Dying Light has been on my radar since 2013 and was one of my most anticipated games of this year. In short, it’s a free-running game with tons of zombies, some crafting, and a day/night cycle. Should you play it? Yes, you should.
- TL;DR: Parkour + zombie hordes = fun
- Platform: PS4
- Hours Played: 19
- What I Played: Main campaign with a few side missions
- Should you play it?: If you like gruesome zombie killing or free running with an emphasis on the free, yes.
The city of Harran is the source of a viral outbreak, turning people into zombies/biters/walkers/insert your favorite zombie term here. A quarantine has been put in place and almost all communication with the city has been cut off. Kyle Crane, an operative working for the Global Relief Effort, is airdropped into the city with the goal of finding a stolen file containing a half-completed cure which, if used in it’s current state, could be deadly.
I’m just going to come out and say it — the story of Dying Light didn’t really do much for me. I felt like the game tried to cram way too much into a short amount of time. There wasn’t enough time and development for me to truly care about the characters that Crane becomes enamored with in just a few hours of gameplay. Similarly, the main villain, Rais, is seen as a monster who Crane vows to kill with his own bare hands … after only knowing about him for a few hours. On top of that, most of the NPCs seem to just be regular people trying to survive. I’m sure that was part of the plan, but I didn’t really care much for the side characters. Far Cry 4 had much better character development, although that world also lends itself to that more than Dying Light’s does.
All of the above is just fine by me since I didn’t play Dying Light for the gripping story. I played it mainly for the zombie killing and I was not disappointed. Combat is primarily melee based with weapons ranging from tire irons and planks to baseball bats, sickles, and machetes. I say primarily because guns do come into play later in the game, although they are loud and, as you know, loud noises attract zombies. You have a set amount of stamina which depletes as you swing your weapon of choice. No matter what that weapon is, though, combat is truly brutal. Limbs will fly, heads will literally roll, and blood will be everywhere. Dying Light earned it’s “M for Mature” rating.
The most satisfying parts of combat aren’t the limbs and blood, though. It’s the little things that put it over the top, like the slight moment of slow-mo when you land a particularly nasty blow, the way the camera shakes when you swing or get hit, and the weight of each hit that you can feel through the controller. Dying Light has some nasty, visceral combat that keeps you looking for more, actively seeking out zombies to rip apart.
You aren’t completely limited to melee combat in Dying Light. I mentioned guns earlier which are very powerful yet act as a beacon since they are so loud. Building off of that, firecrackers can be used to move hordes of zombies out of your way or group them up to set up your grenade, molotov, etc. There are some other ranged weapons like ninja stars and throwing axes, but I only found them useful if there was a zombie somewhere I couldn’t reach otherwise. You can also knock enemies back with a small kick or do a straight up WWE dropkick. If you’re lucky, your target might even fly a few hundred miles.
One nice touch in Dying Light is that Crane isn’t your typical action game superhuman. He will regenerate a small portion of health, but not all of it. Going crazy with your melee attacks will cause him to lose all of his stamina and be pretty ineffective for a while and running for too long forces him to slow down to a walk and breathe heavily.
I mentioned the fantastic camera earlier which definitely comes into play while both fighting and running. Attacking isn’t simply a robotic arm movement. Crane swings with his whole body, especially when using the wonderful heavy attack skill, and the camera will move accordingly. If you get smacked down to the ground, you’ll be stunned for a few seconds with blurry vision, staring sideways.
That camera works wonderfully during the second of the two important pieces of Dying Light: the free running. In a brilliant move, Techland decided to make R1 the jump button instead of X. I’ve become so used to X being jump that it took a bit to get used to using R1, but it makes all the sense in the world. It keeps your thumb on the right stick, free to move the camera looking for enemies or the next ledge to grab. You can climb just about anything in Harran including cars, buildings, towers, fences, whatever. You’ll get a grappling hook pretty late in the game which acts more like linear movement beam than actual hook-and-rope.
Harran is a scary and difficult enough place to navigate in the daytime, but night is when the real fun happens. A new type of zombie, the volatile, only comes out to play at night and those dudes do NOT mess around. If you are spotted by a volatile, you better haul ass to a safe zone because they will rip you up and fast. Most of the enemies in Dying Light are slow and can’t climb, but the volatile will track you down and go to town. While running, you can spin your head around and slow-mo look behind you, just in case you were trying to force a change of pants upon yourself.
Since night time is so much scarier than the day, your agility and power points are doubled, which can lead to huge experience gains. Escaping a volatile pursuit is also a giant boost. These are good enough incentives to try your hand at some night gameplay every now and then. Certain missions are only available at night, too, forcing you to face the night hunter bastards.
Dying Light is a fantastic blend of well-controlled free running and brutal, violent zombie killing. The story isn’t anything to write home about, if you ask me, but there is more than enough fun to be had with the mindless enemies wandering the streets. Techland did a great job with Dying Light.