There's a day/night cycle that has a noticeable impact on the game world. Certain side missions are a lot harder at night, when the nocturnal Freaker presence is at a peak. But main missions? That's another story.

Unfortunately Days Gone abandons it's dynamic day/night cycle during story missions, which only can occur at a specific time. The game doesn't ask you to return to a spot if you get there at the wrong time, instead it hits a loading screen that shows the sun speeding across the sky as it fast-forwards to the time it needs. It breaks the action, reminds you there's already a lot of loading screens in Days Gone and ultimately undermines one of the strengths of the game. Guaranteeing each major mission plays out the same way no matter what kills incentive for replay and diminishes player agency and strategy.

DAYS GONE REVIEW: IS IT WORTH IT?

Days Gone isn't so good you'd need to go out and get a copy right now, but not so bad you should ignore it forever, either. It's a generic game with rough edges, but if all you want from a title is a chance to kick back and zone out without trying too hard or watching too much, you'll like it. The combat is simple, the motorcycle is badass, and the setting is huge.

Newsgeek Review Score Days Gone
Rocco Marrongelli // Newsweek
'Days Gone' Review: Dead Men Sell No Tales | Newsgeek