Sony showed off exclusive open-world zombie survival adventure Days Gone at E3, though the content was still too isolated to cast any real judgement.
Days Gone comes from developer SIE Bend, creators of both the Syphon Filter franchise and the solid portable Uncharted spin-off The Golden Abyss. It’s their next attempt at the spotlight and continues to seem like one of the more promising PlayStation exclusives. That is, inasmuch as we can actually tell. To my dismay, the actual footage of the game was just as sparing as it has been since announcement, offering us little more than a teasing glimpse.
Both the stage presentation and the private demo covered the same content: an isolated mission that asks protagonist Deacon St. John to rescue a wayward member of his little post-apocalyptic colony. Deacon is quite obviously an analog to The Walking Dead‘s Daryl Dixon, a fan favorite scruffy, snarky biker. Whether you love him or hate him depends pretty heavily on how interested you are in another stereotypical rogue, but with the talented Samuel Witwer lending him his voice, he does carry a contagious sort of dry charisma.
While the stage presentation showed Deacon rescuing his captured compatriot from a group of bandits with the aid of some explosives and an angry horde of flesh-eating “freakers,” (read: zombies) the private demo went for a more subtle approach. Night and snow were both falling, and the roaming horde was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Deacon took his time with a stealthy approach, taking down guards one by one and listening to their chatter for clues as to what was happening.
The developer narrating the live demo made a point to mention that Days Gone was created to be a game in which you don’t have to look for something interesting in the open world, because the world will come for you. Part of this principle was demonstrated by just how different the same mission is when approached from a different direction, in different weather, and at a different time of day. Deacon set traps, used lures, eavesdropped, and stole his way to the same resolution.
It was a consistently intriguing look, but in the end we really didn’t see much more than we have in the past. And because the footage was taken from the same mission, there was no way of understand the scale of the wider in-game world. Stealth, shooting, and setting traps all looked very solid, if unremarkable. The snippet of motorcycle travel that we saw looked similarly competent.
Still, a lot of big questions remain. Open-world games thrive on their side content and are deeply dependent on how interesting the worlds themselves are to explore. Everything we’ve seen suggests a pretty strong exclusive for the PlayStation 4, but there are still more than enough unknowns to easily disguise a lackluster affair.
We’ll have more information as it’s made available. For now, despite all of the attention Sony has drawn to the title, we don’t even know when Days Gone will finally release.
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