I saw Days Gone on PS4 Pro and I think it moved
We got some hands-on time with the PS4 Pro's showcase game.
Let's be brutally honest: the post-apocalypse on PlayStation belongs to Naughty Dog. Days Gone, another survival horror shooter full of the living-impaired, has an uphill battle ahead of it, because ultimately it's always going to be seen as the The Next To The Last of Us. That's a tough gig, but after what I've seen, my hopes are still high.
Mind you, I saw it at its absolute best, in a way few people have. Sony recently gave me the chance to witness this fundead nightmare in the 4K flesh at its “Future of Play” event in London. Witnessing it on a PS4 Pro and a you-beaut 4K HDR television isn't something a lot of critics have experienced yet, and the nature of the technology makes it something you have to see in person to fully appreciate. I actually feel for Sony in this regard, because unless you are one of those cashed-up cutting-edge types who has already purchased a 4K TV, you simply cannot get a reliable impression via YouTube, or even through screenshots. You're stuck in 1080p land.
I'll tell you this: I'm not a graphics whore by trade, but seeing is very much believing.
We should probably start with a quick recap, for those of you unfamiliar with Days Gone. You must step into the steel cappers of Deacon St John (voiced by Sam Witwer), a Drifter and former bounty hunter who prefers to live a dangerous life on the road, even though it's some two years after a global pandemic. Almost all of humanity was culled, but the catastrophe also transformed millions of others into "Freakers", mindless zombie-like creatures that are quickly evolving. Best of luck with that.
For my demo, I get to sit down with one of the SIE Bend team members to spot the difference between SDR (your average 1080p TV) and 4K HDR. My demoer can toggle between those modes in real time via the magic of his PS4 Pro debug unit.
The first scene is a close-up pan of our protagonist, Deacon, in all his grizzled biker glory. He's standing in the doorway of a barn, bathed in the rays of a setting sun, and behind him is a darkened interior full of barely discernible machinery. Honestly, he looks so detailed and well-lit at the moment, I assume it's at this point the demoer is going to hit a button to downgrade it from gorgeousness to SDR. To my surprise, we go the other way.
All of a sudden everything is sharper, the colours are more vibrant, and the contrast between the darkened interior of the barn and the sun-drenched entryway is much more pronounced. I can now see the machines inside with ease, but the bright area I'm standing in doesn't look washed out either. I can also spy the individual stitching on our hero's denim vest, and the roughness of his very unwashed T-shirt. The notches on his belt appear more bevelled, and the badge on his breast pocket that reads “Enforcer” is a great deal more legible. It's like I've unknowingly been Hans Moleman all my life and somebody has just got a radioactive Eagle to bite me. I am vision-man. I see e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.
Likewise, Deacon's five o'clock shadow goes from looking like a grey texture vaselined onto his chin to the kind of ridiculously over-detailed stubble one might only see in some Gillette commercial. His flesh tones in general are markedly improved, too. In the best version of him you can notice a broader spectrum of skin pigments. Deacon has puffiness under his eyes and the red of broken capillaries around his nose, both telltale signs of an insomniac and a hard drinker (believe me, I know). It's subtle, but in my experience it's the little details that make a game better.
Last but not least, we step outside into a small farmyard and I watch as the demo dude tinkers with the times of day while flicking his 1080p/4K switch. The richness of the skybox is like swapping between an art student's take on a sky and a fine Monet painting; the clouds are richer and the basic lens flare of SDR becomes a crowd-pleasing God-ray in HDR. I'm also impressed with how beautiful a thrown Molotov looks when you hurl it into a horde of 20 freakers during the midnight hour. Wayward bits of liquid flame splash out from the point of impact and adhere to the unfortunate victims. They light up like a Christmas tree and in some instances propagate their flaming agony onto their neighbours.
It's like pissing onto a hornet's nest. In an instant, 20 freakers swells to 40 as the bastards start coming out of the woodwork. Pretty soon, I can't even count them because they're a roiling mass of bodies, swelling towards my elevated position like that scene from World War Z where the zombies dogpile up over a city wall. It's insane. The massive wave of teeth and clawed limbs crashes onto me like a Hawaiian shorebreak of horror.
But it's also dead sexy.
I absolutely can't afford one, but as of this moment, I'm buying a 4K TV. Please don't make me catch a plane home to 1080p land. I can't. I won't.