Release Date: January 27th, 2015
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Platform: [Reviewed: PC], PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: First-Person, Action/Adventure, Horror
Rated: M for Mature
Out of all the videogame enemies the living dead seems to stand the test of time: there are countless hordes to smash and slash your way through and you don’t have to feel guilty about killing them. But when all is said and done, what more could we do with them? Whatever it is it has already been done, or so I thought. Dying Light takes notes from Techland’s Dead Island titles: visually stunning and great RPG elements while improving upon the melee mechanics to become more dynamic, parkour for fast-paced action and verticality, and perhaps more shockingly, a compelling story.
As all zombie stories go, a virus outbreak occurs in the city of Harran and is walled off from the rest of the world in order to contain it. Players control undercover operative Kyle Crane as he is sent inside the city walls to retrieve important documents that will either save lives or cause an unprecedented catastrophe. Things don’t go according to plan and Crane is rescued by survivors. Owing them a great debt, you will learn the skill necessary to keep one step ahead of anyone, living or dead. As the narrative unfolds you grow a bond with the survivors and care for their safety and of those lost and stuck out in the city, but as time runs out, you will need to choose between completing the mission and possibly cure the disease, or take the time to help those who are an inch away from becoming a zombie’s next meal.
To start off, you will get a crash course on how to use the environment to you advantage. If it looks climbable, it is. Staying in motion and staying above ground is the best way from being suddenly surrounded by the undead. Killing gets you experience which naturally translates to improving your character. You gain skill points to place on attributes to become more proficient and deadlier if you’re ever backed into a corner.
Fighting isn’t always ideal. You can’t be left defenseless either; fortunately there are over 100 different melee weapons to use and some fire arms too. With the new redefined yet still uncompromisingly brutal combat system, depending on where you hit a zombie, you can strategically land blows to incapacitate, knock down, or finish them of quickly with a blow to the head. But when the going gets tough, crafting items make a return which bestows horrifyingly devastating weapons of destruction or first aid when you bit off a bit more than you could chew, or got bit, you get it. Finding the blueprints for each weapon won’t frustrate you with a lengthy treasure hunt and crafting is as intuitive as simply having the necessary parts and selecting the weapon you want to make.
The missions you undertake will take you across an expansive urban environment, scavenging for supplies, setting up traps, or getting to a supply drop first. When you are out running you may come across some unexpected situations. People trapped by the undead will call out for help, sometimes when you’re already on a mission. Choosing whether or not to ignore the cry for help usually left a sickening feeling in my gut and I felt like someone’s life was actually in my hands. But you can choose what takes precedence and at what cost.
Dying Light features a dynamic day/night and weather cycle that gives the world a more ominous and tragically beautiful at the same time. But you’ll be panicking more than likely than staring off into the sunset. The title “Dying Light” isn’t just some artsy name, but a message of what’s to come. When night falls, something happens to the infected denizens of Harran. Their kill switch suddenly flips on and now you’re dealing with zombies that are not only more aggressive, but they now possess the ability to run just as fast and climb just as well as you can. Outrunning these zombies at night will either take considerable skill or a miracle.
Noise is established early on as something that is highly discouraged. So instead of running and causing such a ruckus that you’ll have a legion nipping at your heels, stealth is your best bet in this situation. Using what is known as “Survivor Sense” to pin point zombie locations within a limited radius, you can avoid them by sneaking and distracting them someplace else. But in case you are spotted you can use different means to escape your pursuers such as traps that you may have previously set up. Be careful though, even with their heightened senses and abilities, zombies are not the most dangerous foe that you should be concerned with. Ghastly beings that only come out at night will hunt down those who are foolish enough to stay out at night and only in the safety of your safe house in the rays of the sun can you escape them. When night begins to fall, run back to safety as fast as you can.
Techland impressed me with how the Chrome Engine 5 made Banoi Island into a lush, tropical zombie getaway destination. Now using the new Chrome Engine 6, the difference between the two is like day and night (heh he). Even with a city overrun by disgusting corpses, Harran provides grand sights and detailed environments (with the exception of a few low-res textures from time to time) to really show the visual prowess that the Chrome Engine 6 can bring. The mood, atmosphere and setting aren’t complete without some blood-curdling screams in the background to chill your bones and with a fantastic score to accompany to layer on the dread of the whole situation.
I thoroughly enjoyed Techland’s previous titles, despite some short comings that plagued them, but Dying Light is a new game that was built from the ground up and it shows. Improving everything that made Dead Island so good, add the exhilarating rush of freerunning, and wrap that around a dramatic and impactful story that will have you by the edge of your seat and your have an excellent title to begin you 2015 line-up.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5