Five arduous years. That’s how long it reportedly took the (now-defunct) developer FNTASTIC to put together The Day Before. With the years preceding its disastrous early access release, this utterly disappointing online zombie survival shooter was promised almost nothing. It’s not an MMO at all, and it hardly qualifies as a survival shooter either. I could barely play it for a few hours before it crashed and burned. My Ryzen 3900x and GeForce RTX 4070 Ti PC experienced such serious performance problems during my first, and as it turns out, only, weekend with it that I felt it would have been a waste of time to continue using it.
That is, assuming there was any enjoyment involved in The Day Before’s sole objective, which is to run around its shoddily constructed city and gather treasure until you either die or manage to bring enough back to buy better gear for your next adventure.
The plot is simple but effective: you awaken on an improvised hospital bed in a dilapidated survivor camp in a respectably sized city that is partially modelled after New York City. It has a lot of dubious artwork and decals that eerily resemble real-world company logos, but if it was a parody, those elements might be forgiven. (Is it true? The courts will decide that.) I’m not sure why I should care about what happened to this unimaginative world or where the zombies are coming from, but sadly, its generic survivors appear to be taking its zombie outbreak seriously.
The Day Before lacks even the most basic features that one would anticipate in any survival game, even after a fairly well-paced tutorial. The action-packed battles and dynamic settings featured in the game’s now-absent trailers are gone, and instead, you’ll primarily be rushing around a flat cityscape that, while visually appealing, has no depth at all. While searching for treasure, you may come across a few zombies, but they are rarely dangerous.
If there were real zombies around, I would prefer to hide in a dumpster.
The Day Before’s conspicuous lack of nearly any UI startled me the most. There is a touchscreen display for your quests, but you can only monitor one at a time. There is also a makeshift map, but using it is awkward because, after a lengthy setup animation, you can only move around it with your WASD keys. This means that your character is left waiting while you complete tasks. Additionally, the inventory screen is very basic, making it nearly impossible to locate other players on your squad or even determine whether they are still on your team, even if you do manage to find yourself in their squad.
You’ll have to make friends and use Steam’s or Discord’s chat if you truly want to play multiplayer games because there isn’t even a multiplayer menu or voice chat feature. Even the basic in-game chat window allows you to converse with your party, but it takes patience to get it to function properly. I would have enjoyed hiding under a skip in the middle of a zombie infested area more than I would have waited for The Day Before’s multiplayer to function properly.
I had to learn the hard way that The Day Before isn’t just not teaching me how to do certain things, like melee combat or setting up camp in the purported “open world,” because it doesn’t have any guidance at all. That’s right, your hands and feet are useless if you find yourself running around without a gun for whatever reason. Good luck outrunning these utterly stupid zombies. And I hope you have better luck the next time.
Despite assertions to the contrary from its developer, The Day Before is neither an open world nor an MMO. Rather, it’s essentially an extraction shooter with a single objective: amble slowly through the (mostly deserted) city, collect some treasure, and reach an extraction point before time runs out. The only things you carry over between runs are whatever gear you manage to bring with you and any money you save up by selling the remnants of loot you manage to schlep back to base. There is no persistent progression system at all.
You lose everything you had on your body if you somehow pass away before arriving home, which is common due to an unrestricted free-for-all PvP system. As a result, you’ll frequently regress as the few coins given to each new character get smaller. It would theoretically only take three or four early deaths to end up with a useless character because you don’t respawn with a weapon or any basic gear.
NPCs sound like they were created by an AI because of how flatly they are written and sung.
If you didn’t have any money left in your storage after dying, you at least receive a small amount of money, which is sufficient to purchase a small handgun and a few rounds of ammunition. This is carried out at Woodberry, the main outpost that acts as your daily operations’ headquarters. That zone is fairly well organised, with a distinct design to help you stay in your place. There are shops, a few non-playable characters that utter pointless setup lines, and a place to store your loose items and money.
The fact that other players can be found there in between loot runs is awesome, and it’s fantastic that you can form alliances with anyone while you’re in this hub. The hub area’s NPCs—the only ones in The Day Before, mind you—are much less cool because of how blandly written and clumsily voice-acted they are, making them sound like the subpar output of a generative AI.
It’s tough to overlook that on its own, but it gets even more difficult when you discover that after the tutorial’s first thirty or so minutes, there is actually no story content. It really stinks that you can only take on one of its procedurally-generated quests at a time because there’s really no point to do any of them other than to earn a pitiful amount of extra currency. These quests require you to loot random items for an NPC back at camp.
The Day Before takes place almost entirely outside during the day, with the exception of the pointless ranch area, where you can throw money into furniture, despite the fact that it’s off to the side and offers no assistance. There are also no special weather effects to add some variation to the story. The most interesting feature of New Fortune City’s landscape is the occasional container holding one or two pieces of junk loot; otherwise, it’s a small, mostly empty area. However, my mid-range gaming PC’s framerate struggled to hold steady in spite of these dull environments. Even with Frame Generation and DLSS enabled, it struggled to maintain consistency, and the persistent glitches and stuttering made it extremely annoying to use.
There are also very few landmarks or special areas with a variety of loot types, as well as no bosses or unique zombie encounters. The ones that do seem to exist primarily to store special equipment, not that they were particularly good at it. For instance, you might anticipate finding a shotgun or a suit of riot armour in a police armoury, but these locations are typically empty and mostly function as excellent traps for other, more organised groups of players to gank you for all of your hard-earned scrap.
You won’t be able to purchase any firearms with significant power.
Even with a squad at your side, getting to the point of extraction on higher-population servers can be quite challenging because there are only so many extraction points on the map, and they’re all located next to chokepoints that stronger groups frequently exploit to prevent you from moving forward at all. In addition to being unfair and boring on its own, this game currently has an unfixed currency duplication bug, which implies that the majority of other players are probably using cheats to obtain powerful armour and weapons. There is very little chance that FNTASTIC will ever be fixed now that it has been discontinued.
The good news is that there is a surprisingly good selection of weapons, from scoped sniper rifles to handguns. There are a total of about 14 options available at the local weapon dealer, but until you’ve survived long enough rounds to start collecting loot (or until you’ve conned your way into wealth), you won’t be able to afford anything that really packs a punch. Although the pre-release promise of a mobile crafting system has not materialised, it is still convenient to purchase upgrades like scopes and muzzle attachments and attach them to your weapons at the town workshop. Although their cheesy and unimpressive sound design leaves a lot to be desired, weapons also handle fairly well.
You can carry more loot if your backpack is larger, but as with everything else in your inventory, it will be gone as soon as you pass away. This includes your armour, clothes, and backpack. This is unfortunate since backpacks are practically necessary to carry anything valuable home after a run, and they can be rather expensive to replace. If you’re lucky, you might be able to locate one on the corpse of another player, but if finances are tight, it’s more likely that you’ll be ill-prepared and under-equipped to fight anyone.
For some reason, there are also cars, despite the fact that they are essentially useless and extremely costly—costing upwards of millions of dollars. They are so brittle that not much needs to happen for them to blow up, instantly igniting all the money they needed to start up. To make matters worse, the animation for the car explosion is so terrible and unimpressive that you are unable to even relish losing all of your hard-earned coins. The bright side, if there is one, is that The Day Before was short-lived enough to prevent the planned microtransaction system that was supposed to exacerbate all of these currency issues from ever materialising.
I can honestly say that The Day Before is one of the worst games I’ve ever played, to the point where I’m afraid to keep using it on my computer. Yes, you could argue that this has the makings of a coherent structure, but even those elements feel fractured and fragile. Its progression is extremely annoying, its story is meaningless, its enemies are naive, its PvP is a chaotic and exploitable mess, and its map is lifeless. Although the now-defunct developer FNTASTIC claimed that more work needed to be done, this game failed to meet any of the baseline standards that have been set in the years since Early Access became popular.
Now that the game has concluded just four days after its launch, the many enigmatic questions surrounding The Day Before’s development are probably going to remain unanswered, leaving the player base to fend for themselves until the servers are eventually shut down permanently. If you were among the fortunate ones who were able to try it before purchasing it, you can already count yourself among those who are being kindly refunded by Steam.