Dying Light Preview
My first thoughts upon seeing Dying Light were something along the lines of disgruntled noises marking my discontent with the fact that we have another Dead Island spin-off incoming. Then I saw the parkour and all the next-gennyness, but it didnât spark much interest in me. Finally, a couple of months later I landed a preview copy and my mind was immediately blown. First of all, let me say that, while Dead Island and Dying Light do share a fair few similarities, the latter is about 90% more awesome than its âpredecessorâ. Comparing them isnât much different from comparing Batmanâs Arkham Origins with Arkham Asylum so Iâll immediately stop doing that, and so should you. Now, onto the game itself.
Damn heâs big!
Iâm not at liberty to share anything related to the storyline, but I certainly am allowed to say that I was very pleasantly surprised by it. Now, itâs nothing special, but thereâs a fair number of twists and turns that make this game a very unique experience. Having spent close to eight hours in-game, I havenât seen nearly enough content to say that itâll stay cool until the very end, but the fact that Dying Lightâs intro sequence reminded me heavily of a certain 2007 cult shooter practically astonished me. The setting, characters and everything storyline-related is more believable and sympathetic than any other zombie-themed game Iâve played so far, so thereâs that.
The second impression the game imprinted onto me is that itâs absolutely beautiful. This is a prime example of what current-generation engines can accomplish, and it was about damn time we see one such game. Post-processing is fairly malleable, and thus will serve you a number of distinctly atmospheric situations depending on the given area, time of the day and/or situation. For example, the foggy mornings followed by gloomy, rainy daytimes change the colours to washed-out grays, while the clear noon makes Harran, the city in which the game takes place, a place of vivid, intense greens, reds and blues. Nighttime is also intense, with limited visibility and the overall eerieness. Itâs nice to see a game that doesnât rely on a single post-processing effect to accomplish its limited atmospheric opus â expect to see virtually everything in Dying Light. Setting the meta-visuals aside, the attention to details adds to immersion also. Gone are the days of rectangular dinner plates and washed-out textures. At maximum settings, thereâs very little aliasing to be seen and virtually every in-game object seems to have thousands of polygons in its core model. Then there are the zombies â which are the most realistic and down-to-earth walkers Iâve ever witnessed in a game. Their visual appearance -which is disturbing enough- aside, their clothes sway in the wind and their broken extremities and gaping wounds ooze blood while hanging loosely on of their bodies. Physics are applied to everything character-related, and while it does bug out sometimes with the enemies falling under weird angles and similar situations, itâs a reliably wonderful system for the most part. Performing critical hits even rewards you with an x-ray view of your targetâs bones shattering, which is just as cool as it sounds. Speaking of sounds, they are easily just as good as the gameâs visuals are. I donât think any game has ever had sounds of bones breaking and tissue splattering this well made. It all adds up to serve a memorable, intense and nigh-on unique experience. Especially when you hear the strangely eerie soundtrack that, for me, evokes the memories of Hotline Miami for some reason.
I hope I make it!
But itâs the gameplay that matters, right? Well, youâll be glad to hear that Dying Light has no issues here either. These zombies are no joke, let me tell you that. Whereas most other zombie titles make them little more than simplistic fodder for the player to wade through, the developers of Dying Light approached the matter seriously. When you start playing, youâll be fighting with blunt pipes, monkey wrenches and similar improvised objects, and these deal very little damage, number-wise. Youâll have to slam a single zombie quite a lot to down it for good, which would be boring had the combat not been made so visceral and satisfying. With every thump, youâll stagger the buggers with a small chance of breaking and/or shattering whatever limb or bone you might have hit. You wonât gain access to edged melee weaponry until youâve progressed a bit, and I wonât spoil the effect these things have on walkers. Firearms are beastly too, dealing large amounts of damage while keeping you safe from their grasp, but the ammunition is extremely limited. But itâs not all about killing things, thereâs the freeform movement, too. The way parkour is handled here is refreshing, as you wonât be automatically flying across the rooftops if you keep running and holding the SPACE button. Youâll have to manually aim at the ledges you want to climb on, as well as carefully time your jumps. Thankfully, traversing the cityscape is a genuinely rewarding experience, and while it does take time to master the climbing and running/jumping, itâs a nicely built system that enhances the rest of the gameplay brilliantly. Naturally, as you level up your runner, youâll gain access to slides, advanced combat moves, evades, counter-attacks et cetera et cetera, of which there are a lot of. Interestingly, each of the gameâs three skill trees is levelled separately. Survival ups by crafting items, picking locks and, well, surviving. The combat tree gains points when you actually kill stuff, and finally, the agility tree gets improved by running around and jumping wildly. This allows you to build your characters as balanced and well-versed in lots of different areas, while not providing you with the tools to create an overpowered jack-of-all-trades.
Finally, thereâs the stealth â the final pillar of Dying Lightâs gameplay. As I mentioned above, the zombies can easily hound you down so youâll find yourself creeping along the streets, using your environments tactically to evade them more often than not. But whereas using stealth during the daytime is a nice, readily available option, it becomes an absolute necessity once the light dies out. See, when the Sun hides, all kinds of mutated zombies come out, with the creeping Violatiles being the most dangerous ones. While parkour could have saved you from the lumbering horde, it does little to protect you from the agile, albeit UV-vulnerable Violatiles. These creatures will hound you virtually everywhere unless you lure them into one of the traps that are abundant across Harran or run into a safe haven. So you see, youâll have to avoid them once the night falls, and that is a genuinely terrifying experience.
Finally, I can summarize that Techland, the developers of Dying Light, have managed to combine the rabid action of the usual zombie titles with the horror that comes from the fact that youâre always oh-so-vulnerable in this game. Improving upon its legacy in every possible way, Dying Light is shaping up to be the zombie game we deserve, while keeping things interesting and fresh in this saturated genre.