Despite being about shambling, half dead corpses, the zombie genre is alive. Over the past several years the video game market has become enamored with zombie titles – from The Walking Dead to Dead Rising. After awhile one would think “this genre will die out similar to Tony Hawk and Guitar Hero, right?” Well, then a game like Dying Light comes along and shows you just how much this undying genre can really shine.
STORY – You’re put into the shoes of a GRE agent known as Kyle Crane. Going into this game I thought “Well, I’ll just be playing as a silent protagonist who does peoples’ biddings.” Turns out, I was only half right! Crane’s personality is far more fleshed out then I expected. Yes, he still blindly follows people and gets angry a lot, but voice actor Roger Craig Smith does a damn good job putting his heart and soul into Crane. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the other characters as their voice work ranges from mediocre to cringe worthy. There are a few exceptions however, like the main villain and the love interest.
The game begins with Crane HALO jumping down to the fictional city of Harran. Harran is plagued with the zombie virus and he’s tasked with saving the day. As expected, the moment he lands things go haywire and he stumbles upon a large group of survivors. From that point forward he agrees to help them with their needs as well as help fight against an evil faction of humans lead by a drug lord named Rise. It’s a better thought out story then a lot of other zombie games; with a surprising amount of heart and depth.
GAMEPLAY – The biggest focus here is the Parkour. Parkour is a essentially running, jumping and grabbing at a specific pace along an urban environment. Examples can be seen here and here. Crane is a Parkour master so the majority of the game is spent running, jumping, grabbing and climbing onto rails buildings and everything in between. Think Mirrors Edge but with more zombies. Parkour the main means of traversing the map and a super effective way at avoiding the undead. It’s such a focus that for the first few hours of the game the only weapons Crane has access too are extremely weak ones. The game forces you to Parkour and avoid zombies. As for the weapons, there is a wide range of melee weapons. From pipes, wrenches, baseball bats and swords. Every weapon has its own unique feel and can be crafted with the likes of fire and electricity, along with a few other helpers. There are guns but not until later in the game and the noise they give off can hinder your progression.
There are three skill trees that can be leveled up. Agility, Power and Survival. Agility is leveled up by running, climbing and dodged while Power by killing enemies. Survival is leveled up by completing missions and surviving the night time. Once you reach a new level in any one of the three trees you gain a skill point that can be spent on a new perk in that skill tree. It’s very Borderlands-esque.
The other main focus of the game is the night time. Simply put, when the day turns to night things get worse. A more vile, harder-to-kill group of enemies rise from the depths of the city looking for a meal. These are known as the Volatiles. Once the sun sets and the night hits, you have the choice of finding a safe house and sleeping there until the morning or toughing it out and surviving the night. Doing so gives you double points in every skill tree, just watch out for the Volatiles as avoiding them can be a tricky. Holding down the X button (I played this on a PS4) allows Crane to scan the area for any useful items, but it can also detect Volatiles so you can plan accordingly. That, and they can be seen on the in game map with a cone of sight a la Metal Gear Solid.
Dying Light also sports co-op if you feel like gathering with some friends to kick some undead ass. It feels a bit lazy in the sense that each of the players would be playing as Kyle Crane at the same time. But, honestly it’s pretty entertaining to see your friend drop kick a zombie. Personally, I spent hours and hours doing missions with my friends. The only downside is that if you’re in their game and do a mission or two and go back to your own game, you’ll have to do the same missions again if you haven’t already.
PRESENTATION – Once you’re given free range to run around Harran and bash zombie heads in, it becomes quite clear how easy it is to be sucked into the world. The crips graphics, disturbing zombie noises and chatter amongst the NPCs, Techland does a remarkable job at making Harran feel real. Even though most of the voice acting (excluding Crane and a few others) is pretty cringeworthy, that doesn’t take away from the bright and bustling display of the city. There are two maps the game gives you access to and they both feel as if they could be actual locations.
VERDICT – Dying Light is a game that, when I purchased it, didn’t think it would be anything that stood out. I played Dead Island (Techland’s other zombie game) and thought it’d be more of the same, just something fun to past the time. A few weeks later and I’ve completed 100% of the game. It’s a fantastic zombie game with a lot of depth, surprising amount of heart, and a ton of guts. Whether you’re running along roof tops, slicing a zombie’s head off or laughing at some of the dialog, Dying Light shines bright.
SCORE – 9/10