E3 2016: Days Gone Attempts to Escape The Last of Us’ Shadow

Sony Bend is best known for creating the Syphon Filter franchise and contributing to the Resistance and Uncharted series of games. What they’ve been working on has been a hot topic in the industry. Many fans wanted Bend to return to Syphon Filter while some thought they may take over the Resistance franchise now that Insomniac Games has moved on. Turns out both theories were wrong. At E3 2016, Sony Bend announced Days Gone, a brand new IP that looked a lot like another Sony game released in 2013. After witnessing a private demo, Days Gone is starting to look more like its own game and a lot less like The Last of Us.

Days Gone takes place two years after a horrific virus has swept across the world killing millions, and turning millions more into monsters called ‘Freakers.’ You play as Deacon St. John, a drifter and former bounty hunter wandering around the Pacific Northwest. As a former member of a biker group, Deacon always has his trusty motorcycle on hand. Speaking with Bend, the studio described the bike as an extension of Deacon. Supplies can be stored on the bike, and players will need to manage fuel and repairs.

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It isn’t hard to see why there have been so many The Last of Us comparisons. Both games star grizzled, older men, both games require resource management and both allow players to tackle objectives how they want. Though they look different, the Freakers are eerily similar to the Cordyceps infected individuals in The Last of Us. Both have been infected by a virus and are, technically, still alive. Both viruses want something out of their host; to survive and spread. During the extended demo, a few more similarities between the two games popped up including the use of Molotov cocktails and a crafting system. So yes, Days Gone does have a lot of similarities with The Last of Us, but there are also some key differences.

The extended demo showcased what Sony Bend has been able to do with the power of the PS4 hardware. While The Last of Us was limited by the PS3’s hardware, Days Gone is able to make use of the much more powerful PS4 hardware. The sawmill, which was presented as a very linear set-piece in the conference demo, is actually a very open place. A Bend developer took Deacon on a very long run in his attempt to defeat the Freakers. Bend made it very clear that the Freakers are faster than Deacon, and that players will need to utilize the environment to survive. Cutting logs, dropping tables and slamming doors were all viable options for slowing down the horde. Deacon can even use his tools as distractions, including Molotov cocktails and pressure sensitive air-bag bombs. The demo ended with Deacon being swarmed and out of ammo.

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Sony Bend confirmed that the demo was a worst-case scenario and that players will have a lot more options in how they tackle each level. The final product will also place more of an emphasis on resource management. Deacon will not have 800 bullets in the final version of the game. Players will also be able to handle the different situations how they want. Days Gone will be open-world, allowing Deacon to scope out areas before launching an assault. Of course, players can run-and-gun, but as we saw from the demo, it’s quite easy to be overwhelmed.

Bend also took the time to address the ‘The Last of Us’ question. They clearly recognized that many would draw comparisons to the two games and were eager to tackle the differences. What really sets Days Gone apart from The Last of Us is the setting and the technology powering the game. The Pacific Northwest is a varied setting brimming with variety. Some areas are hot and dry, others are cold and icy, and others are lush and wet. The entire world is governed by a real-time night and day cycle and dynamic weather. The time of day and the current weather will directly affect the gameplay. Then, of course, there are the Freakers. While, on paper, they sound a lot like the Cordyceps infected enemies, in action they are very different. Attracted to noise, the Freakers real strength is when they attack as a horde. When isolated, Freakers will die like any normal human. At this point in time, Sony Bend has not figured out how many Freakers will be displayed on-screen. That decision will come during optimization.

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There’s actually quite a bit Sony Bend didn’t reveal. Right now they’re 100% focused on the single player but didn’t shoot down the possibility of there being a multiplayer component. There also isn’t a launch window, but Bend did say they have more to reveal in the coming months. Those months can’t come soon enough. At first, Days Gone appeared to be just another post-apocalyptic game emulating The Last of Us. After witnessing the extended demo and speaking with Bend, however, Days Gone has become a lot more interesting. Hopefully, we’ll get to hear more soon.