GameTech: ‘Days Gone’ hoping to put new life in zombies

How many days of your life have you spent gaming? Considering we spend roughly 16 hours a day awake, and the average big budget game takes at least 40 hours to complete, it’s pretty easy to imagine many of us have spent months, if not years of our lives in video games.

That’s why Days Gone — itself a game about lost time — is already facing an uphill battle. Due for release on April 29, this open-world zombie game feels like a game that should have been released ten years ago, when zombies were still at their peak in gaming culture and freeroam gameplay was just taking off in big titles.

Instead, based on the gameplay videos and previews shown so far, Days Gone is already feeling tired and out-of-time. That feeling isn’t limited to the enemies, either, although the “freakers” (zombies) really do seem like a marketing carryover from the previous generation of consoles. The main character, Deacon St John, has “skills learned in his prior life as an outlaw biker that give him a slight edge in the seemingly never-ending fight to stay alive”, which seems an even stranger choice than the zombie setting.

So Days Gone, essentially, seems to be a game in which a former biker survives in the Pacific Northwest against hordes of zombies, wild wolves, bears and other biker gangs.

In an era when God of War, Spider-Man and Red Dead Redemption have delivered wildly detailed and fun worlds to traverse, that doesn’t seem like a game that will breach the zeitgeist. Although The Last of Us 2 is also a zombie game, there’s a big difference between a narrative-led sequel to a beloved classic, and an open-world game looking to establish itself among many competitors.

There are some interesting concepts in Days Gone that we look forward to experiencing. The first is Deacon’s bike, which seems crucial not only for transport, but also for escaping the zombie hordes and wildlife you encounter. It appears that the bike need to be refuelled, however, so we’ll see if that becomes a hindrance.

The freakers themselves look spectacular in hordes, coming at Deacon in groups of literally hundreds and at full sprint. It’s genuinely scary to witness. On the other hand, gameplay videos show the same hordes mysteriously slowing down or pausing when they actually catch up with Deacon, giving him a chance to fight or escape, which doesn’t make much sense.

Based on the bland setting and premise, Days Gone will need to be superb to gain any real traction. We hope it delivers, but if not — at least that’s another day saved.

ANTHEM FAILS TO SING

Whatever about single-player games, live services like Anthem are built from the ground up to swallow your time. EA released Anthem last month, hoping it would become the next Destiny, an online shooter universe that would keep players coming back for more and more.

Unfortunately, Anthem turned out to be a bit boring. Despite having some decent core gameplay and nice flying mechanics with the javelins, the structure and pacing of the game left a lot to be desired. Nonetheless, being a live service, Anthem isn’t finished yet. Instead, developers BioWare have been patching the experience, in the hope of improving things.

The latest such patch includes changes to the respawn timer (which determines how quickly you come back to the action after dying), with the timer being reduced in most situations. In addition, players over the level 30 will now stop seeing common and uncommon drops, which are well below their level. It remains to be seen if Anthem can stick around, but EA certainly haven’t been singing from the rooftops about its success.

ALL IN HAND

Meanwhile, if big budget games are getting you down, spare a little time for quirky titles like FIST, which was announced this week.

Created by Chinese developers and to be published on PlayStation 4, FIST is a Metroidvania starring a giant rabbit with a mechanical fist that can smash things. The rabbit seems to be living in a dystopian future where fox-creatures rule, well, with an iron fist. The brief gameplay revealed in the announcement video makes FIST look like plenty of fun and one to watch out for.

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