PC, Xbox One, PS4
I have a confession to make. When I first heard that Techland was heading back to the Zombie well I groaned, rolled my eyes and assumed that it would simply be another Dead Island. I mumbled to myself about how they should have made a sequel to the excellent Call to Juarez: Gunslinger and was prepared to write the whole game off. Well I can happily stand here with my hand on my heart and say I was wrong. Dying Light is perhaps the most entertaining and compelling action Zombie game I have ever played and it wouldn’t be much of a review if I didn’t tell you why.
Set in a fictional Middle Eastern city, Dying light tells the tale of a soldier from the GDC or Global Disease Control who is sent into the city to locate some blueprints held by a traitor from your very own organisation. Once the soldier hits the ground things very quickly go pear shaped with a zombie bite and attack from a group of armed thugs. It is a fairly basic setup but I must say it had me constantly entertained. The narrative moves at a nice pace and almost without exception the NPC’s that inhabit the world of Dying Light feel like they fit which means I can quite easily gloss over any of the clichés and sub-par storey elements that occasionally rear their ugly heads. Don’t get me wrong this is no Shakespearian epic but for a story about a Zombie infestation there is a little more meat on the story’s bones than I expected.
The true star of Dying Light though is the movement system. I think this is the best implementation of Parkour in a first person perspective I have ever seen. I think it even feels better than what the mighty Mirror’s Edge offered. The simple act of traversing the devastated city is an absolute blast and I often found myself dashing over rooftops just for the fun of it. Most open world games of this nature have a quick travel system in place to avoid tedium but Dying Light doesn’t and I didn’t miss it in the slightest. That is how much I enjoyed the mere act of getting from point A to point B. The only problem I found was that it didn’t feel that natural on a keyboard, but once I switched to a control pad I was leaping, running and jumping my way around the map with ease.
I found the actual combat to be quite robust as well. Initially it felt a lot like Dead Island but as I progressed through the game it was easy to see the massive amounts of refinements and improvements in place when compared to that game. Weapons are still predominantly melee based and degrade over time forcing them to be repaired and eventually replaced. But where things begin to differ is when I combined the melee combat with the parkour system. It allowed me a massive range of movement in tense situations. Dodging an attacker, leaping on zombie from a second story window, vaulting over a mercenary’s head to attack him from behind were just some of the options at my disposal when it came to taking out enemies. All of this put together creates one of the better examples of melee combat within a FPS.
I quite enjoyed the multiplayer aspects of the game as well. The most notable being Co-op, which changes the game from a tense battle for survival into a rampaging romp with pals. It basically changed the entire game making proceedings move a lot quicker and adding a lot of unintentional humour into the mix. I found that playing this way was not better or worse than the single player mode, just different allowing me to experience the world in a new light. The second mode is much more unique and it is called “Be the Zombie”. I won’t give you too long to guess what this mode entails. The cool thing about it is thought that I didn’t play as a bog standard brain muncher. No I got to play as Super Zombie. I could leap from tall buildings onto my prey or drag them to me with my whip tongue. It was a blast to play especially with four friends as playing as the humans. I am sure there is lot of fun to be had here with the right group of buddies.
The game does have a few niggles though. I found the occasional bug here and there, mostly graphical glitching and weird zombie movement. They weren’t game breaking but it was noticeable enough to take some of the shine off my love for the game. The other thing I found was that it made my video card work overtime. The fans were spinning so hard it sounded like my pc had a jet engine installed. This is the only game to do this so far, so I can’t really tell if it is just some quirk with the PC version or if it is getting time for a Video Card upgrade. Only time will tell I guess.
But to be fair these are all minor niggles. Dying Light did something that I didn’t think was possible. It got me enjoying zombies again. The parkour movement, satisfying melee combat and entertaining, if shallow, story all had me coming back for more. Add to this some great multiplayer modes and Dying Light is a winner in my books. This is a game well worth checking out, even if you are tired of the undead. Now if you will excuse me I believe there are some zombies that need killing.