Is Days Gone the jankiest first party PS4 game? And why do the bikes suck so much?

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bigsocrates

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After playing through The Last of Us Part II and liking but not loving it I decided to check out Sony's other post apocalyptic zombie game, Days Gone. This title came out last year in April, made zero splash, and has long since been forgotten, but I picked it up around release and never got around to playing it. No time like the pandemic present. I knew it wouldn't measure up to TLOU II but I'd heard that there had been significant patches and improvements since launch and I was looking forward to a solid if unspectacular open world game. After putting in a chunk of time I can say that the game is mostly close to what I expected, but it's also weirder. I don't mean in terms of plot or characters (the game is clearly heavily influenced by The Last Of Us and I am kind of shocked that Sony intended to release these close together before TLOU II's delays) but that it's just got a level of jank on both the design and tech level I don't expect from a Sony game. Here are some issues I've encountered in just a short time with the game.

  • A "Freaker" spawn point where there was a freaker kneeling on the ground eating something and as soon as I killed it another spawned out of nowhere in the same place. I killed that one and a new one spawned. I repeated about five times to make sure and then moved on. I can't remember the last time a game just spawned enemies in front of me that wasn't part of them "teleporting in" or some other behavior.
  • A random survivor who had dialog that he was trapped in his car even though he was outside his car. After I killed the freakers attacking him I did not get the dialog prompt you usually get to send him to one of the camps for a reward.
  • A mission where you get back to your bike only to have a bear waiting for you. You're supposed to kill the bear as a boss fight (he has a health bar and everything) and I started fighting him but then he ran away. When I tried to leave the game said I had to kill the bear before I could get back on my bike. I felt bad for him because he was just a bear, not a zombie or anything, so if he didn't want to fight why should I? But I tried to pursue him only to be told I was leaving the mission area. Instead I took pot shots at him from the edge of the mission area until he teleported back in bounds and I could finish the fight.
  • Hyper aggressive wild life including wolves that attack you while you're on your motorcycle, which isn't a bug but is not anything like real animal behavior. Also the wolves take like 5 shots to put down, which is totally insane. They don't even flinch if you shoot them in the head while they're charging you. It's wild.
  • This fella:
This was a normal human enemy I killed.  His death animation seems to have done a little something to his proportions.  He's not the only corpse who ended up looking really messed up like this.
This was a normal human enemy I killed. His death animation seems to have done a little something to his proportions. He's not the only corpse who ended up looking really messed up like this.

The game is just full of weirdness that kind of adds to its vibe as a janky B game but is really surprising from a Sony first party effort, which I've come to expect a lot of polish from. Maybe not Nintendo levels of polish, but more than this.

Also, and this is a design choice rather than a bug, the bikes in this game hold zero gas. Like none. You literally can have half a tank of gas and have a destination that's like 1.2 kilometers away and the game won't let you fast travel there because you don't have enough gas. How were these bikes ever allowed to be sold to the public? What were they used for? Real motorbikes get like 100 miles on a tank of gas at the very minimum, and up to 200. These bikes can barely make it a mile. Why would I want a vehicle that can't travel a mile before needing refueling? You can improve this with upgrades, but still.

In general this game starts off really annoying. Your guns do zero damage, it takes forever to use melee weapons, you are constantly getting harassed and ambushed on your bike, which has zero range etc... It gets a little better as you earn upgrades and such but it's just an insane game that does stuff I haven't seen in a long time. It has forced stealth sections that just flat out tell you that the enemies are invincible to your weapons, and they're not super powered zombies they're just guys in hazmat suits. But they're gun and axe proof. Where did they find those suits?

This game is...not quite bad but definitely not good either. It's interesting though. It steals a lot of ideas from The Last Of Us and a few other games, and has a few good ideas of its own (like the way side missions give you upgrades, and how you have to clear out zombie nests that are blocking fast travel routes) but it also has a lot of bad ideas, like random snipers that spawn on the side of the road and shoot your bike, causing you to crash! Who thought that was a fun mechanic?

I'll probably update this with more examples as I play further.

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Intradictus

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#2 Intradictus  Online

I played it at launch and those all sound like the sort of issues I ran into which is...unfortunate to say the least after time and patches. Hopefully they managed to fix the performance as I had some pretty heinous fps dips when I got to a certain new environment (on pro not a base ps4).

But despite all the issues I had a lot of fun, even with the jank

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bigsocrates

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@intradictus: I guess it wasn't worth it to fix the game since it wasn't a hit.

It is fun in a B-grade game way. It can't compare to TLOU II of course, but it isn't even necessarily trying to.

My favorite thing about the game so far is the way Deacon just screams angrily at the radio whenever Copeland broadcasts. It's not just that he's talking back to a radio broadcast (which is being made by a person he personally knows and could directly radio and talk to if he wanted to, but instead he prefers to just talk to himself about it) it's that he rants in a totally unhinged manner. He sounds like a legitimate insane person, and it's both super campy and also reasonable given the events of the game.

I have a feeling the developers may have known that they were making a janky game and just kind of gone with it. I wish they'd taken it further and leaned in more (most of the time the game seems like it wants to be taken seriously instead of embracing its ridiculousness) but the radio rants are pretty good.

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I haven't played it, but found a surprising amount of positive videos about it as it got patched up over time.

Made me interested in trying it, but 40+ hours is a bit much.

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#5 Intradictus  Online

@bigsocrates: Yeah, I definitely feel like it would have benefited from leaning into its b-grade feel a bit more.

Sam witwer's performance as Deacon is probably my favorite thing about the game. Like you said he comes across as being unhinged in a way that I found to be incredibly entertaining

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Deathstriker

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I played it earlier this year and liked it. I didn't run into many glitches. Even though they both involve zombies I don't think of it and TLAU2 as all that similar, since Days Gone is open world and you fight swarms of zombies, while TLAU2 is a revenge story and largely stealth or set-piece action. Fighting four zombies at once is hard in TLAU2.

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I played it last year and really enjoyed it. I lucked out and didn't run in to too many bugs, if any. I'm really hoping Sony Bend gets a chance to take what they've learned and make a sequel. The horde system was a neat idea, but honestly, after a few tries, I'd click the "skip this" option.

Also, I LOVED the fact that they worked in a way to tie the Days Gone universe to the Syphon Filter universe with Gabe's taser being found. Now if Sony Bend was given the chance to bring that series back as well!

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bigsocrates

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@deathstriker: Storywise there is not a lot in common, but mechanically there are a ton of similarities, ranging from the crafting and skill upgrade systems to climbing and the ways in which stealth works. Obviously there are big differences, not just in the threat level of individual zombies but all across the board, and it's not a TLOU clone the way that the Tomb Raider reboots are pretty much Uncharted clones, but it takes a lot from TLOU both in setting and various mechanics.

@mightyduck: I am way too early to know if I'd be interested in a sequel, and I feel like this game is going to wear out its welcome before 40 hours is up. Maybe I'm wrong, but so far it feels like it would have been better as a 15-20 hour game than a 35-40 hour one. Keep the open world and everything else, fine, just....less. Though maybe there's going to be some big turn or change that justifies its length.

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@bigsocrates

You're definitely not wrong about the length, the more I think about it. I was starting to mainline it near the end just cause I wanted to see the story through. I tried clearing out a lot of the "freaker" areas in the first half, but sort of gave up on that halfway through. Once I had guns I liked and a bike that ran well, I was set.

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stinger061

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Had Days Gone come out of a random 3rd Party studio I wouldn't have thought too much about the issues it has but it's just so out of place among the other stuff they make. Obviously the studio doesn't have the reputation of a Naughty Dog or even Sucker Punch but Sony generally has a history of producing games that are either universally acclaimed or at least doing something different (Dreams). As others have said Days Gone is a B-level open world game which is ok on it's own but not what you've come to expect from a Sony studio. The fact that they have a game in the Zombie genre that many consider one of the best of all time makes it even more baffling that Days Gone gone the green light

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bigsocrates

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@intradictus: I got to the new environment you're talking about and yeah, the frame rate takes some hard hits. It also seems totally random. It doesn't necessarily happen with a lot of enemies on screen or fire effects or whatever, it can just be riding through the countryside and the frame rate dives all of a sudden. And it's not like this area seems particularly more geometrically complex than the other parts of the game. There's a whole forest section and that was pretty solid.

In general it seems like the back half of the game is worse optimized than the first half. I just hit my first major bug, where I was on a mission and I fought a mini-boss type enemy, who just stood there doing nothing while I pumped shotgun rounds into him until he dropped. Then a horde was supposed to attack me, but it never came. My character was supposed to have to fight the horde because he had no way out but since it didn't spawn I tried to walk out and it said "leaving mission area" and dumped me back into the same place. I restarted the checkpoint a couple times and it never spawned so I had to quit out of the mission. There were some steps to the mission I was supposed to do before I reached the mini boss that I didn't do (they seemed optional) so I'm going to go back and try to do them and see what happens. I am also going to close out of the game and hard restart my PS4 in the hopes that helps, and do a few other missions before I go back (sometimes that can help reset things in an open world game) but I'm still disappointed at how buggy this thing is. I continue to have lots of visual artifacts.

Sony first party title after a year of patches.  Mind the gap.
Sony first party title after a year of patches. Mind the gap.
Lots of games have clipping issues like this, but there are lots of clipping issues in this game.  Corpses through fences that kind of thing.  Just a general lack of visual polish.
Lots of games have clipping issues like this, but there are lots of clipping issues in this game. Corpses through fences that kind of thing. Just a general lack of visual polish.
There is no ladder in this area but I kept getting a climb ladder prompt for some reason.  Pressing x did nothing here.  Janky janky janky.
There is no ladder in this area but I kept getting a climb ladder prompt for some reason. Pressing x did nothing here. Janky janky janky.

I actually like the game quite a bit, problems notwithstanding. I think the 6 out of 10 consensus was a bit harsh. It does a lot of things that other games don't even attempt, and it is very close to being excellent (not even talking about technical issues here, more design/story issues.) It is wild to me that Watch_Dogs got a higher Metacritic score. Yes that's a much older game, but it was so unpleasant to play that it's shocking to me that people liked it but not this.

If they made a sequel that was less serious and leaned harder into the fact that this is a game where you shoot a zombie bear with a machine gun while your character talks to himself in a crazy voice then I would definitely play it. There's a ton of potential here, and it's already close to Saints Row 2 levels of wackiness. If the sequel could be Saints Row 3/4 levels of wackiness they'd have a fantastic alternative to Dead Rising (which is a franchise this game already borrows a ton from.)

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Intradictus

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#12 Intradictus  Online

@bigsocrates: Yeah, that area would dip for no reason whatsoever for me, I also had a ton of problems with the ground disappearing in the first area, but it was never an issue after that.

As for comparison to watchdogs (a game I didn't particularly care for at all) I think that if they could manage to make a jump in quality for a potential sequel that mirrors how much better watchdogs 2 is than the first, i think that they would have a pretty amazing game on their hands

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I liked Days Gone plenty, you just have to know what you're getting into. I thought the zombie hordes were neat and the story was nothing groundbreaking but it was fun enough, although the conspiracy theorist's dialogue is questionable haha. I'm not into Far Cry games or the last few Assassin's Creeds, but I got the same kind of fun out of it, outposts and checking stuff off the map, etc. The environmental art was my favorite part and once you upgrade the bike (takes way too long to be fair) it feels good to drive.

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Intradictus

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#14 Intradictus  Online

@terminallychill: even with all the jank, my biggest complaint is that getting your bike to be actually "good" takes too long. It was still a lot of fun to play, jist like playing Gothic or something like that, there's enough good to make up for it (although I did burn out a bit towards the end)

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@intradictus: totally fair! I agree it did take way too long to get there when the bike was such a focus of the game

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bigsocrates

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@intradictus: I really hated Watch_Dogs. It may be my least favorite open world game I've ever finished, and I'm not even 100% sure why I did except that I wanted to see if there was a reason some people defended it. I don't know why the game got so much guff for its graphics, which are fine, and not nearly enough for its super boring gameplay and activities. I will admit that Aiden Pearce sucks a whole lot, so they got that part right.

Upgrading the bike does take way too long, and the same is also true of the guns. Once you have decent guns and the relevant skills from the firearms skill tree (as well as some focus from the NERO injectors) the gun fighting is alright. But pick up a crappy gun again from an enemy or whatever and it goes back to being super unsatisfying. Especially against the powerful freakers who take forever to go down. You can pump dozens of rounds into them and they keep coming.

Resetting my PS4 and getting all the optional objectives did lead to me being able to beat that mission that was bugged for me, so I'm happy about that. Still an annoying bug but not game breaking. I then played a side mission where you free a guy from a mine and there's a prompt that says "escape the mine" and I wandered around a bit looking for loot and the game dropped an entire horde on my head instakilling me. Then I went in a second time and this time before I freed the guy I looked for a good escape route, and I managed to find the room the horde was waiting in (after entering an uncancelable animation sneaking through a crack in the rocks, instakilling me. So that was fun.

This game has a lot of problems and I am starting to burn out (I just got the second to last progression trophy so I'm getting towards the big finale) but the story is actually kind of compelling in a very uneven way, and it does a fair amount well.

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Intradictus

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#17 Intradictus  Online

@bigsocrates: lol, i literally did the same thing with the instakill by the horde while crawling through the crack in the cave. Watchdogs 1 I didn't have a good time with but 2 I actually enjoyed quite a bit, definitelt weird for the default method of play they want you to use is lethal, even though you're supposed to be a hacker

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bigsocrates

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I've now finished the game. Overall it's good, though the ending is super anti-climactic and that last mission is...very bad. Why would you make an open world zombie game where your last mission has no open world or zombie elements but is just a short, bad, level from a third person shooter circa 2009? WTF? I kept waiting for a zombie attack or thinking this can't possibly be the final mission, but wrong and wrong. Terrible! \

I also had a bug in the last mission where I killed all the enemies in a sequence but the sequence did not advance and I had to leave the mission area to be respawned at the beginning of that sequence. Fortunately this time killing all the enemies did trigger the game to advance. Overall I am going to answer my own question and say that yes, this is the jankiest Sony first party game in a very long time.

The jank also kind of ruins the hordes. When I fought the sawmill horde it took me over an hour because I had discovered the horde earlier when I turned on the speakers in the NERO camp nearby and they all attacked. I fled successfully but the speakers remained on and that totally disrupted all the pathing and placement of the horde. I ended up having to pick it apart piece by agonizing piece, mostly using guns because the enemies didn't clump together well enough for molotovs, and I actually went back into the NERO trailer to restock ammo several times. It was not fun.

In general I would say the hordes are a decent idea but never fun to fight, especially because prepping for them is so hard. There are like 50 of them in the game world but it takes forever to gather enough materials to build the stuff you need to take them on. There's just no great way to go about this because the game world is so spread out and by the end of the game there are so many different items spawning that you can't really work around the bottleneck, whatever it may be (such as polysterene or whatever.) You have to fast travel around to different areas and just loot them and it's boring and bad and the game should just let you buy the weapons you need.

But ultimately this game has a lot of similar issues. Despite being in long development it just feels like a game that needed another 6 months or a year of polish and tuning (and that's after the post-release patches.) I would like to see a sequel, especially if it took itself less seriously, but I doubt that will happen. It's still a fun title and definitely underrated but it's more or less a diamond in the rough.

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NTM

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#19  Edited By NTM

I think the game is solid and it's generally beautiful (I checked it out just a while back, before TLoU: P2's release for the first time since its launch and beating it then), but yes, it is janky. At the time, I have to assume it was worse? The respawning hordes were the worst of it. Once I was deep into one of the horde caves and there were no enemies, and once I was done looking through it, all of a sudden a horde of zombies spawned on me and there was no way I was getting out. At least it spawned me outside of the cave (as far as I remember) with everything I got from it. That was not the only time, but it's one worth mentioning that I remember.

There was also one moment where trees in the distance in a later part of the game looked like Minecraft. There was also some frame rate slow-down, especially on the bike. I think the major thing that holds its gameplay back when compared to The Last of Us is how impactful killing with weaponry (be it guns, but especially melee weapons) is. It's not great. I liked the game, but it felt like it was just off the mark in so many ways. Similar to The Last of Us: Part II, this is also one of those games that seemingly ends a few different times where I go 'wait, there's more?!' The difference here is that I didn't know what to expect.

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bigsocrates

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@ntm: I agree that the kills are less impactful in this game, but I think that's partially a function of just how many enemies you end up killing. The Last of Us never puts you up against more than a dozen enemies at a time, while Days Gone frequently has you facing dozens if not hundreds. From both a tech and just a time perspective it makes sense that killing is less impactful in this game, though there is still plenty of gore and you can blow heads and bodies apart.

I don't really understand your point about the game seemingly ending a couple of times. I thought it actually ended kind of abruptly all things considered. Yes it was very long and there was lots of padding, but where do you think the natural ending places were earlier in the game?

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#21  Edited By NTM

@bigsocrates: Every time you hit a new open area, especially the snow area, I was thinking 'Really? There is more game here?' I don't remember specifics about the story and why/if that had much to do with the feeling, it must have had to, but I don't remember exactly what it was about. I do know I wasn't the only one that felt that at the time either because I discussed it, and saw it elsewhere. I think I was nearing the end of the game after I was done going to Sarah's 'grave', though details I don't remember. As for the quality of animations and the feeling of impact for enemies, I'm not sure that scope has much to do with it, but it might. I think if they focused more on it, it could have been done better without losing the quality/quantity of other aspects. Either way, the fact that focus wasn't put on making it as impactful hurts the experience and it didn't feel like an 'if you had this, you can't have that' kind of deal.

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bigsocrates

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@ntm: I guess I looked the game up on How Long to Beat before I played it so I wasn't that shocked. Also the major story lines do not resolve in natural breaking places. I was wondering whether there was a second portion to the map during the first part of the game because the map did seem small to me, so I wasn't super shocked when it turned out there was more, but I could see that being surprising if you didn't have that same feeling. I also did some rough calculations on some of the storylines and knew there had to be (for example there aren't enough ambush camps in the top part of the map to enable you to complete the ambush camp hunter storyline.)

I think the game meanders too much storywise but ultimately I didn't think it overstayed its welcome like so many games do.

I think that having longer animations would have made the game difficult to manage with so many enemies. Think about if the stealth or melee animations were as long as in the TLOU2. It would take forever to use stealth or melee to clear an area because hordes aside there are often dozens of enemies around. The melee is quite brutal, with lots of heads being lopped off and such, but it's also pretty fast and that reduces the impact but makes it more practical to fight a dozen zombies at once.

I don't know maybe they could have made it fast and impactful at the same time, but also things like body deformation and such require RAM and processor attention, which are more at a premium in an open world game with such massive numbers of enemies. The game's frame rate already has issues.

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I haven't played it, but it really seemed to try something new with those zombie hoards which i'm sure was a pain to get running on a ps4. That probably caused a lot of other issues that leads to the jank you see in the game. I'd rather games try new things and be janky than just be polished versions of what's already been done. I guess you could argue that that mechanic ended up not being that game changing, but at least they tried.

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It feels like a game out of time in a way. Like it isn't bad but maybe this should have come out before Uncharted 4, HZD, God of War, and Spider-Man. If this released in the Infamous Second Son era we'd probably feel a lot better about it.

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NTM

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#25  Edited By NTM

@bigsocrates: Yeah, maybe. Whatever the case, I still found it unfortunate how less impactful it was, when the games (Days Gone and The Last of Us) feel similar. I didn't think it felt bad though. Ultimately, I enjoyed the gameplay quite a bit. That said, when it came to the hordes specifically, they are pretty much an end game thing where they all become icons on the map once you finish it, and I had very little desire to clear them all out so it's the one thing I didn't do. There were also a handful of side missions that don't finish once you're finished with the game, and I only finished them several weeks ago when I went back just before The Last of Us: Part II because I looked up how to finish them, and it simply takes time (or, sleep in-game, which I don't remember doing a whole lot in the game).

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