REVIEW: ‘Days Gone’ is a Great Port if You Use a Controller(PC)

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Days Gone

Originally released exclusively on PlayStation 4 in 2019, Days Gone is an open-world action-survival game set in the high-desert of the Pacific Northwest two years after a mysterious global pandemic has decimated the world, killing most but transforming millions into mindless, feral creatures. Developed by Bend Studio and published by Sony Interactive, this survival story puts players into a world where resources are scarce, violence and murder are common and Freakers (the in-game name for zombies) roam the wilderness waiting. Now, Days Gone has made its way to PC via Steam, and to be honest, it’s well worth the purchase.

In Days Gone, you play as Deacon St. John—Deek to the people who know him. In this new world ravaged by a plague, Deacon is a bounty hunter and drifter who lives in the lawless wilderness outside the civilian encampments. Deacon survives by using skills learned before the world ended, riding for the Mongrels MC, an outlawed motorcycle club, where violence and mayhem were part of the riding the open road.

As a story, Days Gone isn’t treading any new ground. In fact, it’s pretty much Daryl from The Walking Dead if he had a healthy relationship with people around him pre-outbreak. But that isn’t a bad thing. By walking down a path already laid before them, the developers behind Days Gone were able to improve on elements and side-step plot armor issues by rolling them into the mechanics of the game. Plus, with the groundwork already laid for the audience to jump into the story, we get to see what’s really at the core of Days Gone: grief, friendships, love, vengeance, and total and utter desperation. At first, as Deacon, you work through the motions of the game type: collect things, craft things, fight things, and repeat. That said, with each bounty collected, and each Trust mission completed, you ride deeper into a story that takes into consideration the way communities form and protect the people within them.

For Deacon especially, it’s a struggle to ensure that he clings to whatever hope he has left after losing those he holds close. Without spoilers, the writing of the main story scenarios in Days Gone progresses you through the world in a way that tests you. Deacon tries his hardest to push towards hopes. He habitually scouts out National Emergency Restoration Organization (NERO) checkpoints that have long been abandoned in hope of finding his wife Sarah who was lost when everything fell apart. And, having lost her, he holds onto his best friend Boozer as hard as he can. Even as Boozer’s health declines, his friendship is what pushes the narrative. In fact, Days Gone is a story of a secret organization that has definitely hurt humanity and hidden how and why—you know, like the Umbrella Corporation. That said, NERO’s intrigue, while important to the game’s narrative, is built on top of a story pushed by relationships and this is why the game works as a whole.

That said, Deacon feels like a guy who has things happen to him versus being a force in his own story. It’s a small critique, but truthfully, Sam Witwer’s vocal performances in some of the harder-hitting moments of the game are so well done that I wish I felt his personality come through in other elements of the game as well. Additionally, the world is expansive. It’s a lot to take in and beautifully crafted with a dynamic weather system and a day-night cycle that impacts how you can traverse the world. While this system is well executed with how the Freakers act (slow in the day and fast and aggressive at night) there are some jarring moments in the game where I entered an area at night and then it quickly changed to daytime with no transition when I entered a cinematic scene.

Now, Days Gone has a good story, but on its initial launch, it was the buggy mechanics that earned it ire from fans. Thankfully with time, the PC port of the game runs well with little to no bugs, load or save issues, and is visibly more beautiful with its unlocked framerates and improved graphics (VFX, increased LOD distance, and foliage draw distances). Additionally, if you use ultra-wide monitors in your set-up, this version of the game also supports those.

Now, when it comes to mechanics, there a more than a few that come into play. There are simple stealth ones that benefit you when you come against large hordes, NERO researchers, or when you just don’t have the supplies to sustain a full attack. Then, there is a weapons system for both long and short-ranged combat with gen safes available across locations to ease your weapon choices. In survival game fashion, weapon durability, especially for your melee and short-range weapons is a big deal. While you can usually find multiple weapons lying around an area, they range in the damage output—a 2×4 definitely doesn’t hit as hard as an ax and an ax definitely is more durable than a make-shift machete out of a lawnmower blade. Additionally, you can craft weapons as you find recipes throughout the world, the first of which is a nail bat—y’know, Negan’s Lucile.

Days Gone

While durability is important for your close-combat weapons (except your trusty knife), long-ranged weapons require a focus on ammo management. While you can fill up on what you can carry while at camps and at your base, in the open, you have to rely on what you pick up from dead bodies (the human enemies in the game) and what you find in buildings or police cars. But it isn’t just managing your ammo, you also need to manage your resources when it comes to ingredients for crafting health aids and Molotov cocktails—necessary to burn Freaker nests, and just all-around easiest to make while on the go.

Then, you have the bike. If it wasn’t apparent by the fact that he still flies MC colors, Deacon’s main transportation vehicle is a motorcycle that can be modified with parts to enhance its speed, durability, or maneuverability, among other parameters as you gain trust with different camps. But while that can be done, the nitty-gritty of traversing the map is managing your bike’s fuel and maintenance. If you hit something, your bike takes damage. If you jump from too high, you and your bike take damage. Or when you use your bike while in pursuit of someone, the damage is also an issue. This means that you should keep a close eye on your bike and scavenge scrap as much as possible. Additionally, you can’t just keep riding endlessly, which makes traversal a little more difficult. While finding gas is easy enough once you find a tow truck, it is really easy to get into a groove and completely forget that gas is a thing you need to stop and get.

While all of the mechanics work to make an interesting and engaging game, the one large issue I have with the game is that not all movement controls seem optimized for keyboard play. This is nowhere more apparent than when you ride. Even though I was able to get a sort of hang of riding, key combinations to accelerate with nitrous, or even just absorb impacts when landing are hard to manage while also using the standard WASD keys. That said, you’re not locked into playing with a DualShock controller if you choose to play with a controller. This is the greatest feature because I definitely don’t recommend a keyboard for this one.

One of the other issues I had in my playthrough was using the weapon and crafting wheel. Instead of pulling it up and being able to click on actions within it, you have to press the corresponding keys, which seems counter-intuitive while playing. Additionally, I had quite a bit of trouble with turning Deacon using the keys to line up for specific actions, mostly trying to open items and such. While this wasn’t entirely cleared up with a controller, it isn’t game-breaking.

Overall, Days Gone on the PC is a great experience that brings a stellar upgrade for graphics that take full advantage of the dynamic weather system. And, with a much smoother ride than it got on console, this is well worth the buy for PC-players looking to get in on zombie action. With over 40-hours of gameplay, the game itself can be as long as you make it, and with a world that big, it’s well worth the purchase.

Days Gone on the PC is available via Steam May 18, 2021.

Days Gone
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Days Gone on the PC is a great experience that brings a stellar upgrade for graphics that take full advantage of the dynamic weather system. And, with a much smoother ride than it got on console, this is well worth the buy for PC-players looking to get in on zombie action. While it definitely plays better on controller, the experience is still a great one.