Dying Light Review
To be fully honest, I've never been a big zombie fan. I haven't truly enjoyed a zombie game since Resident Evil 2. After that, traditional horror games took a turn. Zombies were shoehorned into just about everything possible: a shooter wasn't a shooter without a zombie mode. Gore has ramped up to a point that I had difficulties with certain titles, and action took over scares to where our zombie survival team is so strong they could've saved Indiana Jones by punching the rolling boulder off of his trail.
Dying Light promised something different. Developer Techland had worked on the Dead Island series, but in general had a different vision for this title. I was given a chance to review it, and I see a mix of many different quality titles. The mix adds back into the system some of the things that I feel define the original genre, as well as add enough to make this non-zombie fan come back for more.
The obvious: Take some Dead Island and add a little Mirror's Edge. The game's pedigree feels like Dead Island with a more vertical attitude. The game revolves around this premise: you can't get from point A to point B without traversing the rooftops. I had a laugh as I watched my son play Minecraft and realized there's a link there as well: day/night cycles, finding materials and building weapons, locating and securing safe zones against the enemy that comes out when the sun goes down. During the day, you find yourself fighting two kinds of enemies: the traditional shambling zombies you would find in a classic zombie movie or early Resident Evil, but also a human faction that opposes you. This mix gives you some variety, as you slide back and forth between keeping to the rooftops and fighting a more dynamic opponent. It's almost a completely different game when night falls. New enemies arise, ones that can take you out with a single blow. Add in a little Metal Gear stealth to sneak your way around, and a little endless runner as you panic your way to a safe zone if you are found out. You also have a skill tree to develop, so you can get better at sliding across rooftops and braining zombies.
The storyline feels like a natural advancement from classic Resident Evils. I always thought that the "nuke the city" storyline, combined with the future twists of RE games I lost track of...something something presidents evil megalomaniacal corporations et cetera. The city where the outbreak began has been quarantined behind a high wall, with supply drops being sent to the city on a regular basis. While cold for the uninfected, I feel that the world would try to push for a cure rather than an instantaneous nuke.
Your main character is sent in on an espionage mission: retrieving data from an opposing force. Things don't go as planned, as you land in the midst of a group of zombies. You are saved by humans, but not for long as they quickly turn on you. You are saved from THEM by another team, but in the process find yourself infected as well. A suppressant has been created to slow your change, but at the start of the game it seems inevitable that you are to join the undead hordes.
After a bit of parkour training, character development, and exploration, you find yourself on the streets. The game falls into a bit of repetition, at this time, with a good deal of fetch quests or point A to point B activities. The repetition, ironically, is full of variety though, as the day/night cycle will change how you have to approach a situation. The world is notably varied as well. Even though the city is small compared to other open world games these days, it's notably detailed. From the rooftop of a skyscraper, you can see most of the city, with details like birds flying by, cloth fluttering in the wind, and the occasional shambling mass of a zombie horde.
Controls take a bit of getting used to, with jumping and attack buttons positioned off of the traditional points, and no way to modify them. I feel the shoulder buttons are used excessively, and I would appreciate an option being accessible.
Overall, Dying Light rejuvinates the zombie genre for me, mixing some awesome aspects of some great games together and harkening back to a time when a zombie game felt like a zombie game while also pushing the genre forward. It may get repetitive at times, but if you enjoy a game, that's what you may be looking for, as it gradually gets harder to hack through the horde. The day/night cycle gives you a chance to play almost two different games, and the twist of both human and zombie enemies keeps it fresh. Multiplayer provides both a cooperative element to take down the horde, or you can "be the zombie" and take on opponents as one of the powerful nighttime enemies. It may be a little rough around the edges, but Dying Light is well worth your time.
I give it a 4.5/5
A copy of the game was provided by the developer for review.