Open world games are in no short supply these days, with every other big title coming out being a sandbox (or cover based shooter) of some sort. While annihilating reanimated corpses in creative ways is nothing new, Techland even having had a stab at it before with Dead Island, Dying Light is not reinventing the wheel. What Dying Light does do incredibly well, however, is bring together tried and true concepts while adding a few new tricks. Dying Light is an immensely enjoyable experience that should satisfy any zombie-slayer’s head-bashing needs.

The fictional city of Harran is quarantined after a zombie epidemic breaks out. You play Kyle Crane, an undercover operative working for the GRE (Global Relief Effort), that is sent in to find politician gone rogue that presumably has a file with classified information. As soon as you land you get ambushed by a horde of zombies and taken in by a group of survivors. As the story goes on your orders start to clash with the well being of the survivors, and so your quest for the truth of what’s going on begins.

Dying-Light-Screenshot

The story and characters are both pretty thin. I rarely found myself interested in what was going on, and the characters aren’t very relatable. You’ll likely see most of the twists coming from a mile away and probably won’t care too much when supporting characters meet their demise. It’s not awful by any means, and provides a great backdrop for the game play. Often it borders on feeling like you’re in a soap opera of sorts, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it can be pretty unintentionally funny at times.

The fun is all in the game play. As you traverse Harran and take on the undead you’ll progressively become more nimble, agile, and better equipped to deal with danger. One of Dying Light’s strongest elements is the free-running mechanic. It’s not unlike Assassin’s Creed, as you scale buildings and make death defying leaps of faith, only from a first-perspective. Precision platforming and parkour usually doesn’t work all that smoothly in FPS’, but once you get used to the controls and mechanics it is an absolute joy to get around. It only gets better as you upgrade your abilities and eventually get the grappling hook. This is definitively some of the best first-person free-running around.

The combat will feel familiar to anyone that has played Dead Island. As you whack away at zombie skulls with whatever weapons you can find, you’ll need to manage your stamina and keep an eye on the weapon’s durability meter. The combat can feel a bit sluggish, especially at first when you typically have lead pipes and other blunt instruments at your disposal, but it becomes a lot more fun once you get your hands on proper blades and guns. If you are an avid looter you’ll come across blueprints and materials that you can use to craft elemental upgrades and various other modifications for different weapon types. Aside from traditional melee weapons you also have a kick function to push away swarming zombies, and as you level up you’ll gain access to other offensive capabilities (the drop-kick being a personal favourite).

Guns are scarce for the most part, and should be used sparingly. The noise they make will also attract more powerful enemies to your location, and I found them best reserved for encounters with armed human enemies or the tougher monsters. Environmental death traps (explosive barrels and such) are also littered throughout the city and can be very deadly if used right. In addition to your weapons and abilities you can also find and craft all sorts of equipment to aid you, like grenades and molotovs, flares, firecrackers to distract enemies, and medkits.

Once you get through the game’s first act you’ll feel quite confident when taking on sizeable groups of enemies during the daylight hours. Once the sun sets, however, it’s a different story. During the night various souped up enemies will come crawling out of their nests, the relentless Volatiles being especially tough. They can take a beating and will chase you down relentlessly once they spot you. Ultraviolet light will stun them, and you can use special flares and light traps to cover your escape. On the upside you get double power and agility points during the night, but if you are scared of the dark you can sleep til morning in safe zones.

Speaking of experience points, Dying Light features three different skill trees that offer various upgrades and abilities; power, agility, and survivor. Power and agility points are earned by traversing the environment and fighting enemies, while the survivor points come from completing missions and side quests. Combine this with the equipment crafting and weapon upgrading, and you’ve got a solid RPG element that compliments the zombie slashing action.

Multiplayer is also present and accounted for, and is a lot of fun. Up to four players can play missions (or free roam) and playing with friends is a total joy. Only the host will make mission progress, but the other players get to keep any experience and loot they come across during the session. There’s also an option to invade other players’ game as one of the more powerful monsters, which is a welcome change of pace. With a lengthy campaign and the multiplayer options, there are a lot of potential hours that you can sink into Dying Light.

The presentation is mostly outstanding as well. The monsters look really gross up close and their animations are superb, save for the occasional unavoidable glitch that accompany all open-world games. The human NPC’s don’t look quite as good. They can seem pretty stiff and life-less when viewed up close during cutscenes, and there are a lot of recycled facial models that are covered up with different hairstyles and attire. It’s noticeable, but doesn’t really detract from the experience. The environment and lighting effects are also great for the most part with occasional bland looking areas, but again it’s nothing that ruins the game. The sound design is also quite impressive, with all monsters and various weapons and environmental sounds being spot on. A very decent soundtrack that blends middle-eastern tunes with a mix of throwback 80’s horror and more contemporary electronic beats backs it all.

Dying Light is easily one of the most fun games of 2015 as of yet. If you are big on first-person action and open-world exploration, picking it up is a no-brainer. We’d also recommend it to anyone that enjoyed Dead Island, even if they felt it was lacking, as Dying Light is a far more solid title overall. Now lace up your running shoes and get climbing and jumping, and make sure to drop-kick those zombies back to hell!

Dying Light Review
GRAPHICS85%
AUDIO88%
GAMEPLAY90%
STORY75%
PROS
  • Thrilling game play
  • Solid presentation
  • Great multiplayer
CONS
  • Story & characters are a bit flat
  • Occasional visual glitches
85%Zombie smashing bliss
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)
0%

About The Author

Ingólfur Ólafsson

Metal head, front-man, natural gamer and editor at Eskimo Press.