Waiting eagerly for the next season of The Walking Dead, I decided to get my Zombie fix from the latest game from Techland. Having been responsible for the Dead Island series, I hoped for a quick mindless romp hacking up an undead horde. However, 10 hours in and only 50% through the main story, I realised I had bitten off more than I could chew.
The city is stunning, from it’s grimy slums and sewers to its ornate Arabian inspired districts. The buildings feel solid and lived-in and the verticality they all offer, mean you can be in a ground level kitchen one minute, and on the roof of a three-storey building the next. Once atop of these decaying ruins once know as Harran, the draw distance is fantastic allowing you to see for miles in all direction. This level of detail and power show us that Techland have truly made use of the new-gen hardware.
The zombies in Dying Light are not just limited to the slow trudging zombies of a 70’s horror movies. Instead, they include the classic trudger, the recently deceased frantic dead, mutations that split and explode and the deadliest variation know as the hunter. Hunters roam the streets at night and are fast, strong and nearly always deadly. Surprisingly, the AI for each time is suitably erratic and it can be difficult to predict their action making the game that much more frantic. Of course there is a fair share of living human enemies to beat, shoot and mame, but its the Zombies that are the star of this show.
The human element of Dying Light should be applauded, as the sheer amount of NPC characters is astounding. Whilst some are integral to the core game, you be amazed at the amount of characters you can get to know through the various side quests and challenges. These NPCs are just as unpredictable as the Zombies and some will stab you in the back, just as you are beginning to trust them.
Weapons in Dying Light are abundant and you are never too far from a table leg, baseball bat, crowbar, hammer or sickle? It’s amazing the amount of people in Harran who still use a sickle for their garden. Guns on the other hand are much harder to come by, which isn’t so bad as they handle like a dog. However, the melee weapons are much more satisfying as they crunch, clobber and crush the myriad of zombie types. Each weapon can be upgraded using an array of crafting mechanics and soon you will find yourself electrocuting, poisoning, and setting on fire all they are on the receiving end.
Dying Light also features four player co-op that allows you and three friends to roam the open world testing your limits and culling the zombie horde. Whilst this looks and sounds good on paper, I wasn’t able to test it out before writing this review.
The aptly named ‘be the zombie’ mode allows players to be a ‘super zombie’ that must first show dominance over the other zombies before taking out the other human players running around the map.
The day and night cycle is one of the core mechanics of this game as is done perfectly. During the day, zombies tend to be slow and placid but once that sun goes down their turning into bloodthirsty monsters that can rip you apart with ease. Many of the jump scares happen at night and you truly get a sense of danger when night falls. Of course, you can choose to sleep through it (providing you get to a safe zone in time) but the double bonus points for surviving the night certainly is tempting.
That then leaves the parkour aspect. Dying Light is reminiscent of Mirrors Edge in that respect as you can run, slide, jump, climb and swing your way across Harran. It takes a little time to get used to and you might find yourself running into a few walls but once it clicks and you get the added ‘roll’ and ‘grapple’ skills you can navigate the city with ease.
So far it sounds too good to be true; a massive open world with over 20 hours of gameplay, coop modes and a ‘be the zombie’ mode but it is not without its flaws
Dying Light is ambitious, and as such, has some slow down issues, and stutters periodically when there is a lot going on. Screen tearing can also occur if you find yourself being forcefully smashed into another character. Whilst these momentarily take you out of the game, these issues are rare and most of your 20 hours will go without a hitch.
Overall, Dying Light is a grower. It takes a little time to get going and more time to master the controls, but the city and it’s inhabitants (both dead and alive) are fantastic. The story is simple but engaging and there are so many side quests, you can get another 10 hours gameplay just beating those. It’s fast and furious gameplay can lead to some slowdown, but the parkour and zombie-mashing is so satisfying it is well worth a play.