E3 2016 'Days Gone' Gameplay Trailer Gives Us What's Actually Scary About Zombies

Days Gone, an upcoming PS4 exclusive in development from Bend Studios.
Days Gone, an upcoming PS4 exclusive in development from Bend Studios. (c) Bend Studios

Bend Studios is coming out with a new open world survival game called Days Gone, in which the protagonist has lived through a devastating global pandemic and must now survive in a dangerous post-apocalyptic world. We’ve seen a lot of post-apocalypse in recent years, especially zombie post-apocalypse, but the trailer for Days Gone still has a glimmer of something unique. You can watch the announcement trailer from Sony's E3 2016 press conference below:

The narrator, main character Deacon St. John (now that’s a name), describes the horror of a government that runs out of body bags, planes falling out of the sky, trains that no longer run, turbines that don’t move, and a loss of light as humanity retreats into the wilderness. Deacon describes putting up razor wire in a helpless bid to stop what appears to be inevitable ruin and survivors that run out of hope, courage and mental strength.

The trailer takes a turn as he describes brotherhood and life, things that meant something once and clearly mean something to him. He describes himself as a drifter, bounty hunter and mercenary, with his eyes focused on “the broken road.” But what will that actually mean in the game itself? Days Gone is still in development, but a second trailer was revealed during Sony’s press conference that showed off some really exciting gameplay elements:

I’m not referring to the infinite ammo (standard for a demo), the rudimentary glimpse of crafting that we saw or even the miraculously still-functional bike. I’m referring to the swarm. Maybe I should capitalize it for emphasis: the Swarm, the overwhelming teeming multitude of zombies that becomes its own type of enemy.

Zombies are not an enemy that’s interesting because zombies are intrinsically interesting. A good zombie tale is more about the survivors than the monsters. It’s about humanity under pressure, how they fracture or are forged, how they face their own fragility and mortality, how they create hope from nothing. But if there’s one thing zombies as an enemy can do, it’s terrify you through their sheer numbers. Zombies are killable, but not conquerable. The Swarm cannot be stopped.

That’s what’s so deeply interesting in the above trailer. The Swarm keeps coming and coming, no matter how many Deacon shoots down. Individual zombies may fall, but the Swarm does not.

Notably, the Swarm actually does appear to be made out of many individuals that are all valid single enemies rather than a fake-immortal Swarm entity. You can see many, many individual zombies scrambling over one another in the kind of naturally revolting, insect-like numbers that make the Swarm so terrifying. Deacon hits them with bullets and fire, and by the end of the trailer he seems to have a moment of peace, only for the camera to zoom back out and see how futile his stand appears to be as the landscape crawls with a regrouping Swarm.

I wouldn’t blame anyone for being over zombie stories by now, but on a gameplay level, the Days Gone gameplay trailer really hit on how to make zombies a more interesting enemy. The announcement trailer was standard fare for your tragic post-apocalypse survivor, but the gameplay trailer’s take on a Swarm was unique and well-executed.

There’s no release date for Days Gone yet.

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