Dying Light PS4 Review
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Developer: Techland Genre: Horror, Action Players: 1-4
Age Rating: 18+ Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One
With Dying Light the evidence is all there that had developer Techland not had creative differences with publisher Deep Silver, they would have quite happily made Dead Island 2. In all but name, Dying Light is Dead Island 2, although it’s a definite improvement over the developer’s first zombie game.
In spite of promising a deep and mature storyline, Dying Light doesn’t really have this, particularly when you compare its narrative to other zombie games such as The Last of Us. The characters are mostly uninteresting, and the main human villain is as generic as they come. At least the fact that the protagonist, Kyle Crane, is working undercover in a zombie infested city adds some intrigue. He’s working for the Global Relief Effort (GRE) who is wanting him to track down a stolen file. He also becomes a runner, which basically means that he does errands for other survivors by jumping across rooftops. Other than the latter, story events never become anything more than decent and passable. This is disappointing as so much more was promised.
Like Dead Island, Dying Light is an open-world game. Instead of taking place on a sunny, tropical island though, it takes place in two areas of the fictional city of Harran: the Slums and Old Town. The city is around three times the size of the world that the developer created for Dead Island, and it’s designed in a way that offers plenty of manoeuvrability and elevation for the Parkouring protagonist.
Yes, this is the first zombie game to feature the art of Parkour. Kyle Crane is athletic enough to run and leap across rooftops, vault across the undead heads of zombies, cling to and shimmy along ledges, slide under gaps, take leaps of faith into piles of rubbish and onto awnings and vehicles, and more. Most importantly, getting around the city of Harran feels fluid and smooth, and, while it’s hardly as deep as Mirror’s Edge’s movement system, the Parkour makes moving around the city fun, and, being that the game takes place in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, Parkour actually makes sense in such a game as another survival skill to get away from the zombie hordes, or whatever else is trying to kill you in such a dangerous world.
But those who enjoyed bludgeoning zombies to death in Dead Island need not worry; Dying Light is not just about fleeing. The game still has an emphasis on making use of melee weapons, some of which are put together by gathering materials in the world. You’ll start the game with a simple kick and a selection of weak weapon options, but later on you are able to find, as well as to put together, some very mean killing tools. Weapons have their own stats, and they can also be upgraded with various add-ons as well. Unlike Dead Island, weapons can only be repaired a certain number of times, which means once one of your instruments of death breaks for the last time, it is then unusable, and is doing nothing but taking up a precious place in your inventory.
As well as physical attacks and melee weapons, Crane can also find long range weapons in the game. A shotgun, pistol and a police rifle can be found throughout the area, though ammo is sparse, and secondary weapons can also be found and equipped, including molotovs, throwing knives, throwing stars and firecrackers among other things. Secondary items, such as the throwing knives, can either be used to attack an assailant at a distance or an item, such as the firecrackers or flares, can be used to distract them, giving you a chance to slip on by undetected. The secondary weapons may not be used regularly, but it is safe to have them equipped and ready to use to get yourself out of a tight spot, should you find yourself in one.
The enemies in Harran are varied enough. The most common foe you will be taking on are the hordes of zombies, although you’ll find that some of these still have human traits as they have just recently turned into one of the flesh eaters, making them faster and more agile, enough to say that the game even features parkour zombies. Some of the most dangerous enemies include the Bombers, which often surprise you by their appearance, blowing themselves up when they get close to you, and killing you instantly if you find yourself unable to scarper. Bigger enemies such as the Goons and Demolishers, on the other hand, have powerful attacks and can take a bit of time to kill, particularly when the weapons you are carrying aren’t all that impressive. There are human enemies as well, and these often move around so much, dodging your attacks, that it’s like Techland are doing their best to remind you that these are people, and that people are a lot smarter than zombies. In reality though, it can result in taking them down being quite an annoying and slightly lengthy task.
When nightfall happens in Dying Light this brings out other enemies for you to deal with. Not only is the typical zombie stronger, but enemies, such as the Volatiles, give you a new challenge to face. When you aren’t too well equipped, staying clear of the dangerous Volatiles is definitely the recommended course of action to take. If a Volatile does spot you, it will be relentless in its chase of you, and you must then flee and get out of its line of sight, and you’ll find other Volatiles joining the pursuit if you aren’t able to get away. In a nice touch, night time brings about a risk versus reward mindset, and if you can’t take the pressure, you can always make your way to a safe zone and then bed down for the night.
There are many safe zones located around the area, and to use a safe zone, you first must clear out the area of zombies and secure the area by blocking entrances and turning on electricity. Clearing as many safe zones as you can is important as if you are stranded at night out in the open and find yourself confronted by a Volatile, safe zones can act as a quick escape. Here, you can also choose whether to wait until the morning or night to complete certain missions and manage your inventory.
Staying with the campaign, but also speaking about the free download that is the Be a Zombie mode, nightfall can also have you taking on the unique player-controlled zombie that is the Night Hunter. Those playing the Be a Zombie mode can invade the campaigns of others, which has the Night Hunter attempting to kill other players a certain number of times and protect their nests while the other players attempt to destroy said nests. If you are up against a player who knows exactly when to make use of the Night Hunters abilities, with its speed, agility and quick pounce attack, it can prove to be a very dangerous enemy.
The game also has options for cooperative play, with up to three other companions being possible to team up within the campaign. Even if you are teaming up, it’s possible for you and the other players to take part in competitive challenges. These add in some variation and a break from the campaign missions and side missions.
Missions may be bogged down by a huge amount of fetch quests, particularly when it comes to the side missions, and it can feel repetitive being asked to go here and do this etc, but being in and moving around Harran is never any less than enjoyable. Side missions and additional challenges are discovered as you make your way through the game, and there’s certainly a wealthy amount of them.
The game also has three skill trees: agility, power and survivor. Each skill tree has their own abilities for you to learn. You earn agility points with moving around the city, power points for attacking enemies, and survivor points by completing missions and helping out survivors in random events that happen in the world. There are a pleasing number of upgrades, with the likes of a dodge move, slide move, speed increase and grappling hook being able to be unlocked in the agility tree. A stronger attack, an increase in stamina, and better weapon durability can be unlocked in the power tree and, finally, there are things such as an increase in inventory space, camouflage, and various traps can be unlocked in the survivor skill tree. Dying Light is certainly a rewarding game in a number of ways, and the upgrades I mentioned are just a few out of many. Furthermore, your agility and power points are doubled at night, which makes the added danger worthwhile if you are able to survive until dawn.
Visually, on PS4, Dying Light is mostly a very stable and attractive game. There’s some excellent lighting and weather effects, and there can be an impressive amount of zombies on the screen with the game rarely slowing down, and this is definitely Techland’s most polished technical release so far.
The game isn’t only more technically polished when compared to Dead Island, but there’s more variety too, and the game feels a whole lot better to play. Moving around the well designed city with Crane’s Parkour skills and smashing melee weapons into the heads of zombies never gets old, and as Dying Light can last 40+ hours, this is a very good thing. The amount of fetch quests and weak story on the other hand don’t quite match up to the quality of the rest of the game, but this is still one zombie game that comes highly recommended.