E3 2018 Hands-On Preview: Days Gone is More Than Just a Zombie Game
I’ve seen Days Gone presented a number of times before, and each time, I get more and more excited for the possibilities that this game holds. Even though Days Gone received an early 2019 release date just prior to E3, it didn’t have a big presence at the show this year. Fortunately I had some time in Sony’s booth where a couple of missions from Days Gone were playable, the first time I’ve actually been able to get my hands on the game.
I was set to head to a nearby garage to get a part for my broken down bike. On the way there, I noticed a couple of freakers devouring the body of another freaker. “Wow, these things are cannibals?” I asked the developer sitting next to me. He told me that the freakers are alive. They require food, water, and have an ecosystem. He talked about some creepy sights in the game where you can see freaker herd drinking water nearby one another. It wasn’t a scene that I got to see right here though, so I carried on.
I was still met with a very disturbing scene however. See, Days Gone features infected children. When I asked about them, the developer was very cautious to steer away from that word. “The smaller ones are called newts,” he told me. “They aren’t usually aggressive.” The newts scurried away from me as I approached the garage and many of them perched on the rooftop glaring down at me very Smeagol-like. I understand the studio’s reticence to acknowledge that these freakers are essentially children, but they wouldn’t be the first studio to tread that path. Dead Space 2 introduced infected alien zombie infants without shame, first encountered in a nursery on the colony, so these “newts” seem pretty tame by comparison.
Whatever the studio wants them to be, they are quite creepy. Hordes of them observe from a distance, but they won’t attack unless they sense you are weak. Scattered freakers could be found around the area, but I was able to dispatch most of them with a couple of melee attacks and gunshots. I noticed the surrounding newts beginning to get a little agitated, so I thought it best to move on with my mission and get the motorcycle part.
I was able to scavenge around the area to find parts for crafting, even if I didn’t do much crafting in the demo itself. It showed that there will be a deep economy in the full game, with plenty find out in the open world. The mission culminated in a big fight with the Rippers, a faction of human enemies that worship the freakers. Going back and forth between fighting infected and humans was an interesting juxtaposition, and I hope that the final game has plenty more scenarios that mix enemy types up. Movement, stealth, and combat all felt great, and the game looked fantastic too.
The next mission was taking on a massive horde of freakers, and it was unlike any other zombie game I had ever played. The freakers moved quickly and swarmed in. One wrong move and I was dead. And I was dead a couple of times before I got the hang of it. This isn’t an easy world to live or fight in, and hundreds of freakers in a lumberyard proved the perfect test of that. While both of these experiences were small slices of the game, they show a ton of promise with how they will fit into the wider scope.
Any doubt or apprehension I had instantly faded when I finished the demo, not that there was much doubt left to begin with. Days Gone looks great, plays great, and has some of the most unique mechanics of any zombie games out there, especially fully open-world ones. I was a little surprised it wasn’t given one last public E3 hurrah before its release, but I was happy to get a chance to go hands-on with Days Gone. Sony has a great lineup of exclusives coming, and February 2019 is no exception.