Gaming

Days that go on and on with little fun

Days Gone's protagonist Deacon St John battles zombies, among other missions, in the game.
Days Gone's protagonist Deacon St John battles zombies, among other missions, in the game.PHOTO: SONY

After a great run with its ground-breaking exclusives like God Of War and Horizon Zero Dawn over the past two years, Sony has unfortunately run out of momentum with the latest PS4 blockbuster video game Days Gone.

It is hard for me to believe that this game follows such award-winning titles, which were lauded for offering engaging gameplay and telling amazing stories.

While this survival horror game looks visually impressive, it is lacking in these departments and I found its gameplay achingly repetitive and its storyline more tiring than interesting.

Days Gone puts you in the shoes of biker Deacon St John, the rough-around-the-edges but charming protagonist who is trying to survive in the American countryside of the Pacific Northwest that has been infested with people infected with a virus that turns them into mindless writhing and feral creatures that want to eat people - zombies in other words.

As far as main characters go, Deacon fits the bill well, his gruff exterior complementing his tragic backstory and good nature.

Players explore most of the campaign, which spans about 60 hours, on Deacon's bike. From the first trailer shown about three years ago, Sony has made it clear that the two-wheel adventures are what will make Days Gone special as a game.

And the game does this to great effect. The initial slog of finding fuel to keep the vehicle going and upgrading it can be a bit of a hassle. But once the training wheels come off, handling the bike feels good - it feels cool to successfully drift a corner or speed away to escape enemies.

  • FOR

  • •Great graphics with landscapes that seem almost better than real life

    •Satisfying zombie combat that is great in small bursts

    AGAINST

    •Meandering storyline that lacks focus

    •Repetitive gameplay

    •Bugs that severely detract from the experience

    SPECS

    PRICE: From $79.90

    GENRE: Zombie survival horror game

    RATING

    6/10

But Deacon's appealing character and hot pair of wheels are insufficient to save the game's story. The plot moves at a glacial pace and the large amount of cut-scenes takes away the fun interactivity that makes gaming special - if I wanted to watch drama instead of playing it, I could have just booted up Netflix.

Days Gone's story expands as the number and depth of Deacon's relationships increase, but their development does not feel natural or interesting. The intention to create a big sprawling world does the game a disservice as it feels bloated, as if the game is trying to do too many things at once.

The world is definitely big though and there is a wide variety of things to collect as well as people to interact with, roads to explore and enemies to take on.

The variety of enemies is especially notable. Aside from the cookie-cutter zombies gamers have seen on cult classics like Resident Evil and Left For Dead, there are feral animals, human cultists and bandits to worry about.

What I will remember the game for, however, is the overwhelming masses of zombies that seem to function as a single organism with the sole intention of taking you down.

The game successfully made me feel terrified at the impending doom as the zombies tirelessly pursued me, while my figuring out how to get away from the clawing and screaming hordes was thrilling.

In bite-sized pieces, gameplay in Days Gone feels fun. Gunning down zombies while ducking for cover and switching to a melee weapon like a baseball bat or an axe to finish them off is reminiscent of Left For Dead, which many consider to be one of the most enjoyable zombie games out there. The feeling after spending half an hour clearing a large area of enemies, using all the tools you have, is satisfying.

However, this element gets old quickly. The way I play my missions in the first hour feels the same as the way I play them in the fifth hour, and it feels boring after a while as the missions seem to lack variety.

The stealth missions, which are an effort to break the game's monotony and see Deacon sneak past zombies or other enemies to fulfil objectives, come across more like a nuisance that I have to repeatedly go through.

But the biggest annoyance is its glitches. Days Gone has spent a substantial time in development, but there are still so many glaring bugs that make me feel like stopping the game altogether.

There are moments when Deacon would interact with something that is not there, and frame rate dips are a bigger issue than they should be in a game of this budget and scale. Days Gone has been getting almost daily patches since its launch for the past week, so perhaps these issues will be resolved soon - but it did add to a lot of the frustration initially.

There is a fun game buried inside Days Gone and it is a shame it is filled up with unnecessary things that take away from the enjoyment.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 08, 2019, with the headline 'Days that go on and on with little fun'. Print Edition | Subscribe