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Definitely not Zombies

No zombies here.

I know, this still isn't my Sekiro review, I'm still working my way through the game. But an opportunity came along that I couldn't pass up for this week. Sony was holding a promotional event for their upcoming game Days Gone in Long Beach. So, I trekked on down to get an early look at Sony's upcoming exclusive. This was not a press invite or exclusive event, it was completely open to the public and I had to stand in line like everyone else.

The promotional event, "Deacon's Red Ale Sampling" was held Ballast Point Brewing Company, was exactly that, an Ale sampling. Sony teamed with Ballast Point Brewing Company to make an exclusive event only beer inspired by the game. The beer was fine, I'm sure. I'll be honest, I'm don't like beer that much, and couldn't tell you the difference between one beer or another, I did get a cool glass out of it though.

Upon entering, I, and every other guest, was given a beer along with a voucher for another one if we desired. Everyone in attendance was also given Days Gone poster. After that we were shuffled along to the food table, which was pita bread and tortilla chips. Past that was the real reason I went, a chance to play the game. About eight TVs had been set up, allowing guests to try out the game. Sessions were limited to ten minutes.

The guy in front of me spent most of his session running around a couple of abandoned warehouses, scrounging for supplies, only coming across a handful of enemies. However, while he was watching I couldn't help but notice that some of the zombies were adolescents, which means I watched him beat a couple of infected children to death with a baseball bat. I wouldn't call it disturbing, but it did catch me off guard. But not as much as when the player came across a zombie that was being eaten alive by OTHER zombies.

I had a completely different experience. My Deacon (the game's protagonist) was dropped into a completely different section of the map (Days Gone is open world) and my mission was to clear out a horde, yes, a horde, of Freakers from an abandoned construction yard. The "not zombie" enemies are called Freakers, and they are significantly worse than zombies. For one, they're fast, and when they're in a horde, it's easy to get overwhelmed. I figured that I'd get their attention, shoot some of the barrels, cause an explosion, take them out and call it a day. That's not what happened. I died, repeatedly. I tried a few different approaches, but every one ended with me getting swarmed and torn to pieces by a psychotic cannibal horde of infected. That was when I realized Days Gone is going to be a challenging game.

When my time was up, I moved off, so the next person could play. I asked one of the PR people running the game a couple of questions, and he pointed me in the direction of one of the devs who worked on the game, Chris. Chris, who was very kind, and excited about the game, was happy to answer my questions. Here's what I found out:

  1. The zombies aren't zombies, they're infected human beings called Freakers. So, they aren't technically dead. That much I knew, and the way they can quickly overwhelm you reminded me of the infected from the film 28 Days Later. What I didn't know was the extent of it. The horde has a hive mind, which means they will do things like flank you, and they can learn: which certainly explains my time with the game. Fast intelligent zombies with a hive mind. For anyone keeping count, the scale of "How fucked am I?" in this game just went up significantly.

  2. The children: The adolescents I mentioned earlier are infected children and teenagers, and they act a bit differently. In the game they're referred to as "Newts." Since they aren't as strong as the adults, and the adults WILL eat them if given the chance, they tend to stay away from the main Freakers. You'll often find them on rooftops, or other isolated places. Since they're cautious, they won't attack you unless you get in their way or move into their space.

  3. The behavior changes: The game has both a day/night cycle and a weather system. Now that is basically standard for open-world games at this point. However, weather and time of day change the behavior of the horde. My time with the game was set during the day, which apparently meant I was dealing with the horde at its tamest. The Freakers are more aggressive at night, and they hunt better in a complete lack of light. Which, according to Chris, means a rainstorm at night is really bad news. Now if you've been following this game at all, you probably know it's set in the Pacific Northwest. But wait, doesn't it rain a lot in the Pacific Northwest? Yes, it does. Which brings us to our next point.

  4. The Setting: This question was not answered by Chris, it was by another dev who worked on the art and map design. I'm afraid I can't remember his name, but he was a cool guy, and like Chris, he seemed really excited to show Days Gone off. The game is set in Oregon, although the dev says it's more inspired by Oregon than an accurate recreation of Oregon.

  5. Why Oregon: This question was answered by Chris. The studio behind Days Gone, SIE Bend Studio, is in Oregon, and he said the devs couldn't really think of a game like this that had been set in Oregon before. However, he said the main reason was because of the diverse geography, which allowed them to implement a lot of different things in the game. Oregon has volcanoes, several bodies of water, a coast on the Pacific, large forests, shrublands and the High Desert. The Desert was something Chris seemed to particularly point out, which leads me to guess there's something important in that region of the game's map. I'll be honest, I wasn't aware Oregon was that diverse and looked it up just to make sure that this article was correct. Yay learning.

  6. SIE Bend Studios has been working on Days Gone for five years.

  7. Why this type of game? Why a post-apocalypse open-world survival horror game with what looks like a fairly bleak story? Isn't that kind of game overplayed? A lot of gaming publications have been saying that. I made sure to word it more politely than that, and stress that I was personally looking forward to the game, which I am. But I wanted to be able to tell the fourteen people who read my blog why. Chris was very cool about the whole thing. He said they were major fans of Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead. He also stressed that the Freakers were very different from the typical zombie, and he felt that the game was really going to surprise people.

While talking to Chris, someone came up and told him it was time to talk about the game on-stage. I thanked him for his time and went outside to watch his presentation. He talked about the game, the environment, and how excited they were for people to play it. When he was done, he got off the stage to answer people's questions. I went to talk to the Sony PR Guy running the thing show, and we had a brief conversation. I asked if Sony saw Days Gone as a one-off game, or as a potential franchise. I won't lie, I expected a dodgy answer, but he was very upfront. He said "Franchise. The goal is always to make a game that people love and want more of." And you know what? That's a perfect answer. At the end of the day, the video game industry is a business, and the intent of developing and selling games is to make money. In my opinion, the best way to make money is to deliver a quality product that people want. Basic economics.

I asked if there was a projected unit number of sales for Days Gone and his answer was "there is but we don't share it." Which is fair. And lastly, I just want to note that he had an awesome Days Gone hoodie with a zombie bear on it. Okay, technically it's a Freaker bear called a Rager. They are in the game and are in his words "bullet sponges."

I left Deacon's Red Ale Sampling with a better grasp of what Days Gone is going to be. For starters, it's going to be a challenging game. I know there is a way to wipe out the horde that I came across in my playthrough, and if I had half an hour I'm sure I could have figured it out. Second, I think it's AI sets it apart from other games of this nature. You can't just go in guns blazing to take out a horde of Freakers, you need to use strategy, which I think will be what makes or breaks the game for people. Personally, I love strategy in games and having to think you're way out of situations. Lastly, I think Days Gone is going to surprise people by not being exactly what they're expecting. Kotaku recently called Days Gone "AAA Video Games: The Video Game," which I personally feel is unfair. Yeah, on the surface it doesn't look like anything new, but having had the chance to be torn to shreds by Freakers multiple times, I think the devs have found a way to put their own spin on this.

I'll be reviewing this when it comes out, and I may very well be wrong. But based on my small playthrough, and the strength of Sony's console exclusives this generation, I think people should give

Days Gone the benefit of the doubt. I know I'm certainly looking forward to it.

Waiting in line.

Deacon St. John.

Deacon's Red Ale.

The Game Demo.

Talking about the game. The guy on the right is Chris.

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