Zombies make for excellent cannon fodder, so it makes perfect sense that the craze of games within this genre shows no signs of abating. Dying Light is the latest to try and further the zombie genocide, with Techland looking to build upon the groundwork laid down by their efforts so far with the Dead Island. And they succeed in doing so, creating a more coherent experience that is tied together well by the introduction of something every game needs, parkour.
The story puts you in the shoes of Kyle Crane, a GRE operative who is sent to Haran in order to retrieve some sensitive files that have been stolen that he is threatening to publish "“ something they cannot allow to happen. However, despite being a well-trained military operative, Crane's mission falls apart within a few seconds of hitting the ground in Harran. He's ambushed by some bandits, chased by some zombies and is at fault for the death of someone who tries to save him. Oh, but at least these events allows him to work about gaining the trust of the people he needs to. It's all very convenient and if truth be told, it would be interesting to know how Crane was intending to get the files back had everything gone to plan.
Crane is also rather badly written, with his personality and choices questionable at the best of times, but it's pleasing to note that the other characters you encounter in the fictional city of Harran are not tarred with the same brush. Jade and Brecken represent a good foil for Crane and even Troy and Rahim help to provide substance to the story. Rais also adds an interesting dimension to proceedings, but the general direction of the story is pretty transparent.
It helps to complete all of the side quests, as they flesh out the story and create a more expansive experience. Should you choose to, you will meet some colourful characters and learn a lot more about the underbelly of Harran. In a way, it's good to get some closure on some events, such as finding out what happens to the underling who gets his hand chopped off or learning about the forgotten governor. It's just annoying that completing the side quests often becomes a rather arduous affair due to the lack of a fast travel system.
Following in the footsteps of the Dead Island franchise, Dying Light has a strong focus on melee combat. There are some firearms present within the game, but given their limited variance it's clear they are only meant to be a secondary source of violence.
The biggest change comes in the form of parkour being introduced. It's written into the story via Brecken (a parkour instructor) and it helps to add a whole new dimension to proceedings. You are able to traverse around the city with much more ease, choosing your battles more wisely from new vantage points. You will also be required to climb up numerous structures to solve quests and there is also the added advantage of many zombies not being able to follow you when you choose to leave the ground. I say many, because there are still a select few that will continue to hunt you down, but that only adds to the atmosphere.
You see, Dying Light also has a day/night cycle and it helps to create a rather perilous environment. While you will encounter some gruesome foes during the day, it's only at during the night period that those horrible Volatiles come out to play. And it's not helped at all by how limited your vision is unless you either use a flashlight or consume a weird concoction that helps you to see in the dark. This degree of uncertainty is perhaps one of the best aspects of Dying Light and it's during this time that the game feels like a survival horror experience because despite the freedom you have during the day, it's all taken away at night when things start chasing you and you have no real idea where you're going to escape.
It's just a shame that other elements don't quite match up. Despite melee combat being a huge focal point, there isn't a great deal of substance. There are some special moves that help to flesh this part of the game out, but it's a shame more of a focus wasn't placed on the weapons themselves. Aside from making the game slightly easier while you're in possession of a modified weapon, there is no real incentive to test out the blueprint system. It's also not helped by the knowledge that all weapons are pretty much disposable, so you could spend your hard earned resources on sprucing a weapon up, only to enjoy it for a finite amount of time. Add to that the fact that the mods themselves are pretty bland and it creates a rather lacklustre system.
It's elements like this that take the sheen off of a decent game and they spread into the presentation too. The poor facial animations when characters speak are very noticeable, as are some character eyes. Then there's the character models, which for less important characters are far too similar. It's not all bad on this front though, as the soundtrack offers up some positives and in general the sound design helps to improve the overall experience.
The seamless co-op integration also deserves mentioning too. As long as you're at the same point in the story and you have some buddies who want to slaughter some zombies with you, the game's scaling helps to make sure the game remains interesting. There are a few glitches that throw a road block up every now and then, but when it works it's pretty enjoyable.
Dying Light ends up being a decent addition to the zombie mayhem genre, but nothing more. Adding in parkour adds a whole new dimension to the zombie apocalypse scenario, allowing you to scale buildings and escape/plan attacks, but there's a lack of quality elsewhere that holds the game back. The story's protagonist is frustrating and despite being a game focussed around melee combat and modification, the system feels overly bland. Still, if you've got some buddies or you just want to kill some zombies alone, Dying Light still has some strong moments.
|Parkour integrates well.|
|Playing with some buddies.|
|Modifications are too bland.|
|Presentation is lacking in some areas.|
|Story is very underwhelming.|