Title: Dying Light
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Techland
Publisher: Warner Bros
Release date: January 27th 2015 (North America) / January 27th 2015 (UK)
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

Dying Light stars Kyle Crane as the protagonist. Crane is a secret operative sent in to infiltrate a quarantine area in the city of Harran (located in Turkey). Shortly after his arrival, Crane gets a brutal welcome, but is quickly rescued by a group of local survivors. Once he recovers from his injuries, Crane is literally stuck between a rock and a hard place as he still needs to carry on his mission, but he also feels he owes the community for saving his life.

Besides bashing zombies’ head in, the main attraction to Dying Light is its parkour mechanic. To avoid confrontation with the undead as much as possible, players have to run, jump and climb up walls in order to escape the army of the dead. It does make the game a bit more interesting and trying to figure out where to jump next is pretty addictive the more you play. Falling down on the ground will have the player quickly finding a way up to avoid being surrounded.

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Combat is pretty straightforward; Players can find weapons or purchase them from the merchant located in certain safe area. If you find yourself surrounded, kicking zombies will give you some breathing room and sometimes an opportunity to escape before being mauled to death. Achieving quests and using your skills will net you Skill Points which can be used to improve your character. Gaining Survival points is doubled during nighttime as the risk of dying is through the roof, as more vicious creatures will hunt you down. When unlocking new skills, you’ll obtain blueprints to create new items and weapons, which means exploring every nook and cranny to pick up anything you can find will be of great help. Another helpful mechanic is the ability to fix your weapon on the fly, as long as its still usable as most melee weapons will become unfixable and useless after multiple skull bashings, or if you run out of parts.

Safe areas are found throughout the huge map, all of which must be reclaimed by beating the living hell out of the zombies inhabiting the area; They can be a huge lifesaver, as some quests require you to run all the way across the map to your objective. Dying mid-way with no discovered and conquered safe area means you’ll respawn all the way back to the latest safe area. Techland did a great job of having enemy variety; Zombies all have their distinct look and they come in different variety’s such as: slow ones, fast ones who can climb, volatiles, amongst others. You’ll also come across more aggressive, and obviously smarter, human enemies who can dodge your kicks and block your melee attacks, requiring a whole strategy to take them down. Luckily, your reward for getting smashed in the face by human enemies is, most of the time, a stronger and brand new weapon.

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Dying Light is also full of content, besides the main storyline you can tackle side objectives and random encounters, the former includes helping non-storyline NPCs or hunting Supply drops before their content is stolen. You can also purchase or make lockpicks in order to unlock boxes or van trunks you’ll come across on your daily – or nightly – walks/runs. The map also has quite a few spots to investigate and search through, obviously don’t dilly dally as you’re vulnerable to zombie attacks and the more you explore the city, the more dangerous the enemies get.

As the game progresses, players will be able to tackle missions either during the day or at night. As stated, players with the fortitude to tackle missions at night will be rewarded with double the XP, however those who’d rather enjoy a simple breeze through the zombie infested city, can instead sleep it off and wait until daylight in order to tackle your objectives. Which is the smart way to go as dying makes you lose Survival Points and don’t be mistaken, this isn’t a cakewalk.

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The Be A Zombie mode is actually a fun and interesting diversion; It can be played online or as single player. The only confusion comes from the fact it’s called Be A Zombie mode when you’re not a zombie, instead you’re some kind of hybrid creature that can run and jump up walls, it can also pounce on humans or claw the crap out of them. Another cool feature is that using your tentacles can also help you travel faster.

The game does look rough around the edges, although the overall look of Harran and its lush environment do look pretty good and does “current-gen” justice. Facial animations are pretty bland though and even resemble efforts from last generation games we played during the PS3/Xbox 360 era, which is saying something, considering the jaw-dropping games we’ve seen released since this current-gen, launched back in November 2013.

One of the game’s strong points is the soundtrack, no questions asked; It has that perfect 80’s horror movie feel, almost as if watching an old horror movie made by the master George A. Romero, such as Night of the Living Dead or even actually witnessing 28 Days Later. Voice-over wise the game does a standard job, nothing to write home about, although Roger Craig Smith who voices Crane and Leila Birch, who voices Lena, do a great job at making the characters feel alive and sometimes make you feel the hell they are going through.

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All is not well in the virtual city of Harran, the most annoying fault is the poorly placed jump button. As for Xbox One, the vital button is placed on the Right Bumper, which takes some getting used to as most games will assign the Jump button to a face button. Dying Light is also a victim of graphical glitches, I lost count on how many times I saw zombies walk through walls or pop up out of nowhere when I was running on a roof. It also re-enforces the fact that platforming and first person view don’t mix well as jumps aren’t easy to time, as you can never really see where you stand and where you’re trying to land. Trying to land on a simple wooden plank can be a pain in the ass as you’ll often fall before or after, requiring multiple tries before making it. In a game where you constantly have to scavenge for scraps and parts so Crane can craft items, there are limited and pre-determined areas you can do so.

Dying Light is a great gaming experience and provides hours of fun. Despite the fact the graphics are average and contain other little nuisances, it won’t deter at all from the experience. While it does take a while to get into the game, once you’re in, you won’t want to stop. And unlike Dead Island, there are a few scare factors here and there in this game, whilst most of them take place during the night time sequences, you’ll still shit bricks when 2 running zombies come out of nowhere from behind. Not the prettiest or easiest experience you’ll have this early in the new year, but it’ll be one of the best ones.

Antidote

  • Parkour mechanic is a welcomed addition
  • Perfect atmospheric soundtrack
  • Intense nightly chases
  • Fixable weapons on the spot
  • Addictive gameplay
  • Environments looks shiny and gorgeous…

Zombie bite

  • ….whilst facial animations are passable
  • Poor jump button placement
  • Another proof that platforming doesn’t mix well with first person perspective

Family Focus

With its M rating in North America and PEGI 18 in the UK, Dying Light is a game for mature gamers due to strong language, intense violence and bucket loads of blood and guts.

Code provided courtesy of Xbox UK