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‘Dying Light’ Review: Cardio With Friends

This week saw the release of the first of this year’s two open-world zombie survival games that feature weapon crafting, light RPG elements and co-op. The other is the Yager-developed Dead Island 2, which comes later this year. But this review isn’t about that game, it’s about Dying Light.

Before we really get into my thoughts on this game, I’d like to quickly mention why this review is so tardy. Usually, I like to get my reviews out as soon as the embargo lifts, usually just before or on the day of a game’s release. For some reason, me and most other critics didn’t get our copies until about 12 hours before it would arrive.

That’s why this review is a bit late. It was out of my hands, but I do apologize. What’s strange about all this is Dying Light is a damn fun game. It’s also easily the best game to come out of Techland.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on with it!

You’re likely to see a number of Dead Island references scattered about this review, starting with something I believe to be true: if you enjoyed Dead Island, you’re going to love Dying Light.

This game has the best parts of Techland’s other zombie franchise — hordes of zombies, an assortment of monsters, tons of loot, a gorgeous tropical environment, satisfying melee combat, as well as the aforementioned weapon crafting, character progression system and co-op — and significantly less of its weaknesses.

Dying Light has an impressive level of polish. It still has a bit of that Techland jank, but no more than most other open-world games of similar size and scope. They made the combat more satisfying, enemies react a lot more realistically while you’re bludgeoning them to death,

Even the grapples — where a zombie latches onto your character in an effort to tear their face off with their busted ass teeth — feel like a creature is trying to eat you, as opposed to in Dead Island, where it felt like your character was a magnet that attracted any nearby Zeds.

My only complaint about the combat, and more specifically, the weapons, is that they still rank pretty low on my personal list of tools I like using to mow down unsuspecting ghouls. The guns just feel awkward. I have a feeling this may have been purposeful, so as to encourage players to mostly use the vastly more satisfying melee weapons, but I can’t be sure.

DLR_1A

Freerunning plays a pivotal role in Dying Light, and it is, for the most part, fantastic. The world is your playground, albeit an immensely dangerous one. There are no cars, but you won’t miss them, with all these soft zombie heads to vault over, walls to conquer, roofs to leap across, etc.

There’s a small amount of clumsiness to the controls that makes grabbing ledges while hanging precariously at heights that would most definitely turn you into a crimson splat on the pavement/rocks/spike walls/etc. below, but my few issues with it never graduated from an uncommon annoyance to a controller-breaking frustration.

The fun really begins when you procure a grappling hook. Once you have one of those in your possession, getting from point A to point B is exponentially more enjoyable.

During the day, you’ll spend your time brutalizing zombies, honing your parkour skills, scavenging for loot, tackling side quests — there are a lot of them, and while there are more than a few that weren’t all that exciting, the selection of filler in Dying Light is a lot less generic (find this, kill that, etc.) than what Dead Island had to offer.

While the sun is up, you’re the God-King of Harran. When the sun sets, you’re a piece of meat surrounded by creatures that’d like to make a belt out of your spine.

When it’s dark out, you have two options. The first is to book it to a nearby safe house. There are number of fortified areas that have been scattered about Harran, you only need to clear them out and make sure they’re well-lit before they can become safe havens. The second is to find and embrace your inner warrior, ignore that primal fear of darkness, as well as the agile, parkour-capable baddies that call it home.

The enemies of Dying Light consist of the very-familiar flesh-hungry Infected, their crazier cousins called Biters, the agile Volatiles who prefer the dark, poison-spewing Toads, and kamikaze-happy Bombers, among several others. It’s an impressive collection of baddies, even if most of them will be familiar to fans of the kinds of games.

DLR_2A

In order for you to survive against all these things who want nothing more than to see you dead, you’ll need to get familiar with the massive arsenal of weapons that can be found all over the place, or purchased from one of the myriad vendors that roam the city. Once you’ve found something you like, it can be made even more deadly by mods that improve the weapon’s base stats.

They can be improved even further by using blueprints. Many have been hidden around all over the world, some can be purchased by merchants at certain times, and others are offered as rewards for completing side quests. They act much as the mods did in Dead Island, adding elemental effects like electricity, fire, poison and impact — for more forceful hits.

Character progression is handled very well in Dying Light, where a majority of the skills that can be unlocked are actually useful. The only ones I shied away from during my playthrough revolved around two-handed weapons, and I only did that because I’ve never been fond of the two-fistin’ approach to zombie smackdownery.

The categories are divided into three categories: Survival, Agility and Power. Each has its own XP meter that can only filled when you do certain things. Running, jumping, sliding and various other cardio stuff improves your Agility, killing stuff improves Power, and everything else, such as completing quests, improves Survival.

You start off with an ability called Night Sense, which sends out a pulse that highlights items in the environment. It can also be used at night to locate nearby Hunters. These guys are especially tough, so you’ll want to keep some distance between you and them until you’ve accrued some decent gear.

The skills that need to be unlocked make your character more capable in combat and in freerunning, as they unlock curb stomps, increased health regeneration, more health/stamina, dropkicks, stun kicks, and a couple dozen others.

The improvements aren’t restricted to a specific type of weapon like they were in Dead Island, and that’s a change I appreciate a lot, as I’m sure many of you will, too.

DLR_4A

My biggest problem with the game also happened to be a complaint that bothered me about Dead Island. This studio seems incapable of creating interesting NPCs. They’re a step above cardboard cutouts, but they’re still firmly in mannequin territory. The writing, too, leaves a lot to be desired. It’s not a very interesting story, and I could count the number of characters who weren’t entirely forgettable on one hand.

Whenever I found myself getting annoyed by the underdeveloped characters and uninspired dialogue, I’d turn my attention to the zombie hordes, who are always in desperate need of a little maiming. Cutting off limps sends sprays of crimson all over the place, and the gushing continues long after the corpse has hit the ground. You can literally paint Harran red, and doing so has proven to be an effective distraction when I need it.

Dying Light has some fantastic music. Some of it has an almost 80s era techno vibe to it that I couldn’t get enough of. Composer Pawel Blaszczak did an incredible job in making this game stand out from the plethora of other zombie games out there that tend to rely on spooky, ambient tracks. I’ll definitely need to get my hands on its OST.

This game isn’t just aurally pleasing, it’s also easy on the eyes. Techland has done an amazing job in making Harran feel real. The studio’s admirable attention to detail makes the city look lived in, a place I’d like to explore. It’s a gorgeous game with some incredibly nifty lighting effects that can only be truly appreciated if you’re willing to go out at night.

Should you find yourself needing a quick reprieve from the addictive 5-player co-op, I suggest you try the “Be the Zombie” mode that Techland recently made free for everyone. This is an asymmetrical mode — think Evolve, Damned, Last Year, etc. — that pits a team of survivors against a ridiculously overpowered player-controlled Hunter.

I haven’t spent a lot of time with it yet, but what I have tried has been incredibly fun.

When you’re first dropped into the quarantined city of Harran, you’re fully capable of defending yourself, albeit without the style, grace and confidence of a veteran of your future self, who will be able to vanquish anything and everything that’s dumb enough to stand in your way. Just remember to look good when you do it, because that’s what’s really important.

DLR_GIF

The Final Word: Dying Light isn’t flawless, but it is gorgeous, alarmingly addictive, sporadically terrifying and one of the few games that keeps getting better the longer you play it.

Note: I’ve only played this game on the Xbox One, and both it and PS4 don’t seem to be having many technical issues. The PC version is another story, so I recommend holding off on grabbing it for that platform until after Techland has had some time to address and patch those issues.

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YTSub

43 Comments
  • Steven Liczbinski

    Fantastic review and I agree 100%, havent played anything else since this came out.

    Hard to find games these days you dont want to put down.

    • Glad you enjoyed it! The review, I mean. And the game, too. πŸ™‚

    • bababooey

      STOP LOOKING AT ME SWAN!STOP LOOKING AT ME SWAN!

  • Brodequin

    Yep, that’s true. PC version is almost unplayable at the moment.

    • It’s a shame Techland seems intent on ruining this game’s launch (late review copies, DMCA BS), because it really is a great game.

      Or, it is if you’re not stuck with the PC version.

      • Brodequin

        PC only, boss πŸ™‚

        • I had a feeling you were a proud member of the PC Master Race.

          • Brodequin

            Nah, i have chosen to stick with PC only after many, many years of gaming on many different platforms. No Master Race, i swear πŸ™‚

        • bababooey

          STOP LOOKING AT ME SWAN!

          • Brodequin

            Was, ke, szto, what???

      • OSM

        Guys, keep in mind that the publisher is greatly responsible for the launch. I don’t think scheduling sending out the review copies is in the developer’s hands.

        • Brodequin

          But devs are responsible for game performance improvements. Instead of it with latest patch they locked out files and they’re using DMCA…

      • CTHL

        I’ve had no personal technical issues on PC. A dated PC at that. I heard it was only AMD cards having significant problems. Otherwise, just gotta turn down the draw distance… an option that doesn’t matter much but provides a massive performance hit. Consoles are even set below 0, so… there’s how much it matters.

  • Taboo

    I really want to like this game, but the “running fast as fuck and jumping everywhere” doesn’t seem too appealing to me.

    • JPG127

      It was awesome. It is everything Dead Island was supposed to be. Very fluid, non buggy. I agree with you on the running, but it was very smooth and you didn’t stop after three seconds of running. Weapons were more plentiful and you didn’t need to worry about ammo as much. The game emphasized speed and climbing. But it did have action and you can upgrade yourself with combat perks. If you don’t want to buy it now, fine. But I would check it out later on when it is a budget or used title.

      • Brodequin

        Non buggy??? Interesting…

        • JPG127

          Sorry. I have the PS4 version. I should have specified.

  • Cheshire TrollCat

    Really good game!

  • Guest

    ​Hi guys, if you want there is a limited offer for Dying Light on g2a, http://www.g2ausa.tk hope help πŸ˜‰

  • ThunderDragoon

    An 8? Woohoo! I’ll definitely be checking this out.

  • Trojann Go Perez

    If only the story was a little bit good..
    Too many plot holes…

  • Chandler Of-Adelaide

    Did they fix the corrupted save bug for consoles yet?

  • marklola12 .

    tbh the game is just OK its nothing fantastic, better than dead island but the story single player is boring as once you have done the main missions its just a case of either wondering around just killing which is dull as hell or multiplayer which I don’t do at all.
    its one of those games for me where I complete it once and don’t touch it again, so im glad I didn’t pay for it, borrowed my friends copy for 2 days and that’s that

    • JerichoR

      What an absolute crock of shit coming out of your tiny little brain.

  • Victor

    Can’t wait to play this!!! Grabbing my copy this saturday!!!

  • Well since the story sucks, I’ll pass. What a shame. πŸ™

    • I might have a solution! The gameplay is great, so I suggest you try playing it on mute and skipping the dialogue/cut-scenes. Then you can have some friends over to act out your own story in real-time, or maybe you can listen to a podcast. I recommend Serial.

      • Lol that’s an idea. But seriously it irritates me when they neglect the story aspect of a video game. It takes away from the overall experience. I’ll surely check this game out eventually but for now I’m holding out for something better.

        • Agreed. There are plenty horror games coming this year (including a handful later this month: http://bloody-disgusting.com/news/3330249/horror-game-releases-february/), so you won’t have to wait long to get your spooky fix.

          • By the way this really isn’t horror, maybe a little creepy, but have you been following “Life Is Strange”? It’s an adventure game where you can rewind time to alter events that change the story.

          • JerichoR

            How the hell is this game not horror? Or are you just trolling people? Its a zombie survival game, its the very definition of a horror game.

          • To clarify, my “isn’t horror” comment was about “Life Is Strange” and not Dying Light. As far as Dying Light goes, I will check it out just the game doesn’t feel like a day one purchase to me.

          • JerichoR

            My apologies

          • No worries.

        • JerichoR

          You wont really get many games better than this so I wouldnt bother waiting around for something better to come along. And the story is nowhere near as bad as people are making it out to be.

  • Chip Draper

    I’m Digging it, The Story is definitely pretty weak. And I hate the silly Idiotic missions was really hoping they’d shed that aspect a little more.I do dig how the “Uber Zombies” can Trap you, I got trapped and had to spend the night in a room that wasn’t a safe room with them crawling all over it, it was Really scary or perhaps i’m just a pussy, in any event all i could do was wait or go out and die. I’ve always felt that aspect has been lacking in these types of games. I’m about 25% and so far I’d probably give it an 8 too

    • JerichoR

      Nah the story isnt weak at all. Its no worse than most games or films people are just jumping on the bandwagon with the story.

  • I am buying this!

  • Dismemberment

    as much as this game looks beautiful, the game mechanics seem sound, and the parkour skills are very intriguing, i will not accept that ANY zombie has the same physical expertise, dexterity capabilities of even the most beginner of parkour runners. it just doesn’t make sense to me, THEY’RE ZOMBIES! i’ve always been the slow zombie type of aficionado because at least there’s a possibility of surviving that kind of apocalypse and there’s a certain creepy crawling feeling i get that they just don’t stop hunting you until they find another victim, they find you, or you finally kill them. just like jason’s implacable hunt (minus the teleport-like ability). i can even accept the fast moving variety as long as they remain dumb as dirt. but highly skilled zombies that can keep up with the most skilled of parkours just leaves me with a truly bad taste in my mouth. THEY’RE ZOMBIES! not thinking, reasoning, skilled, and proficient undead. there are other types of undead out there that can exploit those kinds of abilities, like vampires, for example. either way, the game looks fantastic and if they dumb down the zombies, erase their parkour abilities (except maybe for some special, rare ones), i probably won’t be buying this title. i mean, if i ever buy it, i would only play it in godmode just for the sheer pleasure of slaughtering everything i see and painting the world red with their bloated, stinking, twitching bodies and parts.

    • The Volatiles aren’t zombies, they’re mutations, along the same lines as the special infected in Left 4 Dead, or the B.O.W.’s in Resident Evil.

      • Dismemberment

        Aside from the original definition of zombies being living beings with no minds, and the new definitions of zombies being undead beings that are re-animated from dead tissue, why call them zombies at all? if they are mutations as you say, then why not call them mutations? as an example, in 28 days later, some people call them zombies while i won’t because they can die from body shots, or from a relatively short period of time, short of rotting to pieces. they are hyper-adrenalized, angry people because of a “mutation”/infection from a disease that brings out the emotion of anger to unprecedented levels. most contemporaries will say that a zombie is a “dead” being, or an “undead” being that can only be killed by destroying the brain in some form or another. in other folklore and such, zombies can only be destroyed by immolating their bodies completely to destroy all “undead” tissue to render them impotent. in all cases of the types of zombies i’m describing, none of them have anywhere the level of skills that are represented in this game. even in 28 days later, none of the “zombies” had the ability to do anything that resembled conscious, or reasonable thought other than sheer anger. therefore, if a highly trained parkour runner got that disease, i highly doubt that his skill would be retained when all he wants to do is grab you and tear you limb from limb. how he gets to you would not include high levels of parkour skills. again, i appreciate the beauty inherent in this game and the mechanics being displayed is truly excellent, but this game to me would be nothing more than a slaughter fest. of course, this is all just an opinion among many opinions and i certainly don’t intend any insult to those who love this game. i just prefer realism (within context of this type of genre) in my gaming. thank you for your reply.

        • Zombie has certainly become more loosely defined over the years. Now it’s basically an umbrella term for something that used to be human, but isn’t anymore.

          I think that while the term “zombie” should really only be used to describe the classic Romero ghoul, it’s become so watered down that I just had to stop caring. Referring to a non-zombie as a zombie is a pet peeve, nothing more, nothing less.

          Not sure what my point is. If you can find one in there somewhere, then good. I’d go on, but I have zombies/mutations/ugly mother f**kers to kill in Dying Light!

        • Rieveir

          If you’re talking about virals(not to be confused with volatiles) then those just became zombies and they still have a bit of humanity in them, therefore you see them chasing after you.
          PS: if you fight one, but not kill it(maybe hit them with your fists or a plank) from time to time you will hear them saying things, like don’t kill me, mercy and so on. I think it’s kinda fucked up when you hear them saying it and you kill them.

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