This review contains minor spoilers about mission structure and overall story direction. There are no spoilers for major narrative moments.
Around 10 hours into Days Gone, you're thrown into a hunting tutorial apropos of nothing. The over-the-top libertarian character takes you out with a rifle and shows you how to track a deer, although you've already had a tracking tutorial. You're then tasked with getting more meat for you and your buddy because your supply is running low, something you never have to do again. You also don't cook or eat; you can only donate meat to camps around the map to earn a negligible amount of trust and money with them. After a little while, even stopping to get meat off wolves that attacked you doesn't seem worth it.
Like many things in Days Gone, hunting exists just to be there, an idea that is picked up and then abandoned at random. Unlike hunting, some of those ideas are even good in the moment. But most aspects of Days Gone lack purpose. Its many narrative threads flirt with being meaningful and interesting but never quite commit, with characters whose actions and motivations don't make sense. Riding a souped-up motorcycle through the world and taking out zombie nests and hordes is satisfying in the way that completing open-world checklists often is, but by the end, you're left to wonder what the point of it all was.
The first act of the game–about 20 hours or so–sets up quite a few narrative arcs. Two years after the initial "Freaker" outbreak, biker buddies Deacon St. John and Boozer have become drifters doing odd jobs for nearby survivor camps and keeping mostly to themselves. Deacon's wife, Sarah, had been stabbed at the very beginning of the outbreak; Deacon put her on a government helicopter bound for a refugee camp so she could get medical attention, but when he and Boozer arrived, the camp has been overrun by Freaks, and Sarah had apparently died. Deacon is understandably not coping with it well. Boozer suggests riding north and leaving the memories behind, but Deacon's bike breaks down and is subsequently looted for parts, so one of your main goals is to earn trust and credits at the nearby camps in order to rebuild your motorcycle.
The motorcycle is central to everything you do in Days Gone. Getting anywhere, including by fast travel, requires your bike, and if you want to save while out in the world, you better be right next to it. Getting off your bike is a matter of both your entrance and your exit; you need to stop far enough away from enemies so they don't hear you coming, but you also need to be able to run to your bike quickly if things go south and you need to escape. And, as you're sneaking past Freakers to loot things like bandages and ammo, you also need to be on the lookout for a gas can and some scrap metal to keep your bike in top shape–if it breaks down or runs out of gas, you're basically screwed. That said, gas and other loot do regenerate if you leave and return to a location, so you'll never truly run out of anything so long as you put in the time to look for it.
At the beginning, you do jobs for two camps: Copeland's conspiracy theorist stronghold and Tucker's hellish forced-labor camp. Copeland's has a mechanic capable of upgrading your bike, while Tucker's has a well-stocked weapons merchant. Your starter junk bike gets about a mile per gallon, and you can't store a gas can on your bike or your person, so you either have to return to a camp to fuel up or constantly scrounge for gas cans out in Freaker territory. This makes wandering around and doing things in the open world frustrating at first, so you do a lot of throwaway missions for the two camps to start.
Many of these early missions consist of cookie-cutter bounty-hunting and rescue jobs in which you go to a place, track a person using your apparently psychic Survival Vision to highlight footprints and other clues, and then kill some bandits or Freakers. Some of these require you to take the target alive, which often means chasing them on your bike and shooting at their tires with your pistol. If you happen to run out of gas or ammo, or if your bike is already weak and breaks down after a couple of bumpy turns, you auto-fail these missions and have to start over. You also accelerate with R2 and shoot with R1, which, while not horrible, is clunky and awkward.
One early scene involving a drug thief kicks off a series of missions like these that, once completed, has no bearing on the rest of the game despite initial appearances; once you track down the stolen drugs you have to choose which camp to return them to, but there are no consequences either way, and then the situation is dropped entirely. The only result is getting some trust and credits with one of the camps–I chose Copeland simply because I wanted money for a better fuel tank. A lot of the story missions going forward, as you discover a third, more narratively relevant camp, follow the same structures as these earlier missions. But the focus on Tucker and Copeland specifically amounts to hours of nothing in the grand scheme of the story. Tucker's forced labor doesn't come back to bite anyone, and while Tucker and Copeland don't seem to like each other, doing work for one camp doesn't affect your relationship with the other. Once you get to the third camp, Lost Lake, Tucker and Copeland cease to matter at all, not least because Lost Lake has both a better mechanic and better weapons.
Once you upgrade your bike a bit, though, the world opens up. No longer bound by low gas mileage and a weak arsenal, you can head further out and more handily take on enemy-controlled areas around the map. You clear ambush camps by killing everyone present and eliminate Freaker infestation zones by burning all their nests. In addition to trust and credits, clearing an ambush camp nets you resources to loot, a map of the area, and a new fast travel point; destroying an infestation zone allows you to fast travel in the area. Unlocking the map and neutralizing threats is satisfying in the way that cleaning up clutter bit by bit is, and you can see your work pay off in your bike's upgrades. However, there's little variety between each ambush camp and infestation zone, and they get repetitive early–especially because Deacon dry-heaves and whines about the nests smelling horrible at each one.
The real motivation to do all of this is twofold. Early on in the game, Deacon's best friend Boozer is attacked by a group of Rippers, a doomsday cult with a number of bizarre rituals. The Rippers singe a tattoo off Boozer's arm and leave him with third-degree burns, so Deacon's purpose in life is to keep Boozer alive and healthy. This mostly involves finding sterile bandages and the one mission where you gather meat for him. On top of that, though, Deacon sees a helicopter belonging to the government agency NERO, which had been involved in the initial relief effort, flying overhead. That giveRead More – Source[contf] [contfnew]