01st Feb2015

‘Dying Light’ Review (PC)

by Paul Metcalf

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Ever since gaming made the move to “Next Gen” Dying Light has been one of the games that people have been waiting for, even with the delays that have held it back.  A mixture of parkour and zombie fighting action, and coming from the makers of the original Dead Island it had a lot of promise, but promise that needed to be delivered.  The question is can yet another zombie game finally make a mark, or will it be just another lumbering monster in the ever-growing crowd of undead games?

The plot of Dying Light follows Kyle Crane an undercover agent for the GRE infiltrating the quarantined city of Harran.  His job is to hunt down Kadir “Rais” Suleiman and find a file that could hold the secret to stopping the zombie infection.  By connecting with survivors and gaining trust he builds up not only a bond with the trapped civilians but also reveals the truth about what the GRE have been up to and just what the so-called cure really is.

The story for Dying Light isn’t the most original for a game, but it works for the main scenario which is then built upon with side missions.  As I started to play I did try to make my way through the story missions at first but found that the sheer number of more interesting stories that trailed off into side missions to be more interesting, leading me to become side tracked.  This can be somewhat worrying at times because initially it feels that the story should be more urgent.  The desire to gain more experience and to level up wins out though and while there is an illusion of urgency in the story missions you soon realise it doesn’t translate into gameplay…so you run off into the city and focus on the more fun parkour instead.  This does change later on as the story elements become stronger and more interesting but it is a definite issue in hindering progress, even though strangely for the game the fact you are still having fun has to be a positive.

The big elephant in the room really is how do the parkour elements shape up against Mirror’s Edge? In my opinion I would say surprisingly well and with more freedom to actually innovate.  As much as we love Mirror’s Edge there is still a feel about the parkour elements that we are being guided through a one way system of gameplay, but Dying Light’s interaction with the world is much more about freedom with a less linear style of progression.  If you can see a ledge that looks reachable then the desire to make that jump and grab for it is there.  Even if you miss there is still a chance you’ll grab onto something else, but even if you fall to your death it is still a learning experience.  This flexibility can be very important when you are fleeing from zombie and is the main strength of the game, Dying Light makes fleeing for your life fun.  Adding to that the skills tree upgrades for both agility and strength, jumping from roof to roof through the different areas of Harran can be very addictive and rewarding.

When playing the game it is made clear that you should find shelter in safe houses at night and hide from the more predatory specimens that are out to get you.  I found that at the start of the game I would run to the nearest safe zone and sleep through until morning, but the lure of double agility and power points made me wonder just what the night was like.  Taking that step out into the dark can be a scary move and is full of tension, but the truth is the game becomes even more fun in the dark and the survival horror of the game takes over.  Using more stealthy methods to traverse buildings as you try to stay out of the attention of the more aggressive zombies is important, but if they catch you in their sights the resulting chase is hectic and fun.  This is where the beauty of the game lies, though it still highlights the fact that you are having time-consuming fun running away from the monsters while you should be getting down to the more important story elements.

When it comes to actual skills and weaponry the new system is easy to use and comes as second nature.  As you level up and select new abilities you pick the ones that feel natural to your style and it does make a change to the way you play the game.  The gradual change from being victim to being bad-ass zombie slayer is gradual and nicely handled, and weapon upgrades use a simple and easy to use system.  Quite early on you’ll be adding electricity to blades and enhancing them with upgrades to make them more powerful.  Guns are a rarity initially but thankfully they are handled well, even though they do tend to be a little too powerful at times, giving you a little too much of an edge.

The city of Harran is a playground and like any story told in one the elements of play can be a lot more fun than the actual story being told.  When you decide to finally follow the story elements you do find that you gain more powers, and a stronger story does take over.  You can’t help but feel though that there is not enough imperative to make you stick to what should be a time limited campaign.  Even saying this is a negative thing though feels stupid as I still found my experience to be fun, even if the missions are slightly repetitive at times.

The world of Dying Light is a beautiful apocalyptic mess, especially with the utilisation of more powerful graphics it really is a living breathing world ready for you to make your playground.  I’ve not played much of the multiplayer yet but the single-player campaign really hits the spot, and strangely makes me yearn for an Escape from New York which the game does appear to take some inspiration from, there is definitely a love of eighties movies here.  Fixing many issues I had with Dead Island, Dying Light delivers where it matters and for fans of zombie games, this is well worth giving a try.

****½  4.5/5

Dying Light is available for Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC now. Although physical disc release has been delayed until February 27th in Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek
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