The Day Before review: "It has no redeeming qualities, and under no circumstances should you buy it"

The Day Before review screenshot
(Image: © Fntastic)

Early Verdict

Fntastic has confirmed that development has ceased on The Day Before, just four days on from its launch into Early Access. Steam has since stopped allowing anybody to purchase the game, although our review of The Day Before remains – giving you some insight into the state the extraction shooter was in at release.


  • +

    Easy inventory systems


  • -

    Lack of content

  • -

    Uninspired game loop

  • -

    Severe performance and stability issues

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The Day Before isn't quite the worst game I've ever played, but it might just be the emptiest. Empty of interesting things to do, but also empty of artistic merit. The bafflingly anticipated "Zombie survival MMO" from developer Fntastic is a game with nothing to say. There are no meaningful ideas, no distinctive mechanics, no creative stylistic choices, and certainly no compelling characters. It's a reductive, insipid take on the extraction shooter in which you fight boring people in a boring city to collect boring loot to take back to a boring base.

Fast Facts

Early access release date: December 7, 2023
Platform(s): PC
Developer: In-house
Publisher: Fntastic 

Perhaps I should save these thoughts for the conclusion, but to be honest, I'd rather not waste your time like The Day Before has wasted mine. Much had been said about this game's questionable development prior to launch, and no doubt much will be said about the particulars of its release in the ensuing weeks and months. But from a critical perspective, none of this really matters. What matters is the game that was put in front of me last Friday, and I don't see much point in putting off telling you that it's awful. It doesn't matter that it's been in development for five years, or that it's currently in Steam Early Access. The only thing that matters is that it has no redeeming qualities, and under no circumstances should you buy it.

At this point, I hope you'll take me at my word, and go and do something more fulfilling – like playing one of the best games of 2023, or watch people open novelty advent calendars on YouTube. But if you absolutely must know why you should avoid The Day Before like the zombie hordes this game doesn't have, then grab the nearest blunt object and let's brain this shambling mess.

Recent updates

This review has been updated to reflect news that The Day Before has been removed from sale by Steam, and that its publisher is now offering refunds to anybody impacted by the game ceasing development

Welcome to Woodberry

The Day Before review screenshot

(Image credit: Fntastic)

The Day Before begins with you plastering a dead-eyed mannequin of a protagonist with an assortment of scars, tattoos, and hairstyles, after which your avatar awakens in Woodberry, a safe-haven for the survivors of the zombie apocalypse that has, apparently, happened. The doctor treating you says that you only survived whatever happened because of your incredible physical fortitude, seeding the notion that you're a stone cold badass with all the subtlety of a crop duster.

The Day Before then cuts to a flyover montage of Woodberry's various facilities, showing you where to buy your ammo, where to store your gear, where to increase your character stats, and so forth. It's an efficient way of introducing the basics without resorting to an exhaustive onboarding tutorial. But then the game forces you to do an exhaustive onboarding tutorial anyway, leading you by the nose to all the things it's just shown you to explain them a second time.

Through this, you'll also meet the closest approximation The Day Before has to characters, like Chris, the leader of the haven, Abbie the storehouse manager, and Generic Bearded Guy who sells you guns and ammo. All these characters speak to you in the same tone of voice, landing somewhere between talking to a baby and trying to indoctrinate you into a cult. Everyone is eerily friendly and concerned for your wellbeing, to the point where they fret about your location when you're not in Woodberry, even though there are only two other places in the entire game world you can be. The whole approach to characterisation is stale and one-note, not to mention creepy and overfamiliar.

The vendors also love to talk about how great Woodberry is, the importance of community, and making sure everyone has what they need. And they do practise what they preach. Not only do they outfit you with some pretty decent starting equipment, you also get basic financial assistance whenever you lose that gear (which you do automatically upon death). I like this notion of collectivism and supporting one another through the end times. Sadly, this makes it all the more jarring when you step outside Woodberry into the weirdly named New Fortune City, whereupon the game immediately turns into Lord of the Flies.

The Danger Zone

The Day Before review screenshot

(Image credit: Fntastic)

The moment you transition from The Day Before's hub and into the play area, you're officially in "The Danger Zone", where all bets are off. Any player you encounter here who isn't in your squad is fair game for you to murder and steal from. In theory, you could work with other players to find loot and complete missions, but the reality is very much shoot first, teabag later. What's weird is there's no narrative justification for this barbarity. Everyone playing comes from Woodberry, and there's no clan or faction system to contextualise the naked hostility between players. The only explanation is that The Day Before is an extraction shooter, therefore everyone must lethally compete for resources despite them all ultimately going to the same place.

As an extraction shooter, The Day Before does demonstrate some surface-level competence. The city looks detailed and glossy, from the towering tenements and civic buildings to the streets littered with human detritus and abandoned vehicles. Weapons provide a satisfactory level of feedback, and since other players could get the drop on you at any time, there's an initial tension to exploration.

Yet even at this level, there are notable problems. While the city looks nice enough, there's little personality to it. It's a standard American urban centre with suburbs clumsily stapled to its northern border wall. It's also poorly optimised, with my machine struggling to maintain a decent framerate even at 1080p in some areas. The shooting is acceptable, but your character is otherwise interactively limited. They can jump, they can loot, and they can consume food and water (although you'll rarely need to do this as you won't be in the city long enough). But they can't mantle over objects, and they can't use melee attacks. This means you're completely defenceless if you run out of ammo. It also deprives you of a quiet way to kill players and zombies, meaning you cannot enter combat without drawing attention to yourself.

The Day Before review screenshot

(Image credit: Fntastic)

The Day Before "has failed financially" and the dev is closing down just 4 days after launch: "We don't have the funding to continue the work"

Luckily, you don't have to worry about zombies too much because you'll hardly ever see any. That's right, The Day Before is a zombie survival game with barely any zombies in it. If you're lucky, you'll come across one roughly every five minutes. You'll hardly ever fight more than one at once, and as for hordes, forget about it. Most of your time in The Day Before is spent wandering through empty streets. And when you do happen upon a zombie, it's so easy to kill it might as well not be there.

The good news is there's plenty more loot knocking around. The bad news is most of it is junk. I'm not being insulting here. This is literally how The Day Before describes most of the things you'll find in New Fortune City. PC components, discarded smartphones, toilet roll. The latter doesn't even make sense as junk. If you were in a post-apocalypse scenario and you bagged a pack of Cushelle Ultra, you'd be the most popular person in the camp (for somewhat obvious reasons).

Occasionally, you'll come across a gun or some ammo, but these are mostly similar to what you can buy at the Woodberry store, so even the "interesting" loot is dull. There's also little logic to how loot is distributed. I've looted medicine from inside an ATM, and a rucksack from inside another rucksack. Many were mocking Bioshock Infinite for this 10 years ago, and that game wasn't even about loot.

Slave to the grind

The Day Before review screenshot

(Image credit: Fntastic)

There is a more efficient way to earn money in The Day Before, at least in theory. Missions are randomly assigned to you via text, and completing one will net you 5,000 Woodberry Coins, the currency of The Day Before's cryptobro apocalypse. And what do these missions involve? That's right, collecting loot! Only this time you need to grab specific loot from a specific area of the city.

These missions are all functionally identical, only differing in how frustrating they are. Sometimes, finding the loot is straightforward. Other times, you'll wander around the same two or three streets for ages trying to locate what you're looking for. Many loot containers you come across are locked for no obvious reason. And if another player has been there just before you, you're best off ditching the mission entirely and going somewhere else – you know, like to any other extraction shooter on Steam.

I don't want you to think that I'm ragging The Day Before for fun, as every criticism I'm raising is both valid and overtly obvious should you make the mistake of sitting down to try it. But in the interest of balance, I am going to discuss the one feature I genuinely like. When you equip a rucksack, or swap it for a bigger rucksack, the game automatically expands your inventory without you having to move your loot from one rucksack to the other – it's a little touch, but one that makes expanding your inventory slick and efficient all the same.

The Day Before review screenshot

(Image credit: Fntastic)

One smart inventory sub-system does not a good game make, however, and while the litany of issues I've listed make The Day Before a write-off anyway, the real problem is that the basic mechanical loop I've outlined above is all the game has to offer. You go out into the city, do a mission or grab some loot, find an extraction point (of which there are precious few), buy a slightly less boring gun and maybe one grenade if you're lucky, and do the whole thing again. 

Maybe you'll shoot a few zombies on the way, and maybe you'll get into a half-decent gunfight with another player. Most of the time, though, you're holding down 'F' to pull icons from one inventory screen into another. After two or three runs, you'll have seen most of what The Day Before has to offer. There's no twist on the extraction formula, no interesting narrative pieces. It doesn't even have decent zombies. Video games mastered zombies years ago! It's one of the few things we can say the medium has perfected. How do you get zombies wrong?

Before Fntastic pulled the plug on development, The Day Before was supposed to be in Early Access for six-to-eight months. It was always possible that The Day Before could have pulled a No Man's Sky and became worth a look in that period. But it was also possible that I became a male model in that same stretch of time, although the amount of work which would have been involved to get there made that incredibly unlikely. In any case, distant maybes don't alter the fact that The Day Before is less worth your time than every other game released this year. 2023 has given us so many imaginative, inspiring, enriching experiences that it boggles the mind that anyone would spend $40 on a game this meagre, derivative, and soulless. Your brain deserves better than this, so don't let this walking corpse of a game anywhere near it.


The Day Before was reviewed on PC, with code provided by the publisher.

More info

Available platformsGames, PC

Rick is the Games Editor on Custom PC. He is also a freelance games journalist whose words have appeared on Eurogamer, PC Gamer, The Guardian, RPS, Kotaku, Trusted Reviews, PC Gamer, GamesRadar, Rock, Paper, Shotgun, and more.