You get a zombie! YOU GET A ZOMBIE! You over THERE, you get a zombie too! You ALL get zombies. That’s kind of how it feels at times in the gaming world with all the zombie games out there and even more to come. Dying Light falls into the category (for some) of yet another zombie game, but this time Techland have added a few neat little bits into the game, while sticking to tried and trusted formulas for others.
Disclaimer: I generally dislike horror survival games because, quite frankly I scare easily in games and I only have so many fresh pairs of underwear per week. Dawid thought it would be funny (because he is clearly a dick right?) if I review a horror survival game featuring zombies. Needless to say I have managed to do so, and actually managed okay with the scary parts, though my wife and neighbours might disagree after some of the screaming they heard. It could have been worse with a pure horror game, at least it wasn’t. So, remaining as objective as possible while giving opinion, here it goes:
This is going to be one long sentence: *inhales* The story is your typical generic zombie plot filled with little clichés and unsurprising events as you, a newly graduated GRE member infiltrate the city of Haran with nothing but your wits in order to retrieve a file that is apparently with one of the bad dudes on the ground, but you don’t know where to start looking and so you encounter survivors who you typically start to care for (without any real developments or character progression) and soon love to bits and pieces and don’t even care about your actual mission *exhales*.
That’s it in a nutshell. It’s generic. It thinks that it throws plot twists at you but they are unsurprising and uninspiring. It’s not that it has a bad story, it’s just a completely unimaginative and uniform script. Just for the hell of it I am going to mention here that the voice acting fits the story perfectly, and by that I mean it isn’t very good, often sounds like they are reading off a script and quite honestly made me want to switch it off and just read subtitles (okay, exaggerating a bit).
The visuals in Dying Light take a bit of getting used to. There is an almost grainy effect to some of the sections which I found a bit uncomfortable to look at, at first, but the more you play the less problematic it is and you soon realize just how well designed the world is. Haran is a massive open world, so massive that at times I couldn’t’ remember where to go, where I had been and where I still needed to go, and that is even before you unlock a completely new area which is just as big.
The main section has you chilling out in the Slums of Haran and for the most part are wonderfully designed. Or, I suppose, as wonderfully as a slum can be. There are dilapidated buildings everywhere, destroyed houses and skyscrapers. There are burning cars and broken down hotels and of course rubbish everywhere. Sewers, schools and other more contained areas are simple yet look perfect to suit the atmosphere. The other section you unlock is not quite as run down and feels like an almost Venetian setting with higher buildings and vantage points with which to check out. It all comes together quite superbly.
The character design is equally as impressive whether it be the characters you meet along the way or the different zombies. There is a lot of repetition in the zombie design though, but considering the population I guess that is kind of to be expected. Still, it all looks and feels quite superb and there are very few complaints from a visual point of view.
Quite clearly the most important part of this game is the gameplay, and it appears to be something that Techland worked really hard on. There are a few aspects to this section so here’s what works and what doesn’t.
Weaponry in Dying Light is vitally important. Deciding what to chop your lovable zombie neighbor up with is no easy task. Dying Light provides for all types of weapons, from bed legs to baseball bats and a very ‘Shaun of the Dead’-like Cricket Bat. There are guns, knives, hatchets, axes, spades, shovels and so on and so forth. Then you have projectiles like throwing knives and stars, grenades, firecrackers, flairs and even Molotov’s. There is a huge array of weaponry and that is before you even get to all the upgrades and add-ons.
As important, in Dying Light, is the movement through the city. Parkour is a focal point within the game and something Techland wanted to highlight, and for the most part it fits really well (Ed – Very reminiscent of Mirror’s Edge platforming style). In fact it is the one thing that probably sets it apart from other zombie games, and games in general. The parkour from a first person view made me feel a bit ill at first. It felt very jarring at times and I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage a whole game with it. However, the more you play the more natural it starts to feel and you realize just how intuitive the controls and movements become.
It’s aided by the fact that the more you play the more upgrades you get. One of the upgrade trees include agility and by moving around quickly you get points and can upgrade your agility making the parkour feel much more fluid. This is extended to Power for your combat skills and for Survival in terms of your stamina and energy levels and so on. Between the parkour and the upgrades Dying Light has a fantastic system when it comes to progressing in the game, and something that should be commended.
All this stuff is no good if the enemies aren’t up to scratch right? Well thankfully they are (mostly). The world is heavily populated by zombies who are slow and rather useless during the day. You can run past the majority of them or kill them if you want to. There are variations though that are a bit trickier such as the volatiles who actually run after you until you have to kill them. Then there are some that throw what looks like projectile vomit balls at you and a couple others. Most, again, are generic and add little value but for the way you attack them.
At night, it’s a whole new ball game with the zombies. First off, let me mention that the day/night cycle works magnificently well and as comfortable as you might be during the day, the night completely turns that on its head. At night you are at a disadvantage considering the general darkness and the fact that there are ‘nightmare’ zombies which can see in the dark and upon spotting you will call their friends and try chase you down. This is frantic, creepy and I will admit to having wanted to switch off the console at times. These zombies can climb buildings like you and unless you find a safe zone you will not be protected.
The cool thing is that you rarely are forced to play at night, though it does happen. You can opt for most missions to sleep until the morning if you are in a safe zone. This way you can tackle things more safely. However, you are rewarded far more by completing missions at night, if you want to take the risk.
The mission structure does feel like a lot of fetch missions thrown in at once, but they do vary quite a bit later on. I’d rather not spoil this aspect of the game but if you get through the first few hours you will see the changes. There are sidemissions which are even more like typical fetch quests though they help with experience points. There are also a dose of collectibles if that is your kind of thing.
Last but not least is the multiplayer aspect of the game. Dying Light allows for 4 player co-op throughout the entire game. You can jump into random games or play with your friends. The co-op, despite taking away from some of the atmosphere (As Dawid mentioned here) is great fun and I enjoyed the game most when playing with others, no questions asked. It does make it considerably easier but no less fun. The only thing I find weird is that you all play the same character, but I guess for story reasons that’s just the way it goes.
Dying Light does also (now) include a ‘Be a Zombie’ mode. This mode allows you to enter a friend or player’s world as a Zombie in which you can attempt to kill him. It’s a pretty cool little add-on, especially for free, but it’s not something you will want to play for too long.
Dying Light has definitely been a positive experience for me. It’s a very fun Zombie killing game with some spectacular traversal. It’s just such a pity that the story is so dull and uninspiring because that kind of takes away from the quality of the game which would have made it something special. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun game, it’s got a great atmosphere and some excellent design, but it just all falls a little flat at times which makes it a bit harder to sell in general.