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Dying Light review: The freaks come out at night

Dying Light

Dying Light is a first-person zombie survival game from Polish studio Techland, recently released for Xbox One, Playstation 4, and Windows. Techland also developed the oh-so similar Dead Island, but they gave up on that IP due to creative differences with publisher Deep Silver. While Dying Light resembles a reincarnation of Dead Island, it trumps that game on so many levels that I finally like one of Techland's zombie games.

Whether or not you enjoyed Dead Island more than I did, you are in for a real treat with Dying Light. Dying Light has the potential to be an awesome zombie franchise, but first they need to fix some of the flaws that claw and bite at the current version.

Welcome to the undead city

Dying Light takes place in the fictional city of Harran. What should have been the home of the game world's next Olympic Games has instead become ground zero to a viral plague that turns the infected into zombies.

Players assume the role of Kyle Crane, a contractor for the Global Relief Effort (GRE). The GRE has quarantined the city in fear of the plague spreading and has decided to help the trapped citizens by sending in rare airdrops with supplies.

However, Kyle Crane wasn't hired to help the citizens. Instead, his mission is to locate a political figure called Rais who has gone rogue. Rais and his thugs have taken control of the plague-ridden city and stolen the majority of the GRE's airdrops. The villain also possesses an important file that could jeopardize the future of the GRE. The player's job is to stop him.

After parachuting into the city, Kyle immediately gets ambushed by a swarm of thugs. Their attack, in turn, attracts a horde of zombies. Some of the residents of "The Tower" notice Kyle's predicament and rescue him. This tower is full of refugees who resist Rais's reign and will do anything to help our hero complete his mission.

Fight or Flight

Although Rais and his men pose a huge threat, a bigger danger looms over the city of Harran: the zombies. Players can choose either 'fight or flight' when a horde of blood-thirsty zombies approaches. The game allows you to pick up almost any tool you see, including gas pipes, baseball bats, scythes, and even a 9mm pistol. Each weapon has 3 main properties: damage, durability, and repairs.

Damage obviously measures the amount of damage a weapon can inflict upon your enemies. Durability is a bit more complex; it rates how much damage a weapon itself can take. The lower the durability, the faster a weapon breaks. Broken weapons can be repaired. Some weapons can even be repaired multiple times before needing to be discarded, but you'll get less use from others.

Although you have a vast amount of weapons at your disposal, most weapons you come across early on won't do much to hold zombies at bay. Should you have to flee, you needn't do so on the ground. Dying Light's parkour traversal allows players to climb buildings and methodically jump from roof. If it has a ledge or rail, you can probably climb it.

If you aren't too careful, you can easily fall from a ledge or rooftop and die. In the beginning, you'll find this happening more often than you would think thanks to the unintuitive mapping of both the jump and climb actions to the same button (Right Bumper). But if you whiff a jump and land on a trash pile, car or awning, it will at least reduce the fall damage.

Running and climbing become particularly vital when the sun sets and night blankets the city. Instead of running around freely, you have to slow down and rely on your flashlight for visibility. This is when the game is at its most intense.

At night, stronger zombies that can sense you from afar come out to hunt. These zombies can't be outrun easily, and they will pounce at any opportunity. Should they detect you, you'll have to scramble up a building as fast as you can in order to break their line of sight.

You can easily avoid the night by going to a safe house and sleeping through the night. But that wouldn't be fun, would it? Not when all XP gained at night is doubled, which helps your rank up fast. Dying will make you lose a big chunk of that EXP though, creating a compelling risk-reward dynamic.

The Running Man

Dying Light

Whenever you aren't killing zombies, you'll likely be busy completing missions. Most mission objectives lie far away from where you get them, necessitating a few minutes of running from point to point.

While distance can be fine for a typical open world game, this one could have used a fast travel option. All the running contributes to a long playtime in which you feel like you have done very little. My own completion time came in at 28 hours, with very few side missions completed. One could easily have a 40-50 hour experience with Dying Light in order to complete everything.

A Dying Light party

Dying Light, fortunately, has the option to complete the campaign with up to 3 other players. Going through missions, or taking down hordes of zombies with a buddy is when Dying Light is most enjoyable. It helps to distract from the fact that you are covering miles of land in between missions and it helps to make the game feel less repetitive.

My favorite aspect of the multiplayer is that it has what it calls 'dynamic competition.' This is pretty much random mini-games that happen for friendly competition between you and your buddies. For example, you could get a dynamic competition that prompts players to kill as many zombies as they can in 45 seconds. Or race to the next mission location.

What this does is spice up the pace of the game when playing with friends. Whoever wins gets some extra XP and some cash. This sounds like fun, but matchmaking issues hampered the chance to try it out that often during the period of this review. This, sadly, looks to be an all too common problem.

Achievements

Most achievements in the game are easily accomplished from your first play through. My personal favorite came by complete accident but was actually tough to achieve. "Can't Touch This" had me kill 20 enemies in a row without taking any damage whatsoever.

The most challenging and time-consuming achievement is called "Mount Everest." It asks for players to climb a total of 8848 meters on various objects. That could take hours if not days!

Overall Impressions

Dying Light

Dying Light (Image credit: Techland S.A.)

Dying Light is easily one of the most fun zombie games I have had the pleasure of playing. As with previous Techland games, the melee combat and weapon modifications are excellent. It adds an element of complexity to an otherwise bland style of combat. And the parkour traversal is by far the most welcome addition to the genre.

Running from Volatiles at night is by far one of the most intense situations that I've ever encountered in a video game. And climbing. There are a few times throughout the game where you have to climb huge structures and your heart will sink as you're doing so. Dying Light portrays the sensation of Vertigo rather well when you're climbing these structures which adds to the overall intensity.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of things that hold Dying Light back from achieving greatness. For one, the story is a bit of a letdown. You never truly feel attached to characters, even though, the game tries hard to do so. That said, I did find myself enjoying the story later on as things began to unravel. Secondly, the mission structure could easily be improved and not have them be so far apart. This only adds unwanted length to the games story and makes the player feel as if they've hardly achieved anything. Lastly, the matchmaking in multiplayer needs to be sorted out. That itself hinders players from having the richest experience with the game which is a huge disappointment.

That being said, I did enjoy the game. I now find myself going back to complete side missions and try out new weapons. And to hope that the multiplayer issues have been resolved.

If you are a fan of Dead Island, Dying Light is a no-brainer purchase as it uses a similar premise as a foundation, then greatly improves upon it. If you are not a fan of zombie titles, maybe wait until it goes on sale or hear that the multiplayer is fixed. Then you should definitely check it out. As the refugees say, "Good Night and Good Luck."

33 Comments
  • I like playing with the zombies xD they are slow :v I really recommend playing it with good headphones it gives u the sound where the zombie is without even looking behind you or left or right :D
  • I soooo much want this game.
  • Get it .. It is pretty awesome :D
  • Is the multiplayer like dead rising? And is it first person only?
  • Somewhat like Dead Rising but more fun. And yes it is first person only Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Exactly right ! It is more fun :D
  • If you think all these zombies are slow, I've got some bad news for you... Not going to spoil anything but wow. I shat my pants a few times, especially during night time xD
  • I typically do not like games where the items you find respawn like Dead Island or Borderlands. It really takes away from the survival aspect. Does this game do the same?
  • Another zombie game I'm not old enough to play!!! Yay!
  • I would gladly join the under aged games hype but my PC can't ruin this game :/
  • Um loving this game on pc. Every night I turn off the light of my room and its Dying Light Time
  • My first night scared the crap out of me and I normally don't get scared with video games. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Been playing this since launch; trying to 100% it so only just got to old town. So good. Loving it.
  • Great game
  • It looks kind of cool but I don't think that I can quite justify $60 for it. $40 probably, or if more of my friends had it to play co-op with.
  • Definitely grab it for $40 and make sure a friend does as well! Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • the faster a weapon *breaks* :)
  • Thanks mate! Lol Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Is it available for Xbox
  • It's literally in the first couple of lines of the post.
  • Richard you should bold and underline Xbox one next time just in case some can't see it...
  • So after Left 4 Dead, every zombie game has to have a bloated zombie that explodes into hazardous goo when shot?
  • Yes. Though its not just when shot. Avoid going near it at all.
  • Also. "so after left 4 dead, no zombie game is allowed to have a bloated zombie that explodes?" :P
  • Here's my review of Dead Island: A,a,a,a,a,a,a,a,a,a,a,a,a,a,a,a,a,a,a,a,a,a,a (a million more times) game over
  • Love this game. Story at 100% and on the smaller missions now. REALLY, REALLY needs a fast travel option because getting across the map can be timely, only one fast point is at the tower to the old town. Little annoyed that the guys/gals that pre-ordered get the be the zombie free. I bought it off xbox store why don't we qualify? But all in all love this game.
  • Because you didnt pre-order it...pre-orders almost always come with an incentive.
  • The feeling of love and hate. Yeah thats the kind of feel im feeling everytime i play this game. Love the game play hate the zombies that chasing you.
  • "Each weapon has 3 main properties: damage, durability, and repairs." You forgot to mention weapon Handling. It's not quite as clear how it helps (just becuase I don't compare), but it's assumingly a matter of how easy it is to swing the weapon, or it is a stat that indicates how much combat stamina each swing uses. I actually don't agree with the complaints about the story. The character aren't mind-blowing or anything, but I definitely felt that the story was told well, much better than most single-player campaigns. I haven't reached the end, so I can't comment on how the story wraps up, but I'm greatly enjoying it. There are some forgettable characters, and the fact that there is only one major character whose presence has carried over to the second-half of the story makes the characters tougher to put emotional weight to (I like Brecken and all just fine, but it's been a while since he's been part of the game for me, so I care less). What's more, I disagree about the complaints of mission traversal. Neither half of the map is exactly large, and when you get the Grappling Hook, traversal is very quick and simple. You really don't even have to fight through anything much after that point, unless you actually want to (I do). Plus, if you grab wise missions along the way, the trips across the map end up much more eventful and less of a bore--and you hav the random encounters to add to that, sometimes. Personally, this is one of the best games I've played in a long time, if ever. The main complaint I have is that the talent trees are a bit excessive, and some late-game things are almost useless (Tic Tac, for example). The dodge system, having it tied to the left stick, it can also get in the way at times. I was trying to jump up from some scaffolding, but because the left stick was slightly off-center from being straight forward, my guy dodged left, which killed me. Those kinds of things can be irritating, but death isn't the biggest thing to fret in Dying Light. That's actually something that seems to be a common theme in some newer games, like this, Sunset, and Mordor. They let you respawn without hurting game progress, almost to a fault.
  • just before I looked at the bank draft ov $6991 , I did not believe ...that...my best friend could realy bringing in money in their spare time on their laptop. . there sisters roommate has been doing this for less than 8 months and recently cleard the dept on there condo and bought a gorgeous Honda NSX . Visit Website........... ➜➜➜➜➜ www.netjob70.com    
  • Wow such a compelling spam story! Nearly got me wanting to get scammed.
  • How does a controller feel with it? Saving to buy for. PC, but would much rather play with a 360 Controller because hand cramping isn't fun and keyboards make my hands to cramp. Posted via Windows Phone Central App
  • I got this game it is fun!