If you told me ten years ago that Sony Bend, the developer best-known for the Syphon Filter series, was making a PS4-exclusive that’s a new IP, I’d have asked which military era it was taking place in rather than how many zombies it can fit on-screen. As it turns out, though, Days Gone is about as far from Syphon Filter as you can possibly get while still retaining guns as your character’s primary weapon.
You take on the role of Deacon St. John, a former outlaw that loves his motorcycle about as much as he does his own life. The bulk of the game takes place about two years after the outbreak first happened, so you don’t need to play through the beginning of another zombie uprising for the billionth time in this one.
However, unlike most contemporary zombie games such as The Last of Us or Resident Evil, Days Gone is not a linear experience and it doesn’t feature multiplayer like Call of Duty’s Nazi Zombies or Left 4 Dead. Instead, this is a massive open-world zombie game meaning you’ve got miles of countryside to explore and liberate. Your map is full of side missions, points of interests, and other objectives to complete – similar to titles like Far Cry and Horizon Zero Dawn.
The demo I played was split into two chunks: one bit was heavily scripted with a singular mission, while the other section was entirely focused on having Deacon face off against a giant – and I mean enormous – horde of zombies. Literally hundreds of zombies on the screen all at the same time trying to eat me alive.
In the first mission I had to scout a small gas station for supplies while my NPC buddy distracted some of the baddies to clear a path. In the world of Days Gone, Deacon and his pals call the zombies “freakers” because we need yet another synonym for the undead apparently. Sneaking around the gas station and taking out stragglers with stealth kills was easy enough. I don’t think I ever once had to shoot my gun during this mission since quick stealth stabs or straight-up baseball bat swings got the job done.
After that 10 minute section finished I jumped stright into the mission with the massive horde. This section was farther into the game and would require careful planning and quick thinking. The giant horde was waiting for me in the middle of a massive circular ditch at the centre of a large, abandoned construction site. Broken down machinery, piles of logs and dirt, storage containers, and explosive red barrels were scattered everywhere. The developer on hand gave me a couple of pointers before I began this bit, but their advice didn't help me all that much on my first try as I decided to go in with maybe more enthusiasm than I should have…
I was riding high off of my completion of that simple mission earlier as it turned out so I literally ran to the horde, guns blazing. Before I got very far they noticed me and started running full-speed after me. When the zombies in Days Gone set their sights on a target they don’t waste any time at all. After a couple seconds I tried to change course and escape but it was already too late. Try again.
I played it much smarter the second time. By weaving between construction equipment, crawling through storage containers, blowing up barrels at the right time, and generally conserving my stamina, I was able to defeat the entire horde after what felt like at least 15 or 20 minutes of kiting, attacking, and maneuvering around the site.
Honestly, it’s been a while since a zombie game really did something different to challenge me. Fighting a horde of zombies felt fresh and unique in a genre that I’d long considered to be overused. We’ve seen countless hordes on TV shows, and in movies, but never before have I faced a horde of this size and intelligence in a video game and lived to talk about it. For that reason alone, I’m excited to see what else Days Gone has in store.