Originally planned to be Techland’s sequel to its last-gen zombie game, Dead Island, its new title Dying Light stakes out its own territory on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. While zombies aren’t exactly original source material these days, the ratings for AMC’s The Walking Dead show there is still plenty of appetite for more brain-munching undead content. Over a year into the PlayStation 4’s life cycle, Dying Light is, surprisingly, the console’s first non-indie zombie title. Of course, Xbox One owners had Dead Rising 3 available as a launch title, and as you would expect, there are quite a few similarities between the two games.
Despite its heritage, Dying Light does manage to differentiate itself from the Dead Island game, as well as from Capcom’s Dead Rising 3. In the fictitious Middle Eastern country of Harran (loosely based on Turkey,) which has been placed under a quarantine due to the outbreak, the player takes on the role of Kyle Crane, an operative for a supposed humanitarian group known as the Global Relief Effort sent to Harran to recover some important internal documents. You’re given instructions to infiltrate a large group of survivors, and spend the early parts of the game trying to ingratiate yourself into the group living in a skyscraper aptly named The Tower.
Dying Light utilizes a first-person point of view but employs some unusual gameplay mechanics, including a notable day/night system, as well as an unusual control scheme. Central to the game is the Mirror’s Edge-like, first-person parkour system, though Dying Light‘s implementation is a little more finicky than that of Mirror’s Edge. Because the controls are so different than other first-person games, it’s only with long play sessions that I was able to execute combat and movement effectively and consistently.
An example of this is that during combat, L2 is used to kick, but R1 is your melee attack button. While R1 is a typical shooting button on PlayStation, clicking the right stick to aim is not. Every time I would start a new play session, I would get the left button and trigger functions mixed up, which usually meant wasting an item assigned to the bumper. In the worst case, and too often for my liking, this meant throwing a Molotov cocktail at an enemy too close to avoid taking damage myself. While there are huge numbers of items that can be crafted, health kits, fire crackers, and Molotov cocktails were by far my favorites. Finding a high point to hide and from which to lob fiery death at enemies often seemed a preferred tactic to jumping into melee combat and running the risk of breaking my weapon.
As mentioned before, Dying Light has a fairly robust crafting system. While I typically crafted health kits, grenades, or thrown weapons, firecrackers were also very useful to distract the zombies. This was most effective when I needed a powerful enemy on the other side of a room while I retrieved something or had to activate an item. Strangely, crafting is done on a blueprints screen, separate from your items screen. The last thing I’ll mention about crafting is that when it comes to weapons, pretty much only melee weapons can be crafted. Any of the handful of firearms, which are only available about halfway through the game, are pretty much just stuck as what they are.
Dying Light is a fun single-player game, even if it’s not an entirely original campaign. It also features some interesting multiplayer options. Players can lock Dying Light as a wholly single-player experience, or open it up to the entire PlayStation community, or just to friends. A LAN option is also available.
The game is heavily populated with a large variety of undead enemies and getting some assistance with missions is certainly helpful. Similar to playing as the monster in the upcoming Evolve game, Dying Light’s “Be the Zombie” option lets players harass others as a powerful tendril monster. Though the options are more limited, Dying Light‘s take on this was far more compelling for me than the Evolve alpha or beta.
Though it’s not the best looking game I’ve played on the PlayStation 4, Dying Light‘s presentation level is pretty good. As I would expect from a somewhat indie developer, there were a few bugs, but none of the fatal ones that require a restart like I experienced in Borderlands 2 or Dragon Age: Inquisition. The most annoying bug I found in Dying Light was a nighttime alarm that wouldn’t stop until I slept for cycle.
I did find the multiple outfits for Crane a bit strange, since the game barely shows the protagonist and doesn’t even have any functional mirrors. I did really enjoy the unique soundtrack and the majority of the sound effects, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the voice acting. I should mention, the available companion app doesn’t directly tie into the game but will allow players to collect loot while away from the game.
For a survival horror and zombie game fan, Dying Light is actually one of the better games that I’ve played on this generation of consoles. Though the narrative is fairly light and not entirely original, and some of the side missions, along with the travel, can feel tedious, the game does an adequate job of keeping the player invested. My biggest complaint was that there were many times I wished there was a fast travel option, or some type of faster transportation, like in Dead Rising 3, but especially once the grapple was unlocked, it wasn’t unbearable. Sadly, unless a significant piece of DLC is released, once the campaign is over there really isn’t much reason to return to Harran, except for the “Be the Zombie” mode.
Dying Light is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language. This game can also be found on: Xbox One, and Windows PC
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00D2ZK1IG]