Games: Days Gone an unexpected 'Sons of Anarchy meets Walking Dead' PS4 treat
Days Gone (PS4)
SHACKLED with a non-disclosure agreement which lifted a day before today's release (rarely a good sign), it was fascinating to see just how lukewarm expectations have been in the run-up to Sony’s latest PlayStation exclusive.
Revealed three years ago, Days Gone has since flown so far under the radar, many thought it had been cancelled. So it comes with considerable relief that, having spent a fortnight in its company, Sony’s bikers n' zombies yarn is an unexpected treat.
Essentially 'Sons of Anarchy meets Walking Dead meets Far Cry meets World War Z', Days Gone is a veritable roll-call of tropes from the last decade. Yet despite the pop culture box-ticking, it manages to sidestep cliché for an bum-clenching mix of survival horror and soap opera.
Set in the Pacific Northwest wilderness two years after a global pandemic, humanity lives in fear of mutated swarms. Step up to the plate Deacon St John, a hard fightin', hard fartin', liberal minded Harley-straddling drifter with a heart of gold whose old lady – a research scientist, natch – is presumed dead.
Yes, the premise is pure Cheesy Rider, with a hero who may as well be called Joe Kickass.
Joe, sorry, Deacon soon finds himself running errands for various survivor communities that run the gamut of society. Over the course of 30-odd hours, players will put paid to wolves, bears and the cueball-headed Rippers. But Days Gone’s marquee mutants come horde-sized. Christened 'The Freaker' and easily despatched in small numbers, when scores of these beggars run riot – spilling over each other like liquid zombie – it's a horrifying sight rendered so impressively you’ll want to pat your PS4 on the back.
Incredibly, the 'Z' word is never mentioned (the undead have been done to death), but botch your approach and Freakers will be on you like a tramp on hot chips.
Combat is smooth, with solid gunplay and satisfyingly beefy dust-ups. One minute you’re taking a ten-by-four to a Freaker's gob, the next hunting for lavender to sooth your buddy's arm in a bromance that reeks of testosterone and gasoline.
Despite genre staples like item-crafting, trust-building and a massive map pockmarked with jobs to do, Days Gone is all killer, no filler, with everything in service of the plot. Burning Freaker nests and clearing enemy camps creates bases for fast travel, though carousing the world on your filthy bike is a joy.
At first your hog handles like a pig, but upgrades aren’t long coming and Day’s Gone’s slick mix of high speed and horror ensures a surplus of skidmarks on both screen and pants.
Yes, there’s an over-reliance on cut-scenes to do the narrative heavy-lifting, while some hefty loading times and frame rate stutters are a necessary shame on base-spec hardware. And, without the marquee glitter of Sony's heavy hitters, Days Gone will no doubt suffer derision from the gaming gentry.
Yet, while doing nothing new, it's rarely been done so well – and Days Gone can hold its grizzled head high in a golden age of PlayStation exclusives. At the very least, it’ll keep your joypad toasty until Last of Us 2 hits the market.