Days Gone is Sony’s newest exclusive, but it hasn’t been met with the gushing reviews you’d expect from a PlayStation 4 only game. While some of the complaints from fellow critics are impossible to ignore, it’s hard to shake off the feeling that Bend Studio’s biggest project to date is being unfairly scrutinised thanks to it not being The Last Of Us Part 2, Horizon Zero Dawn, and God Of War.
Critics are right to point out Days Gone’s technical issues as it would’ve greatly benefited from some more polishing time, but a lot of the other complaints come across as petty nitpicks from party poopers with sticks up their butts.
Is Days Gone better than The Last Of Us, Horizon Zero Dawn, or God Of War? Absolutely not. Is it even as good? No. Then, does that mean it’s bad? Hell no. It's far from being a game "so bad it's funny".
Days Gone isn’t a revolutionary masterpiece that will dupe people into thinking it’s the gaming industry’s crème de la crème, but that doesn’t mean it’s an average to poor experience. When you ignore that it’s a PlayStation 4 exclusive and stop comparing it to other first-party Sony games, then you realise that Days Gone is a fun time with a strong protagonist, likable relationships, sufficient gameplay, and gorgeous graphics.
- Sony wants Days Gone to be a franchise rather than a one-off hit
- Days Gone Update 1.05 – How to fix sound bug
- Bend Studio removed good and bad choices from Days Gone
It’s not The Last Of Us and that’s okay
Instead of being an emotional daddy and child road trip Oscar bait like The Last Of Us and God Of War, Bend Studio’s Days Gone is first and foremost a fun game. It’s not going to win any awards for writing or direction, but that doesn’t matter as it gives you plenty of bang for your buck.
Rather than the primary relationship being between a grumpy man and an annoying child like The Last Of Us and God Of War, Days Gone’s is between a biker and a lass whose profession revolves around flowers. Before its launch, I expected to loathe Deacon because – on the surface – he’s a prat who’d be more at home in Wild Hogs rather than Sons Of Anarchy. However, thanks to Sam Witwer’s excellent performance, and some genuinely sweet cut-scenes with Sarah, Deacon is actually likable and compelling. Yes, he’s a grumpy jerk, but he’s also a complex individual tormented by the supposed loss of his wife. He’s far from a two-dimensional protagonist as he’s a torn survivor who commits a lot of terrible acts, while at the same time caring about others such as Boozer and Lisa.
At the risk of sounding sappy, the relationship between Deacon and Sarah is also genuinely heart-warming. It’s not as complex as Joel and Ellie’s, nor Kratos’ and boy, but it’s affectionate and nice. The biggest complaint I’ve seen concerning their relationship is a petty one about Sarah saying at her wedding that she wants Deacon to ride her as much as he does his bike. This is a harmless line that is actually somewhat charming in its goofiness, yet it’s been misrepresented as an embodiment of Days Gone’s “terrible” writing. The writing is far from terrible and so are the characterisations, and Deacon and Sarah’s flirting is as natural and cheesy (the good kind) as Uncharted’s Drake and Elena.
The open-world could be better, but it’s far from bad
Do I like open-world games? Aside from Red Dead Redemption 2, The Witcher 3, and Horizon Zero Dawn, I do not. The issue with open-world games is that the landscapes are huge but sparse and that the side activities and missions are largely identical. And – unfortunately – Days Gone shares this fundamental dilemma. Its Oregon is dull and boring, the side activities are pretty much the same as every other Ubisoft game, and the camps are soulless areas populated by animatronics with out-of-sync lips. But, unlike the never-ending Assassin’s Creed series (which continue to get positive coverage despite committing the same open-world video game atrocities), this Sons Of Anarchy x World War Z crossover is Bend Studio’s first go at a AAA open-world video game, and Deacon’s motorcycle is unique enough to make the experience stand out in the oversaturated genre.
Days Gone would’ve benefited from a smaller playground and more mission variety, but riding around on Deacon’s motorcycle gives the game enough character. It’s wonderful to control, there are actual ramifications for wandering about the open-world absentmindedly, and it’s key to the protagonist’s identity. Yes, the ride can occasionally be rough with obstructions on the road often appearing at the very last second, but – like Red Dead Redemption 2 – the traversal is so enjoyable that it makes the inclusion of Fast Travel pointless.
Days Gone is a great game
Days Gone is a great game. It’s not 10/10 fantastic like The Last Of Us, God Of War and Horizon Zero Dawn, but it’s still an exclusive Sony should be proud of despite its lower Metacritic score. If you don’t expect and stop wanting Days Gone to be a heart-wrenching game of the year masterpiece, then you can look beyond its technical issues and other shortcomings to properly appreciate the excellent relationship between Deacon and Sarah, as well as the motorcycle that makes it almost impossible to return to riding horses.
Not to mention, the Freakers are terrifying and unpredictable in their colossal hordes as they usually appear out of nowhere, and the skill tree is an actually useful addition as most of the optional traits make survival so much easier. Plus, Rikki is pretty great.
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