Days Gone hands-on preview: Uneasy rider

It's almost time to hop on your hog and head to the Freaker-filled hills of Oregon in the upcoming PS4 exclusive Days Gone. We got a chance to take it for a test drive before its full launch.

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Last year was a banner one for the PlayStation 4 as far as hitting it out of the park with its exclusive first-party titles. Now, we’re just a little over a month away from the launch of what Sony is hoping will be their first big exclusive of the year, I got a chance to take Days Gone for a ride and find out for myself what fans can expect from the upcoming title.

Days Gone screenshot Deacon faces a horde of Freakers

Days Gone takes place in a world that has been decimated by a plague that turns people into I am Legend-style zombie-like creatures known as “Freakers.” Players take on the role of outlaw-biker-turned-survivalist Deacon St. John. During the initial outbreak, Deacon put his severely injured wife on a rescue helicopter and stayed behind to ensure his biker brother lived through the chaos. When the pair of bikers arrive at the safe zone the heli was headed for they find it ravaged by the Freakers which leaves Deacon a shell of his former self and instills an unbridled hatred for Freakers in his core. His unchecked hatred of Freakers is a character flaw that will show itself in several ways throughout the game.

Players will start the game roughly two years after the zombie apocalypse. Deacon and his biker pal have made their way in the new world as people who can get things done for local outposts while living mostly on their own. Working for various outposts and gaining favor with them will be key to unlocking better weapons and customizable biker parts throughout the game as well as progressing vital aspects of the story.

The story in Days Gone takes place amongst the beauty and wilderness of the state of Oregon. For those not familiar with the massive sprawling forests, high mountain peaks, and awe-inspiring lakes of Oregon, the game does a good job of representing its natural gorgeousness. The setting provides a stark contrast to the constant threat of danger that lurks in the shadows of desecrated truck stop towns and abandoned lumber yards. There's a lot of fine detail that makes the world come alive. Riding around on my motorcycle and being able to enjoy the world was one of my favorite things about Days Gone.

Players will have a variety of tasks they can undertake while traversing the Oregon trails, either for fun or to help progress the games several plots and sub-plots. If players want, they can just wander around killing Freakers or hunting wildlife. Burning down all the Freakers nests in certain areas and clearing out any creatures that remain can unlock fast travel points. Or perhaps players would rather take out a remote group of marauders and hunt down their hidden bunkers for supplies.

Days Gone screenshot the desecrated Oregon landscape

Outpost missions tend to be more involved and move the plot along. For instance, there was one outpost that tasked me with finding a missing child who had been living in her hometown and somehow avoiding threats. This mission involved not only taking out massive amounts of enemies, and sneaking the child back to Deacon’s motorcycle, but also fighting a massive mutant bear in what I would consider to be a boss fight. Other outpost missions involved doing things like hunting for supplies or food and taking out nearby enemies.

There’s a surprisingly large variety to the types of enemies players will encounter in Days Gone. Freakers not only come in your standard, spooky, vampire-zombie grunt form, but come in other flavors as well, including the Newt. These creatures are smaller and more territorial and don’t really attack unless you invade their space or assault them. What’s really disturbing about the Newts though is they look like a lot like children, and for all I know they actually are kids. Even when it’s monster kids I found fighting and killing these things to be a dark experience that definitely fits with the game’s tone, but also might be a turn-off for more sensitive gamers. Creatures that have been affected by the plague such as the previously mentioned mutant bear and packs of wolves that will tear several chunks out of Deacon.

Other humans will be just as big of a threat as animals and Freakers. While cruising around Oregon, players may hear Deacon mention a marauder ambush being up ahead. Players who don’t heed the warning could have their bike shot out from underneath them by a sniper before more enemies jump out of nowhere and start beating them to death. There will also be camps of marauders strewn about that may need to be cleared out.

In contrast to the marauders, who are basically just people trying to survive in a hostile environment, there’s another group of humans that are even more of a menace. Rippers are members of a sadistic death cult that see the Freakers as some sort of religious icons. The cultists are covered head to toe in what appear to be self-inflicted scars and wounds and they do not go down easy.

Savvy players may find ways to pit their opponents against each other. For example, the noise from a brawl at a marauders camp may draw a local horde of Freakers in the fray at which point players could sneak to a safe spot and watch the chaos ensue.

Days Gone screenshot Deacon hides from a sniper

Combat in Days Gone is a mix of stealth melee, cover-based gunplay, and brutal brawling that feels like a mix of Assassin’s Creed and the Division with a light peppering of Dead Rising. Players will find themselves in a number of scenarios that they’ll need to react to in specific ways. For example, when dealing with Freakers it’s much more like dealing with a creature in self-preservation mode that’s relying on its senses to attack or defend itself. Humans of all varieties will be able to communicate and used more advanced tactics to pin players down. Bears and other creatures will just use sheer brute force to overpower players who can think on their feet.

Making sure Deacon has the supplies he needs to survive is going to be paramount in Days Gone. Players will need to scavenge for items they need to make things like Molotov cocktails, bandages, and arrows. Found mechanical parts will be used to keep the bike tuned up and melee weapons in good shape. Keeping gas in the bike’s tank will also be key as running out of it in the middle of nowhere is basically doom. The game even factors in gas usage when fast traveling from point A to point B, so it can’t be used on an empty tank.

As players level up, they’ll be able to augment upgrade melee, gun-based combat, and survival skills respectively. Melee and gun upgrades do things like buff damage or make weapons more durable, or add a focus mode for aiming while survival skills do things like augment Deacon’s tracking and hunting skills, which play a bigger role in the game as it progresses.

Overall, I found my hands-on time with Days Gone to be an intense experience. The stunningly gorgeous visuals are a stark contrast to the main characters’ rather bleak existence. While the story may seem like a dark and hopeless scenario, there are glimmers of light strewn about that I won’t go into, as to not spoil any major plot points. Days Gone is a title that’s looking to blend a lot of great mechanics from various genres and then throw in some survival game aspects on top of that. Riding around on a motorcycle is pretty enjoyable as well. Days Gone will be coming to the PS4 exclusively on April 26.

Reviews Editor

Blake has been writing and making videos about pop-culture and games for over 10 years now. Although he'd probably prefer you thought of him as a musician and listened to his band, www.cartoonviolencemusic.com. If you see him on the street, buy him a taco or something. Follow him on twitter @ProfRobot

From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 6, 2019 12:18 AM

    Blake Morse posted a new article, Days Gone hands-on preview: Uneasy rider

    • reply
      March 6, 2019 4:23 AM

      Yet another title I'd like to play but never will because of console exclusivity. Thanks Sony.

      • reply
        March 6, 2019 4:25 AM

        I know an easy way to fix that

        • reply
          March 8, 2019 2:20 PM

          And I know I'll never buy another game console, so we can call it a draw.

    • reply
      March 6, 2019 12:44 PM

      Awesome! I would get a PS4 just for this game, I have been mega hyped since I 1st saw it at E3. My body and my Pro are READY!

      Let's GO \m/ :) , thanks for the write up Dude sounds amazing(so cool about he progression was wondering about that).

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