[Test] Days Gone, crash, dry

Days Gone comes far later. Surely too late. After a first appearance at E3 2016, the AAA’s Bend Studio (who has never done anything memorable if not Syphon Filter), a known report on report, do not rub in a competition too tough. A competition, the AAA open world, which would have swept, it is true, of a reverse of hand, as Days Gone suffers from a great evil : a distinct lack of identity. Of open-worlds , vast, dense, unique in their kind, we are going through enough already (too ?) in the past few months. He prefers to plant its roots in a real environment, from Oregon, land of mountain and forest, dotted with chalets and other service stations, decor finely reproduced, but which also leaves behind a sacred taste of generic. While the public seems to be tired of zombies, it throws it headlong, as it were, blinded by the reality of the market.

What to do, when flirting at this point with the already-seen ? Mimic what Rockstar and Naughty Dog have succeeded with a bang : a mural XXL, driven by a mature narrative, and emotional, which would come to overshadow everything else. A maturity that is embodied here in the Deacon “Deek” St-John, a biker in the true tradition of the Hell’s Angels, that trace his journey through the desolate landscapes of a post-apocalyptic America.

A character as violent as deeply empathetic (because separated from his family in a traumatic way), accompanied by his sidekick Boozer, will be required to render service to the premises of a corner, entrenched in camps of survivors to size variable, to investigate its own past, which will upset all its bearings. And her quest will be long, very long even in a space as imposing as the saturated activities of all kinds, juggling with the pieces of bravery that the chores abrutissantes of repetition.

As in any open-world that respects, Deek begins his adventure at the bottom of the scale. Riding an old motorcycle from asthma, he will have to show patte blanche from survivors, and respond to even the slightest whim to win their trust and confidence. Vulnerable, the biker may not have to rely on wooden sticks or old pétoires to get out of fighting, often to his disadvantage. Since Bend Studio has chosen an approach that is “feline” of the zombie (mutants, actually), more like Left4Dead than Walking Dead : they are fast, very aggressive, are divided into different castes (with unique powers) and roam sometimes in hordes massive.

The more one kills, the more one gains the experience to be able to enhance the skills of combat, survival, or craft, the more you collect premiums from the camps. These bonuses are essential to purchasing new weapons and other add-ins (ammunition, silencer, traps, etc), and the improvement of our system. True to his topic, the game likes to insist on the fused relationship between Deek and his steed mechanical, to the point of indulging in a form of excess. If their handling is not always happy, the gear annoys especially for its unquenchable thirst for fuel, which force to stop every five minutes, in search of a jerry can or a station to refuel in an emergency. This bias, falsely realistic, has the gift to chop the pace of the game, which was already struggling to find the thread of his narration.

Of the narrative, let’s talk about that. On this point, the game seems to follow all the tags of its kind : alternating between main missions, which advance the scenario and personal challenges of Deek, and secondary activities to grind or make life easier for the rest. Here, it will be a science centre to return to the road to unlock a point of quick travel, there is a camp of bandits to decimate to acquire a new recipe to craft, who can as easily be objects of care as molotovs or mines operated by remote control.

Where Days Gone expects to draw its pin from the play, it is in its approach to episodic scenario, in the manner of a TV series that we would write over our desires. Each thematic chapter (often linked to an NPC crucial to our destiny) is in the form of a percentage, that increase at the discretion of the missions that are linked to him. Some missions may even evolve two story arcs different, leaving the impression of a tree as complex as fully dependent on our choices. Pure illusion : if the concept is on paper, it remains very artificial in practice, and governed by the substantive the same rules of storytelling that any open world.

Worst : the game gets lost sometimes in his own meandering narrative, leaves to assume inconsistencies as big as a house. Added to this : a staging sometimes messy, that handles very poorly the transitions between cutscenes and game dialogue and in-game talkative and supernumerary. What about those moments where our character, as he begins a long monologue on the state of souls, sees interrupt a fight, and the resume as an automaton once the danger behind him ? How not to tear your hair out in front of a cutscene that lasts five seconds, after having crossed the whole of the territory to enable it, and having to make a u-turn ?

Breathing in his scenario (and god knows that there is a need) and keep us captives of his wild world, the game accumulates the spectacular sequences of intense combat and race-legal. In addition to zombies elite (of brutes, bears, contaminated, etc) that can give you a hard time, the game has the merit to know household the to wait until its the most beautiful promise : the encounter with the hordes. Very impressive, these armed mutant attack like a swarm of locusts and we are gobbling it up at the slightest giddiness.

These clashes often are, we must admit, moments of great tension, as they work on a good balance between survival instinct (always keep moving) and sense of tactics (traps upstream, user elements explosives of the decor, etc), all the two needed to come to end. Unfortunately, the gameplay fishing also by ergonomics messy (an equipment menu radial too complicated to respond in the moment, a system referred to the street) that often comes to ruin the party. Very unstable (at the time of the test), the game also suffers from a technical failing, to great shots of slowdowns (even on PS4 Pro) and bugs of all kinds. The only real good point : the possibility (known as Freak-O-System by its authors) to be able to gang up mutants against a group of humans in the appâtant, then let them kill each other, sometimes offering beautiful scuffles in which one can enjoy by just watching.

In the end, what else is there to Days Gone, to him that we are disappointed on so many points ? His sets ? Apart from A few lighting effects and dynamic weather, beautiful panoramas looking like snow in the sun. The pleasure of the ride ? A force to multiply the return trips, it depends entirely on the quick trip to shorten all this time lost. All would believe the failure full. And yet, we do not loose Days Gone so easily. His story has beautiful recycle most of the commonplaces of fiction zombie, when she errs not in twists implausible, the soul of the game is there, well hidden.

A soul which owes much to his protagonist. Camped by an excellent actor (the motion capture is amazing), Deek shows a charism of contrasts, between naivety disconcerting and darkness brutal. From this balance, Bend Studio manages to portray a guy often clueless, fallible, deeply human, far from the archetypal male that there has been too much the habit to see in some games. His quest was beautiful digressing into long tunnels of boredom, it can also light up a scene nicely controlled, where the emotion and violence of the most barbaric interact often and with accuracy. All this does not save completely a game : Days Gone fishing on far too many aspects to become memorable. But it will have at least managed one thing : to make his hero a nice smoke screen to its many outputs of road.