Days Gone, from reading the reviews, seems like a miss. We’ve been hearing about it for ages, but the long-awaited open-world zombie game just didn’t seem to make a splash with reviewers when it first came out, which is actually a pretty rare occurrence from the console manufacturer that’s brought us God of War, Bloodborne, Uncharted 4, Spider-Man and more. The game sits at a 72 on Metacritic, a low score for any game but much lower given the expectations we tend to have around Sony first-party titles. Sales seem to be a different matter.
God of War may have been a game of the year favorite and critically acclaimed at every turn, but Days Gone blew past it in terms of sales in Japan–only one market, but still. Elsewhere, the game has been sitting on top of the sales charts in the UK for three weeks straight--again, these are quiet weeks, but it’s still an accomplishment. We’ll know more about sales once we see the NPD report, but what we’re seeing so far just doesn’t stack with the lackluster review scores.
I get the feeling that this game and its reviews are being subjected in a big way to the bias of expertise. Many of the complaints about the game come down to the fact that it’s just sort of a standard open-world game of the kind we’ve seen dozens of time before, and of the kind that we’ve seen dozens of games do much better. If you’re the kind of person that plays video games all the time and has played dozens of these games–say, a video game reviewer–this is the sort of thing that’s going to bother you a whole lot. You’re going to spend every second of this game thinking of the times you’ve done it before, and better, and that’s going to color your experience.
If, however, this is the first open world game you’ve played this year, you’re not going to notice things like that. Instead, you’ll see the successes based on what the game borrows from rather than simply seeing what the game borrows from. You’ll wind up playing the same game the reviewers did: a relatively formulaic open-world zombie game with polish and some solid motorcycle action. The only thing is that for you, this will be a good thing.
This is a pretty unavoidable thing in the world of critic reviews in any medium, but it’s particularly acute in games just due to the epic amount of time required to fully evaluate them. You can appreciate homage in a 2-hour movie, but it begins to grate in a 20-hour game. But there’s just no way around it: generally speaking, we want our critics to be well-versed in their subject matter, but that means that they’ll be writing for a whole lot of people less well-versed. User reviews can sometimes make up the difference, but we all know that user reviews have their issues, too.