My time with Days Gone, the upcoming zombie action survival game from SIE Bend Studio, was brief, but not altogether satisfying. Set in a world dominated by the Freakers, zombie stand-ins that consumed most of humanity after a global pandemic, Days Gone‘s early marketing promised that I’d be fleeing from hordes on the back of my trusty motorcycle and gunning down zombies by the dozen while sprinting for my life across rooftops.
The start of the demo I played at a recent preview event, however, deposited me in the middle of a camp of other human survivors, holding a gun with only a few bullets left and no zombies in sight. Though the game prompted me to go check out a nearby abandoned medical facility, I took a moment to poke around town. Everywhere I went, merchants offered to upgrade my equipment, offering glimpses into ways to improve my motorcycle piece by piece, craft new weapons, and even make food. Without any money, though, I couldn’t get a closer look at the upgrades, and eventually gave up to jump on my motorcycle and follow the bright yellow path outlined on the map that would lead me to the medical facility.
Well, I followed the line for the most part. I took a few liberties of cutting through the trees, riding my bike through a river, and—upon finally spotting a couple of zombies lurking in the woods—seeing how well the bike held up upon slamming into zombie flesh (answer: not well, but zombies are still easily outrun). Not wanting to waste my ammo, I took down several zombies simply by punching them in the face one at a time. Usually, they were kind enough not to all attack at once.
When I finally reached the medical facility, my motorcycle now running a bit low on gas (the tank empties fast for how crucial your motorcycle is for transport), I found the doors to the buildings electronically locked. A prompt from a nearby generator promised to unlock them once power was restored, but the generator required gasoline. Remembering the gas gauge on my motorcycle, I tried to find a way to siphon gas from my motorcycle into the generator, but the game didn’t allow that. Several crashed or abandoned cars littered the area, however, with more farther down a tunnel ahead, so I set out exploring. By investigating the trunk and hood of each car, I was able to collect plenty of fuel—but only the kind that would work in my motorcycle, not for the generator.
As it would eventually turn out, I was going in the entirely wrong direction on my quest for gasoline and needed to retrieve a specific can from the bed of a specific pickup truck, but for the moment I pressed on further down the tunnel, looting every car I saw for gasoline and other supplies. The tunnel was dark and littered with cars and debris, and I expected zombies around every corner—but none came. Pressing even farther, I found a car that still had its internal lights on. Attempting to break into this car caused the alarm to blare, and with headlights flashing and the horn continually honking, I ducked into a side room, sure that I was about to attract every zombie in the area—but still, none came. Both impressed by the detail of breaking into a working car and slightly annoyed that even a car alarm hadn’t summoned zombies, I made my way back to the medical facility.
Once I’d gotten the generator properly working with the specific gasoline can it needed, the facility came to life, and this finally attracted a few zombies to the area. Two or three trickled in while I explored and picked up various supplies, but again, I was able to deal with them mainly by punching them in the face or laying waste to them with a pipe, and they never felt overwhelming enough for me to bust out the gun and waste my ammo.
Once I’d completed my mission at the facility, the yellow line returned, prompting me to deliver information to a new location and scale a tower. Now better equipped with some medical supplies and more ammo, I sought out zombies on the way, but only found a few stragglers in the woods. While I got to the next location, my time with the game was cut short before I could progress to the end, and before I could complete the mission.
While my side exploration meant I didn’t see everything the demo had to offer, I did get a sense of the game’s world outside of sticking to the yellow path, and I wasn’t entirely satisfied with what I’d found. Even though locations beckoned for me to explore—like the tunnel packed with cars—I was disappointed to not find anything there beyond some first aid kits and motorcycle fuel. You can stick with the outlined path through the woods, or leave to freely explore, but leaving the safe spaces only throws a couple of zombie stragglers your way to contend with. I definitely didn’t see everything that Days Gone has to offer, but what I saw didn’t promise much hidden depth. At the very least, I was hoping to see some zombie hordes or some kind of swarm behavior I’d have to adapt to, rather than just some standard enemies to pick off scattered here and there, and I didn’t get to see that in my time playing.
My experience was incomplete, and Days Gone has a way to go before its release in 2019. I can only hope that with a little more time, a game that more fully matches the free-riding, zombie slaying badass vibe of the trailers can emerge.