Days I won’t Get Back
Let me start by saying, I didn’t finish this game. Now it’s not because I didn’t want to, I actually had a game breaking bug in the mission “Leave All That by the Door”. I made it to a section where you have to escape the mine by entering an elevator shaft and pulling the lever but that lever never worked for me. I reloaded multiple saves but every time I got to that point I stalled out again. If anyone has any tips or ideas on how to get past this I am open to them, I’d love to go back and finish out the rest of the game.
On to my review of the game (at least up to that point). I went into this game with pretty low expectations, I had decided to pass on it when it first released due to the mixed reception but finally picked it up on sale for $20. Initially I was blown away by the graphics, playing on a base model PS4, the environments in particular were stunning. The character models looked a bit janky at times though, and there were a lot of textures that were slow to load in during cutscenes but I chalked that up to being on a base PS4. I really liked their vision of post-apocalyptic Oregon and the way nature mingled with man structures. This aesthetic coupled with the freaker nests dotted throughout abandoned cities really provided a unique setting to explore.
The freakers. The freakers were really well done. I thought this was just going to be yet another generic zombie story but in reality they created something unique (at least up to this point in the story) and mysterious. There was a good variety of freakers that took forms other than just humanoid. I ran into freaker wolves and bears for example. Freakers are also much more active than I was expecting, I saw them jump towards my motorcycle to knock me off, scream bloodcurdling screams to disorientate me, and send monstrous hulk-like freakers running at me like an early 2000’s Ray Lewis. The freakers are like to travel in hordes. From time to time you come across a large pack of these zombie like creatures and if you alert them they chase you down as one large entity. If you aren’t already on you bike going the opposite direction, it’s too late. More often than not, especially in the early game, a horde is going to quickly overwhelm and kill you. The hordes were honestly the most impressive and fun things to deal with; if you didn’t prepare specifically for them and have a plan of attack there was little chance of making it out alive.
The freakers weren’t the only enemies in the game however, you also ran into marauders and rippers. Marauders are just other humans who try to kill and steal in order to survive in the wild. Rippers on the other hand are something else entirely. The rippers are a cult of sorts who are drugged up and cut into their own skin (also part of the initiation process for the people they capture) and they are absolutely insane. Any run in with the rippers felt more intense than any dealings with the freakers short of a horde. Anytime I came to a ripper camp they were hyper-aggressive and wielded savage weapons (that you could pick up and use after killing them) that could do some major damage.
That’s great and all but how was the story? Well to the point I played I thought the story was pretty hit or miss. Parts of it were compelling, like dealing with Boozer and helping him get through the things he was dealing with, but the main draw of finding Sarah always seemed to fall flat. I found myself getting distracted during cutscenes and not really caring what was happening because it never seemed to matter in any meaningful way. Most of the quests were structured as follows: go to a point on the map, talk to someone or clear out an area, watch a short cutscene, rinse and repeat. Even though I was maybe a little more than halfway through the game the formula was already getting repetitive. The problem I had with the structure didn’t have anything to do with actually going from point to point however, because riding the motorcycle made that enjoyable overall.
When I saw how much of an emphasis was being put on the bike in the lead up to the game’s release I was worried that it would become a hassle to deal with. They were touting it as being as much of a character as Deacon St. John (such a ridiculous name) himself. I immediately thought I would be spending more time babysitting the bike and scavenging for gas than exploring the world, but I was completely wrong. When first starting out the bike is weak and guzzles gas at an annoying rate. This is remedied relatively quickly by upgrades at camp settlements and before long it feels good to drive long distances, hit the nitrous, carry extra ammo, and drift all over desolate Oregon. The bike really does start to feel like a companion in an otherwise lonely experience.
I largely enjoyed the game but I can’t say I’m really broken up about the fact I won’t finish it. I had fun in the time spent with Deacon but it was mostly mindless fun and honestly forgettable. I wanted to like the game more than I did and I saw a lot of potential in things like the bike and fighting the hordes but it was let down by the erratic storytelling and quests that felt meaningless. If you can find the game for cheap and have nothing else you want to play first (which will be rare with how packed this year is) then there is some fun to be had here. Even if I had been able to see this game through to the end I still don’t believe I would be inclined to recommend it, maybe a sequel will build on some of the ideas here and create a more full experience but as a standalone title this is one you’re okay skipping.