At first sight loads of us assumed that the new game from Sony's Bend Studios would be a tie in to The Last of Us, until it turned out that it wasn't that. Aside from the whole 'society decimated by a mutating killer virus' angle it does have some differences. The devs don't have a release date and are still playing their cards close to their chest, but there are few things we do know about this new IP.
They're not zombies
According to John Garvin and Jeff Ross, respectively the creative director and game director for Days Gone, it's not a zombie game. The key difference is that the creatures in the gameplay trailer, called Freakers, are alive, and zombies are dead. There are reportedly going to be several types of Freakers, of which we saw two in the gameplay: Newts, which are the gnarly teenager Freaker class and will only attack you if you're vulnerable, and the Horde - yes, that huge churning mass counts as one thing.
Garvin and Ross say the Freakers have their own kind of infrastructure. They'll interact with each other, not just you, and have cycles where they're dormant or sleeping, that kind of thing. Getting people to not think of them as zombies, however, is going to be an uphill struggle. They're the result of a pandemic and are described as 'mindless and feral', and we see them eat some dude alive. They're basically the rage victims from 28 Days Later, and people shorthand those as zombies even though they're alive and need to eat to survive. So. Good luck with that.
Deacon St. John
Days Gone's protagonist is called Deacon St. John, following the American convention of pronouncing it 'Saint John' rather than the British 'Sinjun' (which, frankly, would have been much more entertaining). While we continue to wait patiently for a Sons of Anarchy RPG adaptation, Days Gone has apparently taken some inspiration from the no doubt extremely realistic TV show about being in a motorcycle club. Deacon used to be part of the Mongrels MC, and still rocks the traditional sleeveless leather jacket with patches look.
It's Deacon's skillset (being able to ride a bike; being a bit unsavory) that allowed him to survive the pandemic, and he now works as a kind of bounty hunter/mercenary - the gameplay shown was actually an example of a bounty hunt. But Deacon, we are assured, also has a profound sense of loss for his old life. He used to have a blonde girlfriend with nice smelling hair, for example.
The motorbike is a big deal
Apparently your bike isn't something you can ditch any time to pick up another one at the side of the road, it's really important to your survival, not just in terms of getting around the world (it's called a 'drifter bike', which seems to be an allusion to having to ride over mixed surfaces), but also for carrying equipment. The devs went so far as to describe it as being a character in the game, although they wouldn't confirm any kind of levelling system attached to it. It's definitely not disposable in the way you can pick up a random new car or, as the case may be, a horse in a Rockstar game, and they hinted that there's more info to to come. How much upkeep it requires isn't known still; it's probably pretty difficult to maintain a motorbike when resources are running low.
It's actually more accurate to say that Days Gone is kind of pre-post-apocalypse that post-apocalypse; it's not set during the pandemic, but neither is it set years afterwards like, for example, Naughty Dog's famous zombie game for Sony The Last of Us. Days Gone is roughly two years out from the pandemic, so there are still a lot of sturdy buildings and, while people are starting to get organised, there are no real rules or systems in place yet.
Days Gone is an open world game but it's not, the devs said, a survival game. That being said, the gameplay trailer shows several bits of scavenging and rigging together makeshift weapons from what Deacon can find in the environment. Garvin and Ross have talked about how using the environment can make a huge difference in how situations in the game play out, so depending on the choices you make - running that way instead of this way - you can play through the game many times and have a different experience. But then devs are always going to talk up replayability, right?
Everyone else is an asshole
Ross paraphrased the idea that civilisation is only about six missed meals away from turning on each other. The devs also cited how basically every player in DayZ is an asshole, and that in Days Gone they tried to distill that into a single-player experience. Because the only people who managed to survive the pandemic were the ones willing to make tough decisions the odds are on that anyone Deacon meets in the wilderness will try and kill him for his stuff.
There are some pockets of civilisation - compounds and encampments - which are generally safe for Deacon to hang around in, but his lifestyle is much more on the road. He does have at least one buddy with him from his MC days though, who we can see in the trailer, and who is presumably the one on the radio at the start of the gameplay demo, but we don't know what kind of relationships you might be able to form with other survivors, like romance options, for example. Maybe Deacon will meet a new blonde woman, with unwashed, post-apocalypse hair.