Days Gone's dynamic world sets it apart, but I need more convincing


The game still runs the risk of feeling too familiar

You probably know Days Gone as “the game with the absurd zombie hordes.” Me too.

That was the big talking point a year ago, during last E3, and we covered it in-depth. This year’s show brought another hands-off demo opportunity and a different angle. Literally!

Behind closed doors, Sony Bend Studio showed the same mission you saw during the on-stage presentation (embedded below) but played it during a different time of day, with different weather. Those changes had far-reaching repercussions on the mission’s ebb and flow and its overall pace.

This year’s talking point? The game’s dynamic weather isn’t just for show (though it does look great).

Our murderous biker protagonist Deacon still had the same basic goal in mind (finding and saving a missing survivor who went on a supply run), but instead of outrunning infected wolves and driving right into a roadside trap, he was able to take his time, circumvent the ambush, and sneak up on the hidden marauders. That alternate turn of events was the most obvious example of Days Gone‘s systems at work. Other examples — the more nuanced stuff — weren’t so easily expressed in a short hands-off demonstration, but the end result was a much more stealth-oriented playthrough.

Bend was willing to talk us through some inner workings and what-ifs, though. Freakers (zombies) will be less prevalent in sunny weather and struggle to see well in snow; hordes tend to hang around grave sites; ice and mud affect your bike’s handling; and humans might seek shelter in rain. Noise is especially important and ties into a lot of the enemy behavior. (One dude killed another for being too loud.) Big picture, Days Gone is about figuring out what’s driving the systems and using that to your advantage. As such, this is looking more and more like a game that’s better experienced than demoed.

I’m not completely sold on Days Gone as an open-world adventure — I’m afraid it’ll feel too familiar once the honeymoon period ends and the spectacle wears off — but it’s getting there. There’s plenty of time left for this game to let its guard down and really make its case. If all else fails, though, I’ll probably still play it for the landscapes inspired by Bend’s real-world surroundings. They’re stunning.

If you enjoyed The Last of Us and Horizon Zero Dawn, this should be right in your wheelhouse.