Dying Light – Review
Follow Genre: Open World Survival
Developer: Techland
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PC, Mac, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Tested on: PC, Xbox One

Dying Light – Review

Site Score
9.0
Good: Great parkour gameplay, astonishing visuals, Drop-in/Drop-out co-op
Bad: Versus mode is tedious and unbalanced
User Score
9.0
(2 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.0/10 (2 votes cast)

“Dead Island meets Assassin’s Creed in true Mirror’s Edge fashion.” This could be a headline that says it all, really, making it seem as though Techland’s newest zombie extravaganza is essentially a copy of existing games. However, a bit of nuance is in order here. Yes, Dying Light is an open world zombie game. Sure, Dead Island had the same basic idea and quickly became notorious for being, well, a bit of a buggy disappointment to many players. But, dear reader, think of the first time we ever saw a glimpse of Dead Island. The hope for a true open world survival game, for death lurking from every shadow, for feeling more alive than you’ve ever been. This is exactly what Dying Light offers, especially in its first hours of gameplay. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?

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Story

Of course, the basic story isn’t really all that special. Kyle Crane is a freelance operative for the secretive G.R.E., an organisation that needs him to find a file proving a failed vaccine attempt. This file has been stolen by Kadir, who now resides in Harran. As you might guess, the zombie plague hits Harran before you are sent into the quarantine zone in search of the file. A story of trust, betrayal and oftentimes pretty obvious twists unfolds, but luckily, it doesn’t end there.

Whereas the main story might be a bit clichéd, there’s a plethora of much more original secondary storylines to find. Although these are optional usually stay within the boundaries of ordinary fetch quests, the dialogue with which they reward you more than makes up for it. This is also where much of the excellent humour in this otherwise dead serious (sorry) game comes from, so you would be amiss to pass this up.

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Graphics

Running around in Harran for the first time is a feeling that has not met its equal in the survival genre. Every tree leaf in this region seems to be rendered separately, the viewing distance is seemingly endless and every street is as meticulously detailed as any other. Carrion birds circle massacre locations, hungry for the rotting flesh moving below. Moreover, the game is packed with Easter Eggs, proving the developer’s penchant for detailed landscape crafting.

Make no mistake, there isn’t much time to sit back and admire the view when you’re on the streets, as the undead are everywhere and love nothing more than to burst your personal bubble. Luckily, in all of its graphical prowess, the game does provide the player with enough clues as to what is important to check out in this world. Cars with closed trunks, for example, can nearly always be opened and looted. Looking for medkits? Find unraided ambulances. Need a weapon? Find a police car. It’s beautifully elegant, yet still as realistic as the game’s setting could allow.

The game is played from a first person perspective and largely belongs to the parkour genre. Throughout the game, you’ll be looking at your limbs quite frequently, and Techland absolute nailed the perspective. This really adds to the experience of running along buildings’ edges, jumping on top of zombies or sliding against their legs.

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Sound

As with nearly all open world games, the voice acting is of the hit-or-miss variety. Most actors are spot-on, however, providing the characters you meet with a soul and character of their own. Kyle himself manages to be pretty likeable from the start (for a mercenary) and slowly grows into a hero, which can also be heard in his voice. As a contrast, the antagonists manage to convey a Far Cry 3-esque sense of madness thanks to great performances of their actors.

More than humans, you’ll be dealing with sounds indicating biters in your proximity. While their screams are terrifying at first, it should be noted that they do have a numbing effect once you realise that oftentimes, they are just meant as background noise. Sometimes, you’ll hear a devastating scream and take hold of your strongest weapon, just to realise that there’s no need to do this. In all fairness, though, the numbness doesn’t last very long as a new challenge awaits after every corner.

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Gameplay

Dying Light can be a reasonably scary experience, and the main reason for this is the dynamic day and night cycle. By day, the undead are nothing more than shambling husks, relatively easily defeated and even more easily evaded. This changes with story progression, adding more Left 4 Dead-ish varieties to the mix: fast, only recently turned infected; acid spitters; giant chargers and more creatures will make you stay on your toes.
Once the sun sets, however, this becomes a completely different game. Suddenly, stealth is your best friend, as the so-called Volatile Infected come out to play. These are incredibly fast, strong creatures that are keen on ripping you apart. Once one of them spots you, it lets out a horrible cry, spurring any and all Volatiles nearby to join the hunt. The first time this happened to yours truly, I was playing online with a random co-op partner. Suffice it to say that our headsets almost exploded from the shouts, screams, heroic one liners and defiant curses that were spewed as we gave it our all to not only outrun these bastards, but also save each other in the process.

Ah yes, multiplayer. Offline, Dying Light is a very good open world game in which you scavenge for supplies, beat and – more often – evade the undead. It’s a gory experience, as you’ll frequently cut gashes into your enemies’ bodies before you chop off their heads and limbs. It’s a difficult experience, the missions often requiring you to complete rather lengthy tasks while being pounded by hordes of hungry biters. In other words, it’s a pretty exhilarating experience.

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Online, though, is where the game transcends from its “pretty good” status to the level of excellency. Sporting dynamic drop-in/drop-out co-op for up to four players, the game does a perfect job of matching players of both equal level and story progression to each other. Nothing can match the feeling of trying to repair broken and burning gas valves while being surrounded by enemies, facing certain death, only to see a random player is joining you and ultimately succeeds in saving you AND completing the mission. To quote myself: “Man, I don’t know who you are, I don’t know why you joined me, but you have no idea of how happy I am to see you.” Words cannot describe how Dying Light sucks you into its world, clawing its way into your mind until there’s only one world on your mind: the one in the game.

Now, to be fair, it should be noted that the game also has a versus mode. Players can choose to play as Hunters and invade other people’s games (if they choose to allow invasions). The moment this happens, however, the normal experience is shoved aside in favour of a competitive mode in which the currently active human players try to destroy five zombie nests while the Hunter tries to kill ten humans. Contrary to the co-op experience, this one is wildly unbalanced and favours the Hunter greatly. Moreover, it takes too long to complete. Games of ten to fifteen minutes in length are no exception, and this can be a long time if you were just planning to do something else. Therefore, you should always remember not to allow invasions if you would like to keep everything co-operative.

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Conclusion

Thanks to the co-operative angle to the zombie apocalypse survival experience, the community seems to be a whole lot friendlier than those of more competitive games. Combined with extraordinary graphics, environments littered with details and more Easter Eggs than we’d care to count, this leads to a very attractive product. That doesn’t even take into account the masterful parkour gameplay and, in the many hours of play that preceded this review, the lack of any serious glitches. Over the last couple of years, we have been drowned in zombie titles, yet Dying Light succeeds in raising the bar for all of them. Combining, distilling and refining elements from many other games and genres, this is the new definitive experience for open world survival.

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Rating: 9.0/10 (2 votes cast)
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Dying Light - Review, 9.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Tom Cornelis


1 Comment

  1. MC_JP
    February 11, 2015, 23:37

    Dead Island meets mirrors edge and made a baby (guess whats the thang that go bumping tonight)

    +++ Fun game 🙂

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