Thursday, 26 February 2015

Dying Light

A while ago I reviewed the travesty that was Escape Dead Island. Generic in every way imaginable and genuinely awful to boot, the game is a complete mess. Escape Dead Island was a spin-off from the Dead Island series, which after developing the first game and its expansion, developer Techland left the franchise behind. However, while that may lead you to the assumption that Techland wanted to try something new, you'd be completely wrong in thinking so. Instead, after leaving a franchise that focused on surviving in a zombie infested open-world, Techland have moved into not so new territory by making a game that focuses on surviving in a zombie infested world. Oh, Techland. Then again, though I generally disliked their Dead Island series, does this latest brain eating offering right the wrongs of Dead Island? For the most part, yes.

Developed by Techland and out now on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC comes Dying Light, a game, despite being hampered by bugs and some boring quests, is a zombie experience like no other. The game places you in the shoes of Kyle Crane, a guy who is such a generic and bland character that it's actually hilarious. Muscles? Check! Short cropped hair? Check! 5 o'clock shadow? Check! As the game opens Kyle is infiltrating the zombie quarantine zone in the city of Harran. Overrun with flesh eating creatures and falling to pieces, the city is literally on its last legs. Kyle is sent in to track down a political figure who has some sensitive documentation on him. But as Kyle learns more about the city of Harran and the hopelessness of the people who live in it, he decides to stick around to help out the survivors. The plot isn't some pinnacle of writing, but that's OK because it doesn't need to be. It's a zombie adventure not The Godfather. Despite being shallow and hollow, the story and characters do just enough to push the narrative forward, and that's good enough for me. The true focus and brilliance in Dying Light is the world those bland characters inhabit.

Dying Light is an open-world first-person adventure game, and generally comes across like some insane mush-up of Far Cry 4, Mirror's Edge and, of course, Dead Island. Once thrown into the sprawling city of Harran you'll need to get around quite quickly, so it's a good thing that Kyle is pretty adept at free running. Free running around Harran will be your lifeline, so mastering it early on is paramount. From sprinting at high speeds, climbing up buildings and jumping across rooftops, getting around in Dying Light can often be cumbersome and clumsy, but throughout the game it never ceases to be exhilarating, thrilling and fun. Along the way though you'll often run into various bugs which can sometimes sour how good the game is. Also, though missions do indeed get far more interesting, twisted and unique a little later into Dying Light's 40 hour-ish adventure, the first half of the game is filled with so many fetch quests that I wanted to pull my hair out.

The entire game isn't solely based on free running away from zombies though, as thankfully you also get to bash and shoot them in the face. Much like Dead Island, Dying Light features the ability to create new and interesting weapons. Whether you decide to electrify your knife or simple add some nails to a bat, with all of the various different crafting options available, there are over 100 different weapons combinations to choose from. Of course, you can also use firearms which are  deadly as they are powerful, but their noise will often draw zombies towards your location. Different scenarios call for different weapons, and Dying Light does a great job at giving you various options.

One addition to gameplay that effectively changes how you play Dying Light is the excellent day and night system. During the day zombies are slow and have their senses dulled. This is when you'll need to venture out, rescue survivors, scavenged for materials, items and parts and bring them back the various safe zones. These daytime moments are tense enough, but you never feel that threatened. However, if you happen to be out and about when the sun goes down, then you'll notice that the zombies begin to change. Once the sun goes down zombies are faster, more viscous and will literally chase you down at full speed. Times like these are and utterly terrifying, and with the ability of being able to peer behind you during mid-run to see the sprinting hordes hot on your heels, daylight will become your best friend in Dying Light. This day and night cycle effectively changes the landscape of how you interact with the world in the game, and though zombie games haven't really been effective over the past few years, this is an experience that finally makes zombies scary again. They're like the Daleks in Doctor Who, as after years of being overused, they're just not scary any more.

Overall Dying Light isn't perfect, but does the unthinkable is the fact that is ultimately makes zombies terrifying again. When the sun goes down in Dying Light all bets for survival are off, and it makes for some of the best, most tense and heart pounding games I've experienced in quite awhile. If you can look past the terrible characters, bland story, boring quests and random bugs, Dying Light is a bloody adventure worth taking, if even simply for its incredible sandbox open-world.

Dying Light makes it to the safe zone in one piece and gets a 4/5.


Denis Murphy

Dying Light at CeX

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