There was a moment during the reveal of Days Gone that I was pretty darn convinced I was looking at a Last of Us spin-off.
Obviously, I wasn’t, but the fact remains that there are a lot of similarities between the two games. Third-person shooter? Check. Gruff hero riddled with regret? You bet. Zombies? Loads of ’em.
But think of Days Gone as a poor relation to Naughty Dog’s seminal classic and you’ll be doing it a disservice. Having seen the game in-action at a behind closed doors presentation, I can tell you this is one of the most exciting games currenty in development anywhere, on any platform.
Allow me to explain why you should be super-excited for Days Gone.
You’ll battle hundreds of zombies at once
In The Last of Us you generally found yourself having to take on just one or two zombies at any given moment – in Days Gone you can find yourself having to deal with a hundred times that number.
As you can see from the gameplay video above, they charge at you in a vast swarm, running over the bodies of the ones you kill as quickly as you can put them down. It makes the experience incredibly fast-paced and intensely stressful, and brings to mind the World War Z movie.
But they’re not exactly zombies
Students of the way of the zombie will have noticed that the creatures in Days Gone are rather different to your average undead adversaries. For starters, these are runners rather than shamblers, and it’s not necessary to destroy the brain in order to put one down.
Sure enough, the team behind the game explains that the zombies they’ve created aren’t actually zombies at all, but rather infected – yet very much ‘alive’ – humans, called ‘freakers’. Where the infection came from and how it’s spread is a secret for now, but we know that it’s claimed the lives of millions of people.
Ron Allen from Bend, the studio behind Days Gone, also pointed out that when he said "only the strong have survived" in the two years since the outbreak, he wasn’t talking just about the uninfected humans, but also the freakers: they need to eat meat in order to survive, and those that don’t will perish. That’s another departure from zombie lore.
There are loads of ways to tackle each situation
The on-stage demo at this year’s E3 (which is where the video above comes from) may look as though it’s heavily choreographed, but in our behind closed doors session the developers explained that there’s no one way to play out each scenario – before proving it by taking a different route and utilising different scenery elements in a live playthrough of the same section of game.
This is an open-world game that encourages you to think on your feet by choosing between different paths and exploiting the environment to slow down the freaker swarm. In the second playthrough we saw the main character take an alternative route through the sawmill and using a proximity mine (hastily constructed using the crafting system) to bring a pile of logs down upon the chasing enemies.
The development team also pointed out that the end of the gameplay demo is not the end you’d be aiming for if you were playing. That fade to black hides a grisly fate for our protagonist, and instead the aim would be to kill every one of the freakers (apparently that really is possible) or make it back to the motorbike and ride to safety.
It’s like playing an apocalyptic Sons of Anarchy
In Days Gone you play as Deacon St. James, MC of a motorcycle club, whose gang now appears to consist of just two members.
He’s a brutal, violent man, which makes him well suited to apocalyptic survival and his new occupation as a bounty hunter, but Bend Studios is keen to stress that he’s also a man struggling with the loss of his club brothers and history wife/girlfriend.
It’s like placing Jax Teller in a zombie apocalypse, and who wouldn’t want to see/play that?
It looks stunning
The game looks absolutely stunning in action, even when there are more characters onscreen than you could possibly count. That’s not just about graphical fidelity, but also the painstaking detail that’s been poured into the environment.
The setting is the Pacific Northwest, specifically the High Desert – an area of land in and around Oregon that sits at 4,000ft and higher. This is actually where Bend Studios itself is based, and it contains incredibly varied scenery and a climate that’s unusual and unpredictable. That will be recreated in-game by a dynamic weather system, and there’s a day/night cycle, too.
The guys at Bend wouldn’t commit to any specific figure of the size of the game, but did say it’s absolutely huge and can be roamed freely by the player. That motorbike’s going to be pretty vital!