Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC (Steam)
ESRB: M for Mature
Release Date: January 27, 2014
Note: This review is based on the PS4 version of the game
When Dead Island was about to launch in 2011 I was quite excited. It looked like the next zombie game which would differentiate itself from the pack. In the end, I ended up being severely let down by what turned out to be a capable but clunky experience. Fast forward a few years and now we have Dying Light. Although the name avoids painting it as a sequel to Dead Island, it feels so much like one. As sequels are meant to do, it improves on nearly every aspect of the existing zombie formula and manages to create something unique. Although it may not be a rousing success either, it“s certainly a step in the right direction.
Dying Light introduces us to the story of Kyle Crane, a sort of undercover agent who has gone to the fictional location of Harran in order to liberate some information. Unfortunately, right out of the gate he screws up and attracts the attention of survivors—and zombies. He“s saved by a band of survivors, which of course means he now owes them his life. It also happens to provide an â€œinâ€ for him to gather intel and hopefully discover where the target resides. Of course, the story falls into a predictable pattern where Kyle isn“t sure where his allegiances lie, and it never quite transcends that samey storyline.
Luckily, the game doesn“t live or die based on its storyline. Instead, most of the player“s focus will be continually pointed at gameplay itself. At zillions of points during your playthrough you must traverse Hassan in order to collect items, search an area, or talk to NPCs. This also happens to be a huge, sprawling landscape. Without a convenient method of fast travel (although a zipcord does help once unlocked) you“ve got to trust that Kyle“s arms and legs can get you from one side of the map to the other. He“s got some pretty great freerunning (or parkour) skills to make it through alive.
This movement mechanic is handled surprisingly well. Although not all ledges can be climbed, if you see something that looks ripe for grabbing onto it“s usually possible. Instead of dealing with hordes of zombies on the street you can simply take to the roofs and push lone zombies off them. When a situation gets too hot there“s usually an option to sprint off and make your way to a safer location. At least, that“s true during the day. At night a special kind of zombie lurks and is best avoided until getting leveled up a fair bit. These creatures lurking in the darkness can kill you in one hit! Oh, and nighttime itself is also outrageously dark which lends itself to unexpected deaths for unprepared players.
When you choose to engage in combat (or more likely, are forced to as part of a mission) things feel a bit too similar to Dead Island. Melee attacks are slow and deliberate, which lends itself to a more strategic sort of play—but that“s hard to do with zombies piling up from all directions. Although there are guns to be found, there aren“t many. The real killing blow in early stages of Dying Light is that weapons break quickly. You“ll have to scrounge about through drawers, enemy corpses, and locked chests to collect items to fix weapons a limited amount of times. Destructible weapons is usually an annoying design choice as proves to be the case here.
There are some lovely aspects to be found while playing. The world is gorgeous (if slightly less pristine on PS4 compared to PC), there“s a ton of side missions, large variety of weapons to find or craft, and a well-oiled freerunning mechanic. However, these strides don“t fully overstep the shadow of Dead Island. Techland has still provided less than optimal combat and an average storyline. With that said, most of the time my experience with Dying Light was enjoyable. After shutting off the critical side of my brain and leveling up a bit, the game brings a satisfying zombie romp to current generation platforms.
+ Vast location full of freerunning promise
+ Tons of weapons to choose from
+ Multitude of ways to level up Kyle
- Uninspiring, predictable story
- Clunky fight mechanics
- Slow progression from zero to hero
Overall Score: 6.5 (out of 10)
Dying Light has tons of promise but Techland ended up falling back on existing design decisions rather than fully embracing change.
Disclosure: This review is based on downloadable code provided by the publisher.