SONY famously debuts major trailers for upcoming titles at their annual press conference. Like the last few years, this year’s press event was smartly loaded up with massively impressive exclusive properties coming in the very near future. One of the titles shown off was a long-form in-game-engine demo of the upcoming post-apocalyptic thriller Days Gone. Last year, SONY displayed a different trailer, that was truly thrilling. The game is a new look at a world brought to its knees by a zombie-like outbreak, and in a horrifying change-up, the zombie attacks can happen in massive, swarming, hundred skin-eater-strong hordes. A writhing, frantic, breakneck running troop will mercilessly chase you down if you’re not careful. It’s the scale of the difficulty of that situation that makes Days Gone supremely gripping and scary.
This year’s demo focused more on what was possible in the world than the monsters themselves. Its evident from the initial trailer that the zombies are hyper sensitive to sound, so good guys and bad guys alike try to do little more than whisper unless it’s absolutely necessary. The title has been promoted as being an open world game with dynamic weather conditions. While in the press conference trailer the weather is sunny and bright—including a brief risk of a zombie-wolf attack (apparently all living things are susceptible to this story’s virus)—we got to see an alternate demo where everything happened during a frigid cold and mild snowstorm. This version showed a completely different set of choices and possible outcomes based simply on how different things could be if it’s cold.
Instead of zombie-wolves eating a carcass and then chasing down main character Deacon St. John causing him to get hit hard in the neck by a near-invisible tripline, he instead sees it in advance and uses stealth to sneak up on and kill the would-be sneak attackers. He then uses a detective style mode (similar to how detective mode works in Batman: Arkham Asylum) to track how a missing friend was dragged off the road by these trappers. Then, once he finds their larger group, instead of sneaking off and luring an incoming herd to attack them, he uses stealth and a variety of diverse weaponry to take the assailants down. Molotov cocktails, crossbows, pistols and even a sniper rifle are used and upgraded all within mere moments and with a minimum of menu interplay. This all builds up until St. John saves his friend before they nearly have an encounter with a zombified-barb-wire-covered bear.
What’s most impressive here is the fluidity of the gameplay. The game pretty miraculously shifts between driving and stealth and problem solving and combat. It’s a pretty wonderful evolution of learned lessons from titles as disparate as The Last of Us, Metal Gear Solid and Batman Arkham Asylum. It brings to mind the smart evolution that Syphon Filter was back in the ‘90s, which its not surprising considering the developer behind Days Gone was the very developer on Syphon Filter all those years back.