DOA: Days Gone Is Way Too Late to the Zombie Survival Party

It’s been a strange 2019 for PlayStation following up on a landmark 2018 where they blew the competition away. Two of last years most highly acclaimed games God Of War and Spider-Man were both PS4 exclusives.

On top of that, console sales for the PS4 sit a good 20m+ higher than the current gen Xbox and Nintendo sales combined. Albeit the Switch is much earlier into it’s life-cycle than the PS4, there’s no denying PlayStation are ahead of the game.

The console wars were seemingly prepped for Sony to stick a fork in, but then it’s all gone a little quiet. 2019 will mark the first E3 where the gaming giant will not be present. This year’s exclusives are looking to be a paltry follow up to last years too.

PlayStation 2019 Exclusives

PlayStation has leant into one of their less desirable traits of remaking 90s’ titles. Both MediEvil and Final Fantasy VII are slated for quick gloss overs this year. Leaving just Days Gone and Shenmue III as the fragile cornerstones of Sony’s console exclusives.   

Shenmue may have been a groundbreaking series in terms of game mechanics. Pioneering features such as a day and night cycle. But it was also one of the most expensive flops in gaming history that contributed to the downfall of SEGA.

The commercial failure of both titles meant Shenmue III has been in development hell for over a decade. Despite a cult following it’s a risk to bank too much of their 2019 profit margins on those sales figures.

That puts a lot of pressure on the first of PlayStation’s major exclusives Days Gone which launches later this month.

Days Gone By

Days Gone has undergone a hefty promotional campaign, even blending footage previous successful releases. Presumably to establish synergy with those titles that were favourites for plenty of Game of the Year awards.

It’s also been coming for a good while which has given the title plenty of time to generate momentum and anticipation. But It may have been coming for a little too long, now better belonging to a sub-genre from a bygone era. Zombie survival games.

When the first stage demo was revealed at E3 in 2016 it was an exciting emerging trend in gaming. The fast-paced, almost overwhelming nature of Days Gone made it an exciting looking entry into that genre too.

Since development began though we’ve had console releases for Dead Rising, State of Decay, Day Z, 7 Days to Die, and Dying Light. That’s not to mention all of the Call Of Duty zombie modes and other zombie spin-off titles. And the less said about Metal Gear Survive the better.

Baring in mind many of these releases were already coming off the tail end of series like Left 4 Dead and Dead Island. The real infestation is from the abundance of zombie survival themed games.  

There were many contributing factors as to why Metal Gear Survive didn’t work but those sales figures should serve as a stark warning. The biggest battle for Days Gone will be refreshing the exhausted genre, so does it stand a chance?

What Sets Days Gone Aside?

Some fans are still as eagerly awaiting the title’s release as they were upon its announcement three years ago. But for other gamers, this is the question they’ll be asking if they’re expected to part with their hard-earned cash.

Sony’s first-party SIE Bend Studios is the team behind the release and they promise the story will set it aside. Adopting a similar approach to God Of War last year or Last Of Us which has an upcoming sequel in development.

Both games were PlayStation exclusives and were critically acclaimed for an emotionally engaging narrative. In a cinematic era of gaming, a strong narrative can very much be a selling point. And that’s what Sony is targeting with Days Gone.    

Following the story of a conflicted drifter in a post-apocalyptic land as he aids settlements in their quest for survival. The zombies are intended to be more of a framing device for the world rather than a significant gameplay element.

That said gameplay shown off so far is worryingly familiar. Capturing outposts, basic maintenance, crafting and of course, staving off zombie hordes. The zombies or ‘freakers’ as they are called in-game can be avoided for the most part.

But the most salient approach is often to clear out horde’s nests before they become a threat to the encampment. If it does become the familiar slog to get through, gameplay could easily derail narrative momentum. Four years in development has unfortunately meant Days Gone is way too late to the party.

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