There’s no denying that I was looking forward to TechLand’s Dying Light from the off. It looked like it would be a fast paced, gore filled, adrenaline pumping action horror adventure. During EGX, I managed to get my hands on a timed demo (reviewed here) which gave me 8 minutes of game time which I pretty much sucked at, which was a little embarrassing. I also posted the amazing tribute video done by some pretty cool dudes in Cambridge which really got me pumped for it. But I held off on buying the download only version upon release due to a sweet pre-order deal from Amazon with the season pass for free and the Be The Zombie DLC. So was it worth the wait?
The story, you are Crane. GRE’s operative sent into the quarantined city of Haram to run recon and seek out important files which some lady on your radio says are important. So down you go and you’re immedately made aware that the situation is not as simple as it would seem. The city is in pieces. Dead people walking and crazy bandits out for precious Antizin (a drug that can help slow the infection should you get bitten). All is not as easy as you would think either, turns out that the people you work for are a bunch of gits who want to throw a spanner in the works for all of the people in Haram who you want to help. Lots of straight forward missions never turn out to be easy and you have to use your surroundings and what you can muster to get through. You become a ‘runner’ as a way of paying back the people who save you at the beginning and infiltrating the group to try and find what your employer are after. You soon learn you need some skills and tools to get around. Your introduction to parkour is pretty good, and advertised as a gym for you to go to get used to the controls. Having just finished Assassins Creed Unity, I could not get used to the configuration and it has taken a while to remember which button is which so it is worth making sure you know what you’re doing before you go leaping between buildings.
Your new found parkour ability helps you gain agility points so it’s worth climbing as much as you can to level up and unlock some perks on your skill tree. The same goes for killing things. Kill an infected, get power points. The bigger the beasty, the more power points, means MOAR UPGRADEZ. Although so far I’ve noticed that the combat has remained a little heavy and clumsy at times, but it does remind me a little of ZombiU in the way you run out of stamina if you swing your weapon too much, too quickly. The third skill tree is your Survivor rank. Do missions and collect air drops (which I definitely didn’t do enough of in the beginning) to get your survivor points. Watch out though because death can lead to you losing a buttload of point but the more you play you are likely to build your levels up quite quickly. Also, going out at night doubles your agility and power points so if you feel brave, it’s a good way to rack up your ranks and lessen your fear of the dark. Much like going out during the day, night time exploration has it’s risks. But you are hunted by Volitiles which can and do find you quite easily. I found travelling by rooftops was the best way to go but it doesn’t always work and any noise you make can draw them to you. When playing on my own, I was a little reluctant to explore at night and run away from 3, 4 or even 5 Volitiles chasing me through the Slums and then the Old Town of Haram. With normal infected at ground level and up on some rooftops, the safe houses are the only places you can kick back and not worry about the dead for a little while.
So what about the zombies? They come in various shapes and sizes but they are all driven to make your day a little more interesting. Some blow up, some run, some throw or spit things at you and some have big hammers… so basically, you need to know how to approach them. Beware of crying kids too, you’ll see what I mean if you play the game. I found it difficult in the beginning due to a lack of high powered weaponry to unleash upon the dead. Luckily, my mate Dan ‘the man’ turned up and gave me lots of modified weapons which not only made the game a lot more fun, but made it less of a chore to take out one zombie. Dan also helped me through pretty much the entire story. Since playing Destiny, I have found that I don’t like playing games by myself so much, so having someone to co-op with and share in some of the gorey fights has been great fun. Your weapons range from hammers and picks to medieval long swords and guns which can be modified or repaired depending on your blueprint collection, inventory and skill set. It has taken a little bit of time to get used to but some of the mods make the weapons so badass that it becomes fun to go out and slash things. You also have your melee bits too. Firecrackers, flares, grenades and even a grappling hook which is unlockable as a perk in your skill tree. Be warned, if you swap to a firecracker and don’t switch back, you might find yourself without a quick getaway… something I have done a couple of times now! Going back to the multiplayer aspect of things, Dan modified most of the gear I have in my inventory (and my player stash, which is full of random stuff I’ve picked up). He’s kindly upgraded them for me and dropped them so I can run around kicking ass in-between missing drop kicks and failed stealthy takedowns. With up to 4 players in co-op, you can have a lot of fun running around and working together. Safe houses tend to flag up with potential matchups for you to join in with. However, if you’re like me and prefer playing with people you know in games like this, then encourage some of your mates to pick it up!
So let’s get back to the story. You need to find and kick the crap out of Rais, as he is a pesky bugger who you are looking for from the beginning but turns out to be a particularly nasty piece of work. With him in the mix, things are sure to turn to dog poop unless someone knocks him down a peg or two… Turns out that someone is you! From here on out, you can now take out Rais’ men around the city and they tend to fight back so it’s worth having that in mind when you approach them. Usually they are protecting an air drop which will have some supplies for you to cash in on at the Quartermaster. The story is a nice mix of really fast paced action and exploration so it does keep you engaged throughout as you try to save the city and your fellow ‘runners’. There are so many side missions (which I have barely touched at the point of writing this) which vary in nature and help rack up your Survivor points too. Every little helps in making you the ultimate zombie-fighting runner, so it’s worth getting stuck into the side missions if you’re doing some solo play or even with a mate to kill some time. I also got the Be The Zombie DLC which I have had a brief play with and I’ve got to say, it’s quite fun running around and hunting down humans in the vicinity. Well worth a dabble if you’ve got the content to play with!
I am looking forward to the future content to come from this game, as I really hope it delivers something to keep players wanting to rank up and get ready for the next slice of fright gold! In such an awesome setting, it deserves to have some continued replayability. Graphically, the game is stunning and it really sets the mood of the whole game. On occasions you’ll have a wooden zombie which seems to fall from a roof and stand the whole way down, but hey, no game is perfect and the detail is so particular it doesn’t matter too much. There are so many little things to keep a look out for when you’re searching houses for loot which show that Haram has really gone to hell. It’s quite dark in a way and I suppose it might make some players uncomfortable with bodies hanging from ceilings or a lost soul who has taken matters in to their own hands using a bottle of pills and holding onto a photo of loved ones. It’s not a happy place any way you slice it. There are some Easter Eggs to look out for too. One such area we got to try out was the zombiefied Super Mario World 1-1. That was pretty cool, although a little disturbing and I wish I had pressed record so I could have shown it to everyone! We haven’t come across any others yet but hopefully I’ll get a chance to point them out and they’ll be as weird as that one. Night time requires your torch and you really do need it as running around in the dark is disorientating and deadly if you’re trying to hold on to your Survivor points. The infected are drawn towards it but it could save you running into an unexpected horde if you can’t see it coming at ground level.
I suppose from what I’ve played of the game it’s fair to say that I am enjoying it. There is so much to explore and find! The loot haul is ridiculous and your runner sense can highlight any boxes or items that you’ve missed while tearing through the remnants of people’s homes and the upgrades are pretty useful too once you start building your own modified inventory. The open world aspect doesn’t make you feel restricted in what you’re doing and you can go off script to do some side missions in-between your story quests too. There’s nothing particularly linear about the game which is something that I certainly enjoy as a bit of a change from very story driven narratives and with night time only a few hours away, it does make you aware of your surroundings. The zombies are reactive so if you make noise, you will draw them to you and of course the living are able to dodge and hit back (or shoot you) which means you have to pick your weapons or battles carefully. The online matchups are something to test out depending on your console choice but if you have friends who want to play with you, a simple invite to the game and you’re away. I have noticed that sometimes players get kicked on PS4 so there may be some matchmaking issues.
Overall, I’m really glad I decided to get this game now. With updates on the way including hard mode, more weapons and apparently some vehicles too, there’s a lot more Dying Light will have to offer to get new players and those who have been enjoying the game since release something to sink their teeth in to. Once you get to grips with the parkour, it is so incredibly fluid and you don’t wish that you could fast travel everywhere. The only thing that isn’t so smooth, is the combat. Yes the slow-mo kill cams are pretty awesome but it can be heavy and a little clumsy on occasion. I would certainly recommend this to anyone who has a next gen console (or a PC which will show off the graphics) and I would almost go as far to say that if you are thinking of upgrading, then Dying Light might be the title to pick up along with a console exclusive (eg Last Of Us or Halo). Whether you play solo or with a friend, it is enjoyable and a very good game and TechLand have already taken onboard player feedback to start cranking it up to the next level. There’s a lot to enjoy about this game, so it’s worth getting involved!