Motorbikes in video games – they’re usually pants. In fact, Rockstar seems to be the only developer that’s consistently able to pull them off.
Developers either forget or don’t have the resources to simulate how bikes behave when the rider’s weight shifts, how the front wheel pushes down when they lean forwards, or how every bump in the road bounces the suspension in sometimes subtle ways. Motorcycles in video games tend to feel like bumper cars crossed with shopping trolleys, and they’re about as reliable as my hairline.
I think much of this is down to the fact they’re often an afterthought in games where cars are your main method of transportation. Sony Bend Studio bucked this trend in Days Gone by making your bike the only mode of transport. Like Mad Max before it, Days Gone’s drifter bike is a permanent, ever-changing fixture of your adventure across green and misty Oregon. You take it with you everywhere you go, you maintain it, and you upgrade it. It changes, but it’s always there. It’s as much your trusty stallion as Red Dead Redemption 2’s horse.
With the body of a chopper and the suspension of a dirt bike, this custom ride sings across the bouncy mud trails of Days Gone’s harsh world. You feel every bump in the road, and sliding it around curves feels like slicing a block of butter with a katana. The crunchy audio design lets you almost feel the gravel in your mouth.
Game studios often say things in marketing like “the world is the character”, but your bike in Days Gone gets about as close to that sentiment as I’ve seen. It’s a character – like a powerful, metallic baby brother you have to cart around the post-apocalypse with you.
You really have to nurture it, keeping it repaired and topped up with fuel. If you run out of petrol, you have to sit on it and walk it around, which sounds like a massive pain in the arse and kind of is, but it can lead to some of the best unscripted moments in the game. There’s something uniquely thrilling about slowly walking a visibly heavy motorbike past a horde of hundreds of angry infected, hoping they don’t spot you. If you can just make it to the next downward slope, gravity will do the rest and you’ll be home free.
I also love how limited fuel makes you play a certain way – you plan your journeys out so you pass a petrol station on the way, and you take pit stops to find fuel cans. On top of that, you only gun the engine when you need to. If there’s an incline, you rev it at full power, cutting the throttle when you reach the top so you can freewheel the hill down without using any gas. It makes you look at the topography of the map in a completely different way to most games – rather than taking the optimal route as the bird flies, you’re looking to get the most out of every dip. While most games teach you to take every ramp, Days Gone rewires your brain to think more carefully, taking the path down through the shallow riverbed rather than the dangerous jump over the broken bridge.
Your bike in Days Gone is a safe haven – the only reliable way to outrun a horde. It’s also a save haven (eh, eh?) because it’s where you save your progress. When you’re forced to leave it to burn out some nests, you feel naked. You also have to consider where you park it because monsters and human enemies can tamper with the bike or wait around it in ambush when you return. Later on, you get the chance to fit saddlebags to the bike and it becomes an ammo station as well as your save point and method of transport. It’s a workhorse.
Almost every aspect of the game feeds into the bike in some way, forcing you to treat it with reverence. It’s a reverence you know the developers who worked on it felt when creating the thing, and that enthusiasm infects you as you play. You find yourself treating it with the same amount of respect, and I wish more games made you feel a kinship with the horse you rode on, rather than making vehicles disposable like the ejectable magazines in a high-powered assault rifle.
Next: Days Gone PC System Requirements Include 70 GB SSD
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Kirk is the Editor-in-Chief at TheGamer. He likes Arkane games a little too much.
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