Dying Light: The Following opens up a whole new world for the acclaimed zombie thriller

In early 2015, Dying Light became one of the year's first hits on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. Polish developer Techland, having already created the popular Dead Island series, went on to craft a new and distinctive game set around a zombie apocalypse. Combining cutting-edge graphics, climbing and parkour, and a gameplay-changing day and night cycle, Dying Light managed to stand out in the overpopulated zombie genre.

This year, Dying Light players get their first chance at a follow-up in the form of an upcoming expansion. Dying Light: The Following takes place directly after the main game ends. Players will leave the city of Harran behind for an entirely new environment: a zombie-infested outback. Drivable vehicles considerably expand the gameplay, while the story of a cult who might have a cure for the zombie contagion drives players forward. We've played the beginning of Dying Light: The Following – read on for detailed impressions!

Mild spoilers for the first hour of 'The Following' to follow…

Following the main game

Dying Light The Following Steam preview

The Following opens with a cinematic in which our hero Kyle Crane learns of a possible solution to the zombie apocalypse that has plagued the fictional city of Harran. A dying one-eyed man tells him of a settlement outside the city walls in which people are immune to the zombie virus. What's more, this man has a map depicting a route Kyle can use to escape the walled city.

This journey begins in the city sewers. Players will guide Kyle through the subterranean realm, quickly discovering a path through a cavern adorned with mysterious painted symbols. Soon he emerges on the outside of a mountain. Now our hero must navigate a perilous series of cliffs as he attempts to descend to the verdant land below.

Dying Light The Following Steam preview

With no enemies in sight, the only challenge players face at this point is first-person platforming and climbing along the mountain walls. Eventually, the path stops at a grassy precipice high above the valley. Kyle's only choice is to leap down into the water below, hoping to survive. And so he does – only to find a fully-dead zombie floating in the water. On its shore, more of the weird paintings and decorations adorn the land.

Meet the locals

Dying Light The Following Steam preview

Following the path marked by the paintings, Kyle soon discovers a farm in the distance. The path to the farm is lined with zombies, but players should be able to run past them while dispatching any who raise objections. A barb-wire lined wall surrounds the settlement beyond the farm fields, Kyle's primary destination. Thankfully, our boy can climb a nearby structure and vault over the walls to get inside.

The first person you'll meet in the settlement is a guard. Not the friendliest dude, he directs Kyle to speak with Jasir, the town leader. Unfortunately, Jasir wants nothing to do with anyone besides smugglers, refusing to divulge information about the locals' apparent immunity to the zombie disease. The nerve!

Dying Light The Following Steam preview

An affable fellow outside named Kaan gives players their first real mission. If Kyle will hire on as a courier, Kaan will feed him details about the community's resistance to the plague. But to become a courier, the hero must first procure a vehicle…

Driving over Miss Daisy

Dying Light The Following Steam preview

Players will have to sneak onto the nearest farm to find a working vehicle. Said auto just happens to be owned by a group of bandits. Sneak by and kill enough of them to reach their buggy, and it's yours! This opens up vehicles, The Following's greatest addition to the Dying Light formula.

Driving around the wilderness and tearing through zombies feels just as good as it sounds. Vehicles drive quite intuitively, with standard steering, acceleration, and braking controls. Players can also hold the Nitro button to zoom forward at super-speed for a limited time — the nitro will recharge after a while.

Dying Light The Following Steam preview

Vehicles add a lot more depth to The Following than meets the eye. For starters, cars don't just run forever. They need to be refueled almost as often as gaming journalists reach for another can of energy drink. The primary way to get more gasoline is taking it from other cars. As you explore the land beyond Harran, you'll frequently encounter rundown cars and trucks; some of them will still have fuel that can keep your vehicle going.

Broken-down cars can also have items in their trunks and components under their hoods to loot. Your buggy will take damage as it careens throughout the landscape, eventually requiring repairs. The components scavenged from broken-down cars serve as materials for those repairs, as well as crafting parts. Players can eventually find or make new upgrade parts too.

Serving the public trust

Dying Light The Following Steam preview

When Kyle returns to Kaan, he discovers his employer has been forcibly exiled by someone from outside of the compound. (KAAN!!!!) Jasir's surprisingly-gorgeous daughter Ezgi disagrees with her father's no help policy, so she dangles a carrot in front of our hero. If Kyle wants to learn more about the local immunity to the zombie virus, he'll have to earn the trust of Ezgi and her people. And no making fun of her name!

The first order of business in earning the local trust is to restore the settlement's clean water supply. Jazir sent three men outside of the safe zone to repair the water processing plant, but none have returned. Driving to the plant, Kyle discovers another team of bandits has killed two of the men (by throwing them to a zombie) and imprisoned the other.

Dying Light The Following Steam preview

Several fights and a tough boss battle against an armored bandit later, our hero frees the captive. The two immediately set about restoring the town's water. Unfortunately, something goes wrong, and valves begin to burst along the pipeline. Kyle has only two and a half minutes to find the main valve before the water processing plant becomes irreparably damaged!

Thus begins an exciting race. The player must follow a length of a pipeline as sections continue to burst, all while navigating the ever-present hordes of zombies. Night had fallen when I played this portion, throwing even deadlier zombies into the mix.

Dying Light The Following Steam preview

Upon finally reaching the station with the main valve, Kyle has to descend into a flooding basement as he seeks the valve. Unfortunately, I kept running out of time before I could locate the valve, forcing me to restart the timed race multiple times. A checkpoint would've been nice!

More of 'The Following' to follow

Dying Light The Following Steam preview

Eventually, players will discover a mysterious cult at the heart of the supposed viral immunity. Are these people actually able to prevent or cure the virus, and what do they hope to accomplish amid the chaos? You'll have to play to find out…

Dying Light: The Following is an absolutely massive expansion. The new map is bigger than Dying Light's Old Town and Slums combined. That makes it larger than the main game! With an intriguing story, lots of quests, and vehicles with which to traverse the new landscape, 'The Following' should be on every Dying Light player's radar.

'The Following' will be included for free with the $29.99 Dying Light Season Pass. Don't have Dying Light yet? Techland and Warner Bros will release Dying Light: The Following – Enhanced Edition alongside the new expansion. This new edition includes the original Dying Light, all Season pass content so far, and 'The Following' expansion.

Dying Light: The Following – Enhanced Edition and the downloadable Dying Light: The Following expansion launch Tuesday, February 9th. Stay tuned for our full review of 'The Following!'

Paul Acevedo

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!