Since this past E3, Days Gone has been criticized for being just a mishmash of Sony’s greatest hits (one in which every character’s been fitted for Samcro cuts). You know; a little Uncharted here, a splash of The Last of Us there, throw in a pinch of Horizon Zero Dawn—you get the picture.
Here’s the thing; they’re not wrong. The comparisons are pretty much spot on. You’ll get no argument from me. Having said that, it begs the question; what’s so bad about that? Provided it’s done well, does a game works stuff in from all of our other favorite titles not sound exactly like something you’d want to play?
If the gameplay that we’ve seen from the past couple E3s tells me anything, it’s that Days Gone shows a lot of promise. So far, all of the right boxes are being checked; impressive visuals, an interesting main character, and hordes of Freakers to put down, to name a few.
The biggest thing Days Gone has going for it, though, is the idea that you can approach any encounter in a number of different ways. At E3, we were given our second look at a sizeable chunk of gameplay. The demo featured, in particular, a mission in which the game’s protagonist, Deacon St. John, was tasked with rescuing a buddy of his. He’d landed himself in a bit of a scrape with some local ne’er-do-wells.
What most people didn’t get to see at the time, unless they happened to be invited to a demonstration that was held behind closed doors, was another take on that very same sequence. Only this time, the purpose of the private showcase was to highlight how much the experience can differ from player to player.
That same demo has now been published to PlayStation’s YouTube channel. It’s presented with some interesting commentary from the game’s Writer and Director, John Garvin, and the actor who plays Deacon, Sam Witwer.
While watching the video, I realized that several moments stood out to me. Some are merely different takes on the same tactic, but others give us clues about the scope of the game—things we didn’t get to see in the original E3 media showcase. So, this being what I do and all, I thought, why not go over them a bit?
You’ll catch the first big differences immediately. It’s snowing for one thing, which was not the case in the previous demo. Another key change is that it’s set in the middle of the day this time around. Otherwise, the scene begins just as it did before, with Deacon reluctantly accepting a request to help out his pal.
From there, events begin to diverge. In the original presentation, Deacon rides past a pack of hungry wolves busy chomping on a fresh kill. As he swoops by, the wolves give chase, forcing him to ride hard, straight into an ambush. None of that happens this time around. Instead, Deacon spots the trap ahead of time, because there weren’t any wolves around to force him down the road.
The Director, Garvin, says this is due to the fact that wolves in the game don’t hang out in the open during the daytime. Likewise, Freakers are affected by the time of day and the weather as well. Usually, they’re nocturnal. However, if there’s a nip in the air, they’ll wander out into the cold where they are much stronger than usual.
This is where sneaking might prove beneficial. We’ve seen before that sneaking around is an option. In this most recent footage, though, we can see that Deacon has a variety of tools at his disposal to make stealth a smart way to play. For example, like other open world games, Deacon has a pair of binoculars which he can use to mark targets and plan his approach.
You can also tap into what the developers are calling Survival Vision. Similar to Assassin’s Creed’s Eagle Vision, Deacon’s sixth sense for survival can be used to track movements and investigate scenes for insight into how to proceed. You can even use his ability to visualize how a given situation went down, just like Batman’s detective mode in the Arkham series.
Sam Witwer was curious about how his character’s Survival Vision might evolve over the game. Can it be upgraded, for example? Well, from Garvin’s response, that appears to be the case. Apparently, all of Deacon’s skills and abilities can improve over time as you progress through the game and level up. This marks, I believe, the first time we’ve heard anything about the progression system or traditional RPG mechanics in the game.
You’ll also come upon new weapons in the world, which you can loot and equip without entering any menus. This reminded me of The Last of Us. Whenever Joel would happen upon a new weapon, he would seamlessly snatch it up and put it to use. In the alternate path demo for Days Gone, Deacon does the same thing. He spots a corpse with an axe lodged in his head. So, naturally, he walks over, pries it out, and immediately slings it over his shoulder to be worn on his back until he needs it.
It’s those kinds of little touches that can elevate a game, in my opinion. An axe isn’t the only weapon we get to see Deacon use in this video, however. In fact, multiple guns were showcased; some of them automatic, and others more useful for sniping. On top of his arsenal, Deacon can also make use of some abnormally quick reflexes.
There’s nothing supernatural about Deacon’s speed, near as I can tell, but you’re able to slow down time briefly in order to line up a choice shot—you know, ‘bullet time.’ It looks like we’ll also get to play around with a crossbow, which could be the perfect combo for a more sneaky approach.
All in all, I’d say Days Gone has a lot going for it. If you strip it down to its nuts and bolts, the game echoes a whole bunch of other Sony titles that we like, sure. Games play off each other like that all of the time, though. What matters to me is whether, when it all comes together, the whole adds up to be greater than the sum of its parts. It remains to be seen if that’s the case for Days Gone, but I personally can’t wait to find out.