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More is less in Days Gone’s bloated, unfocused post-apocalypse

He isn’t the most original character, and his voice performance vacilates from schoolboy mumbling to unhinged screaming (usually offering loud commentary on a radio broadcast, unconcerned about attracting nearby freakers), but he and his best pal Boozer are interesting enough protagonists.

Unfortunately, like Deacon’s motorcycle, much of the rest of the game feels bolted together using parts from all over the place. This game is full of so much stuff — eavesdrop-heavy stealth missions, on-the-fly item crafting, audio diaries, upgradeable health and time-slowing focus meters, degradable melee weapons, optional horde nests to clear out, environmental puzzles — but there are few elements it does well.

The big hordes are a sight to behold, and can be legitimately scary.

The big hordes are a sight to behold, and can be legitimately scary.

The story tying it all together is especially confused, split into various mission sub-sections that made things tough to keep track of. The blend of horrific, emotive elements like Deacon’s lost wife or the presence of zombie children also grates with the very video gamey mechanical focus.

The world is huge, but it also feels mostly empty. There’s barely any reason to explore; you just accept mission after mission and follow the waypoints until you arrive at the place where you kill people. You can try to break in to military waypoints to access ability-enhancing meds, or burn freaker nexts to unlock fast travel spots, but even these become very tiresome after the first few.

This isn’t to say Days Gone is a bad game at its core. The setting is well-realised, especially when the dynamic weather system is in full effect or when you’re surprised by a survivor gang’s trap (the first time). The hordes of bad guys are sight to behold, and a technological achievment that developer Bend Studio should be commended for. The motorbike can also be a lot of fun to ride, and after many hours of play you do get access to enough firepower and materials to make combat interesting. Taking on too many freakers at once is a death sentence early on, but returning later armed to the teeth with traps, fire and plans is satisfying.

There are even moments when you catch a glimpse of something special. Like when I was trying to quietly infiltrate a checkpoint and a gang of hooting bikers randomly drew literally dozens of freakers into my vicinity. Or when I had to silently navigate a mass grave full of the feasting creatures to grab a gas can. Or when you accidentally set off an alarm at a military facility and things go really sideways.

But rather than focus on what it does well, Days Gone does everything. Too much of the 60-hour ride is spent on walking your bike to find fuel or going on head-scratchingly unnecessary missions. There’s a good game in there, but to get it you also have to wade through too many poorly explained characters, too much sombre and self-serious storytelling, and too much gormless open world stuffing.

Days Gone is out now for PlayStation 4.

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