Days Gone's story begins in the midst of disaster. We know nothing of the epidemic that turns men into Furiosi, ferocious and inhuman beasts that respond only to the stimuli of a cannibal hunger, but we understand in a flash that the world is collapsing. Panic spreads through the streets of the cities and soon the social infrastructure will be completely crumbled. It is a common context, that of Days Gone seen dozens of times at the cinema or on the small screen, and from time to time also told by videogames.
It is clear right away, in short, that the new title of Sony Bend does not go in search of a disruptive originality, does not claim to rewrite the rules of the dystopian tale based on zombies. More than anything else the new exclusive PS4 works on the atmosphere and the characters, proposing an effective setting, successful and sometimes even curious, enhanced by an impact script. Even Days Gone, in short, is located in that line of productions that are part of the "PlayStation school", attentive to the quality of the narrative and ready to awaken strong emotions.
Days of memories and the infected
During the sequence Initial the game makes clear this predisposition, showing us Deacon St. John forced to make a difficult and painful choice. After leading his wife Sarah to an evacuation zone, Deacon will have to leave her on a helicopter ready to leave, to stay close to Boozer, a Biker club companion whom the protagonist has always considered as a family.
This sense of brotherhood and pride, exhibited through tattoos and characters' ways, is another of the characterizing elements of the plot, which seems to mix carefully the suggestions of Sons of Anarchy with those of The Walking Dead . Mixing these two souls, Days Gone presents itself as an action / survival set in a vast open world region.
On the one hand, therefore, the title has an exquisitely "quantitative" predisposition, made up of dozens of secondary tasks, outposts to be liberated, areas to be explored with care and optional quests. On the other hand there is a gameplay focused not only on shootings, but also on the recovery and intelligent use of resources and raw materials, with which to build traps, blunt weapons and tools of various kinds.
Obviously, as we mentioned at the beginning, attention is not lacking for the main story, which indeed has a fundamental importance in the economy of play: the plot of Days Gone is very present and serves as an engine for the advancement and discovery of the gaming world. Between long and touching flashbacks that tell us about life before the catastrophe, focusing on the past of Deacon and on the relationship with his now lost wife, and a series of meetings not always fortuitous with the factions that inhabit the wild areas of Oregon, at the level narrative does not lack meat in the fire. During the first hours we had unpleasant contacts with the Repugnant a sect of religious invaders who profess the expiation of sins through corporal self-punishment, but also with the soldiers of NERO paramilitary company that seems to have something to do with the spread and containment of the virus. Without going too much into the details of the story, which we will find out more in the review phase, it is enough to know that the dialogues are well written, powerful and loving situations, able to underline all the brutality of a world adrift and the bestiality that during the desperate situations emerge from the hearts of men.
The days of the raiders and the Hordes
Coming to the playful system, the first hours of play do a good job in presenting all the situations and dynamics that make up the mixture of the gameplay. There are a few shootings, strained exploration sequences that are best tackled without being identified by Furiosi (a bit like in The Last of Us ), and long sessions of travel on board the bike, another of the main elements of production.
Faithful to the philosophy of the Bikers, moreover, Deacon has a special relationship with his motorcycle, a symbol of independence and freedom, as well as an essential means to survive and escape the screaming hordes that infest the game world. Unfortunately we must admit that when you pick up the pad the first sensations are a bit 'conflicting. The heaviness of the vehicle, linked to its size, results in a poor responsiveness of the driving system, due to which we will not really feel in full control of the bike. The experience in the saddle of his racing car is therefore frantic, slightly awkward, and unfortunately the same impressions are felt when the weapons are extracted and confrontations of fire are dealt with.
The animations are a bit 'too much plastered, or the hitboxes are not always rigorous, or even a reticule targeting very little precise, the fact is that sometimes it seems to fight with only with Furiosi, Banditi and Ripugnanti, but also with a a difficult and imperfect control system. To play Days Gone you have to overcome a short but tiring period of adaptation, even if it must be said that – thankfully – things improve with the passing of the hours. Developing the bike thanks to the spare parts it is possible to improve the maneuverability, while some of the skills of Deacon increase the stability and accuracy of firearms. There is almost the idea that the development team wanted to increase the initial difficulties to make the sense of progression more strongly felt: a potentially interesting choice over long distances, but perhaps not really effective at first impact.
The character development system, in any case, provides for the presence of three different skill trees, dedicated respectively to close combat, distance combat and the " survivalist " skills of the protagonist. Experience points accumulate by killing enemies and dedicating themselves to collateral tasks, which are certainly not lacking in the gaming world. For example, we can burn the nests of the Furiosi, filthy gathering places where the monstrous aberrations rest (and perhaps even reproduce themselves, judging by the presence of small and disgusting "Larvae" that look like deformed " new born "). Alternatively it is possible to free the outposts of the marauders, or save the survivors we will encounter randomly in the territories of Oregon.
There are several camps scattered around the game map that we will have to gain confidence: in addition to completing the demands of every settlement, we can conquer the favors of the community by reporting macabre war trophies, like the ears of the Furiosi that we have shot down, to demonstrate our usefulness in containing the infestation. It is important to underline that in order to be an open world so vast and full of activities, Days Gone does not propose very tight game rhythms, but rather provides a compassionate and circumspect advancement, which manages to distinguish and characterize the adventure .
As we move in motion through the six regions that make up the map, the experience becomes almost contemplative, as if traveling "on the road" was a moment to separate from the concern of survival, moving away for a moment from the ferocity of a humanity defeated.
On the other hand it is often necessary to stop to supply our vehicle and look for raw materials with which to assemble, among other things, Molotov and healing objects: the survival soul of production emerges with extreme effectiveness, perfect counterpoint to the most dynamics. Overall, in short, the formula prepared by Bend Studio works, and can not be completely derivative. The free roaming component alone is enough to differentiate in a clear and decisive way Days Gone from The Last of Us, production to which the product has been approached since the time of the first presentation. Despite the premises on which the setting is based are similar, the truth is that Days Gone is placed in another playful category, managing to give a solid interpretation of it. Among the elements that distinguish the work from other video games based on zombies (or similar) there are also the hordes of Furiosi, huge tides of screaming meat that move in unison, overwhelming everything they encounter.
The title made its debut during the E3 of 2016, showing this aspect, which also found its place in the final title. In the world of Days Gone after the epidemic, the unhappy decision was made to unload the bodies of the fallen in boundless mass graves in the wilds. In Oregon it is full of these open-air cemeteries, which have become tremendous mangers for hundreds of Furious people recalled by the smell of blood and rotting.
It is precisely for this reason that the Hordes were formed: in the game map there are forty and the player can decide to face them as if they were bubbling bosses optional. The objective will be to decimate the Furiosi, using traps, explosions, and exploiting the opportunities guaranteed by the surrounding environment. A very challenging and adrenaline task, a challenge of nerves and alertness that stimulates a great tension.
The days of landscapes and nature
The last notes, before closing, we dedicate them as always to the technical sector. Days Gone uses a powerfully customized version of the Unreal Engine 4; the engine is used with full knowledge of the development team, which fortunately completely eliminates the risks associated with a general stylistic uniformity of the products that rely on the technology of Epic Games.
The natural spaces of Oregon, the models of protagonists and enemies, and more generally the glance have distinctive traits that infuse Days Gone with a visual identity. On the other hand at the moment it seems to lack the degree of finishing and "polishing" that usually characterizes all the exclusive Sony. The animations are a bit 'plaster, the faces are not always expressive, and above all there are some uncertainties in terms of general stability. When you play still games, the untamed landscapes are suggestive and pleasant to see, but as soon as you climb the bike an evident pop-in of elements and textures greatly reduces the effectiveness of the scenic impact. However, the development theme confirms that we are working on optimization, and in the weeks separating us from the output, code optimization should improve.