Fictional city Harran is an amazing location for a game, it has zombies –thus providing players with a wonderful number of hostiles to deal with. It is walled-off and closed, creating a perfectly large, yet controlled open world to enjoy and explore. And despite the fact that the city is under a zombie infestation, it is alive –full of bright dazzling lights and a surprising number of the not-undead. This city serves as the backdrop for Dying Light, an interesting game that combines zombie-survival with parkour-style 3D navigation and dynamic melee combat.
Dropping the Pretenses
One of our biggest issues with other horror games is that they bank on the “horror” factor too much. And this is a massive slap in the face when you reach the final act and your character is loaded up to the wazoo with enough firepower and explosive payload to level a small country. Having zombies does not instantly equate to being scary, and Dying Light knows this and embraces it. In fact, the game itself can’t wait until the player gets the hang of controls of combat and keeps pushing you towards that point right from the start. This is an action game, and the zombies are there for you to beat up.
The first cycle of night and day will be a very chilling (if not harrowing) experience for new players (especially those of you with little experience in third person exploration and combat). The whole point of the title “Dying Light” emphasizes the fact that in this world, the arrival of night will transform all the zombies into, for lack of a better word, super zombies. They get faster, stronger, and infinitely more aggressive. You will need to be slow and stealthy in order to avoid detection –failing that, running like mad to stay alive. When dawn comes, the zombies revert back to the their more manageable (yet still dangerous) shambling selves.
That situation does not stay long. As you have more zombie encounters and learn to fight better, you will eventually come to realize (and associate) that daytime is the period where you can happily explore and scavenge stuff while kicking occasional zombies out of your way. And nighttime is the period of the game where you focus on the fun of having really meaty combat.
Thank Goodness for HD
The joy of playing Dying Light is further improved by the fact that the game just looks sublimely impressive. The city is full of so much detail –it has enough character to make it a unique part of the story. There’s an area that pretty commercialized, advanced and sleek, and yet there are also areas where people live in less than ideal conditions. It is not easy to distinguish the things that had always been present in Harran and what were changed thanks to the zombies, but you know that each place you go has its own story to tell.
Having all of this presented in wonderful visuals is important –and so is watching Crane go about town in ways that you would not in real life (unless you do parkour, in which case, you would). This acrobatic athleticism even shines through in his animations during combat. Punches, kicks, and other strikes are hard and fast, but there is an unmistakable feeling of agileness in his movements instead of raw strength. And beating down a small group of zombies in the day, or turning the tables on your hunters at night, feel incredibly satisfying to both execute and watch.
The main storyline that players follow in the game is pretty predictable –there’s a zombie outbreak and you need to grab someone important. Obviously things have ties to the origin of the outbreak and you will eventually learn how it all begun as the story unfolds when you progress. You don’t need to pay much attention to it, there is not much in terms of player decisions and the plot just goes about its way without any involvement from the player other than reaching certain locations in the map. The cool part is that while the main plot is kind of plain, there are a ton of side-missions that will keep you busy and entertained (and many of these sidequests are far more interesting than the main game itself.
Coming Back for More
Unless Rockstar decides to release a zombie outbreak DLC for GTAV (which is probably a good idea and something they can totally considering what they did with RDR), Dying Light is our favorite pick for bashing on the undead while enjoying the sights of a beautiful city. We love the fact that the developers didn’t go for the atypical city-in-fire-and-ruins look and kept a lot of vistas intact. Plus, once you are done with the main story, don’t forget that the game also has some very interesting DLC as well.