The zombie whoredom continues, it seems. Yet another game has arisen from a genre that refuses to die down. Dying Light promises the usual clichés of a living dead drama, with some added bits that may, or may not, rescue the title from the realms of mediocrity.
The story of Dying Light is bearable at best. I often found myself cringing at the predictable plot and dull dialogue. The whole notion of a too-western hero parachuting down from the heavens to save an eastern city unable to save itself, immediately felt awkward and disturbingly familiar.
Nothing about the narrative stood out to me. Sure, there were the deaths of several main characters, but I found myself not caring at all. There simply isn’t enough time dedicated to developing relationships, with even the protagonist himself, Kyle Crane, feeling distant despite me sharing his first-person view.
Moving from mission to mission, I assisted the helpless, slicing at many a zombie and shooting at many a man. My reward at the end of it all was a drugged-up fantasy sequence, ripped straight out of Far Cry, and a boss fight comprising entirely of quick-time button pushes. A lazy finale to a half-arsed plot.
The main gameplay focus in all of the marketing hype leading up to Dying Light’s release was parkour: the intense running and vaulting across hazardous terrain with unmatched agility. Thankfully, this all works well. Crane’s jumping to and fro can sometimes get a little bit glitchy, with body parts becoming lost through ledges and buildings, but it’s generally a smooth ride.
When you initially enter Harran with no upgrades or weapons, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed encountering the undead for the first time. Rusty pipes and broom handles may pack a punch for a couple of swings, but they quickly weaken and break. This is when you learn the value of running from fights. Whereas in Dead Island, Techland’s previous zombie effort, players were instructed to pick up anything and everything to keep on battling through the horde, Dying Light encourages you to run, run, and run some more.
As you rank up and invest skill points into different moves, you’re able to navigate the map more swiftly, and encounters with hostiles become easier to manage. Advancing from a useless sod with a table leg, to a badass armed to the teeth with electrified machetes, is pretty damn satisfying. “Dismemberment” becomes your middle name, as you carve through rotten flesh and bone, often rewarded with a slow motion capture of limbs flying and blood spurting.
At around 6 hours in I found my first firearm which, like in Dead Island, made things a little too easy. The guns all pack a big punch and ammo is easily available at stores. While melee weapons degrade, guns have no such wear and tear. Once I unlocked my rifle, I didn’t really feel the need to use anything else.
Epic close-quarter battles, in which enemies block and counter effectively, forcing you to dodge and plan attacks, quickly turn into your typical first-person shooter bullet exchanges. It’s by no means a terrible experience, it’s just a step down from the crazy knife fights you were having only a few hours earlier.
Dying Light’s open world is full of places to explore, littered with side missions and collectibles that will keep a determined survivor occupied for 40+ hours. Loot is easily filtered through using the Survivor Sense, meaning less time opening empty cupboards and more time deep in the action. Safe houses are unlocked by clearing out zombies and turning on the power, a familiar task for those who have played any Ubisoft titles of late. There’s no fast-travel option inside districts, which is nice to see, as most of my personal highlights were between missions, where I’d come across survivors and new exotic loot.
When the sun goes down the terrifying Volatiles begin their hunt. These are much more lethal enemies which can match your speed and track you across rooftops. Each chase I had with these creatures brought with it a refreshing dose of fear, as being stalked through the darkness, scrambling up the side of buildings, searching for a ledge to grab, never got old. Also, the double XP earned while you’re out at night is a nice reason for players to go outside of their comfort zone, and managing to escape Volatiles results in a big experience boost.
Co-operative play is surprisingly simple to set up: find a game that you want to join, or have friends join you. You’re able to drop in and out without hindering the progress of fellow players, making for a very smooth and solid experience. This is how Dying Light is best played, I feel. The shoddy story can be left ignored, and the gameplay is vastly enhanced by three other Cranes taking down zombies alongside you.
“Be The Zombie” mode looks like it could be fun, if I could actually get into a game. I’ve tried at least 50 times now, and I either get disconnected or kicked. All I’ve managed to accomplish, despite my efforts, is 20 minutes inside the tutorial world. From this tiny taster, the mode hasn’t impressed me much and, as it was initially intended to be a pre-order bonus, I don’t think too much thought went into it. The monster’s limited abilities are pretty uninspired and, after being invaded myself a couple of times, it’s clear that the one-hit kill pounce move is far too powerful. It’s no wonder my invasion attempts have been rejected, as the monster acts only to annoy and abuse, with little reason for players to partake.
The PC version of Dying Light has received a couple of patches which have substantially improved performance post-launch. Using a single Nvidia GTX 970 I was able to max this game out at 1080p, achieving between 60-100 frames per second. Lowering Draw Distance, and turning off Motion Blur, will help give a boost to struggling systems. A field-of-view slider is included, keys are rebindable, and everything else seems solid.
The game looks fantastic, and moving from the dirty brown of the slums, to the beautiful Old Town District offers a nice contrast. The meaty melee combat guarantees gorgeously gory explosions of limbs and internal organs. Audio is bang on, and the soundtrack truly superb. Those choosing to go without headphones will be sorely missing out.
Dying Light is a good game that just about pulls off the AAA experience, with gameplay that satisfies, and a story that keeps things moving. However, the lack of anything truly unique, or daring, lets this title down. After copying features from not only Dead Island, but also Far Cry and The Elder Scrolls, Dying Light feels far too familiar. It may be a new IP, but its heavy borrowing from other franchises corrupts any attempts at innovation.
If you’re a massive zombie-killing fan, who still isn’t tired of these games, then you’ll enjoy this. If you have three friends to play with, then you’ll likely enjoy this too. For everybody else, Dying Light is a game that plays it safe in a genre already bursting at the bloody seams.
Your typical poorly executed zombie tale
4-player co-op is a blast with friends
Very little innovation
Grab the 4-pack during Steam sale
For details on release dates and other related info, head to Dying Light’s game page.
** When is it worth the price? — In lieu of review scores, we opt to give our opinion on whether the game is worthy of it’s release day price, or if you should wait for a patch or a sale. **
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