It’s becoming increasingly difficult to throw a stone in a game store and not hit a zombie game. Zombies are an easy enemy to reuse, and people just can’t seem to get enough of those lovable (debatable) living corpses. Due to the sheer amount of games with living dead fodder to mow down it’s not very easy for one of those games to stand out from the crowd. But, every so often there is a game that proves you can do the same thing yet somehow make it new. Dying Light, the latest action survival title from Techland, aims to prove that very point.
Dying Light places you in the running shoes of Kyle Crane, an undercover operative sent into a hostile environment in order to retrieve some stolen data. The environment in question is the city of Harran, and it has been overrun with zombies, warring factions, and other mysterious threats. What begins as a simple insertion into an infected city grows into much more as you come to meet the inhabitants of a deadly world and must choose the right path to take.
The sprawling city of Harran is full of places to explore, provided you don’t mind being under the threat of death at every turn.
That moment when you first enter the deadly city that is at the center of Dying Light brings back memories of great horror games. Confirming your mission before you parachute in sets a particular tone that immediately turns dark once your feet hit the pavement. Your very first conflict is with another human and that may not have been what many expected at first glance. In the midst of a heated discussion you’re swarmed by ravenous zombies as an early reminder that you are not allowed to rest in the world of Dying Light.
While the starting sequence plays out a bit predictably it manages to lay a stable foundation for the rest of the game. Yes, you may have seen this song and dance several times before but it’s well done and there’s just the proper amount of twist to keep it interesting. Pretty much every zombie apocalypse trope is found in the city of Harran, from the gruff good guy who will do anything to help innocents to a mysterious woman who is both loving but also super tough. Heck, you even have that one guy who takes advantage of literally every single person he comes across yet nobody out of the many people still living in the city has tried to stand up to him. It’s almost your classic run of the mill zombie movie experience.
Yet it is not just the story that Techland have relied on in order to present a truly exceptional zombie experience. When you look at most survival horror games you may notice a telltale lack of speed. Yes, there are sprinkled in sequences where you have to feign fearing for your life only to have the game predictably slow to a crawl once again. Most zombie games, however, have a tell-tale lack of speed. Dying Light goes against the grain with its focus on speed and use of the environment.
Dying Light doesn’t just offer its parkour as an option. The game is literally built around its intense form of traversal that adds a whole new dimension to how one deals with the walking dead. It’s true that most modern survival games provide means to avoid some confrontations, but Dying Light makes it such a priority that you will find yourself instinctively planning escape routes in every situation. These routes can range from sliding under a low wall to bounding over one zombie in order to reach the top of a building. What makes it even better is that it all works so fluidly.
It was honestly amazing to feel how easy it is to get around Harran while under a constant threat. There are multiple paths to every location allowing for quick, on-the-fly thinking in order to get into or avoid as much trouble as you see fit. Racing towards the random supply drops will have you using every single traversal mechanic if you hope to get to the drop point before any undesirables make it first. The controls take a few minutes to get used to but once you get the hang of it you’ll find yourself navigating the world of Dying Light with ease.
Combat in Dying Light has been given the same attention. If you’ve played Techland’s previous zombie games in the Dead Island series then you will already have an understanding of what’s in store for you. There is a wide variety of weapons and modifications for you to find and create. Combat is both brutal and visceral. Weapons have a realistic weight to them forcing you to manage both your timing and your stamina. Enemies, both living and dead, react intelligently to your movement and actions and will do their best to get the edge over you.
Pretty much everything you can do can also be done by most enemies in Dying Light. This creates a sort of dance where you bait your adversary into exposing themselves. All encounters require choosing the right weapon for the job whether it be a boning knife, or a military assault rifle. Breaking bones provides a visceral crunch and flashy X-ray display, and the slow motion while removing limbs or landing a perfect shot makes the fear worth it all.
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