Zombies, zombies, zombies. The world has gone mad over zombies and now it can be hard to discern the good from the terrible. Possibly the best zombie game I’ve ever played was Undead Nightmare, which was an expansion for Red Dead Redemption, which in itself says a lot about the status of zombie games. But then news of Techland’s Dying Light hit the web a few years back and I got excited about zombie games again. The promise turned to uncertainty when I played a early build back in 2013. It felt clunky and predictably boring. Roll on 2014 and the game got pushed back to a 2015 release and things were looking pretty dammed shabby for the game.
But then early this year I started to get excited about Dying Light again. Why? Because I’m a sucker for anything zombie related, and have a pool of eternal hope that I dive into regularly. It seems like I was right to be excited, because right from the get go, Dying Light is amazing. Sure, it had a few blips along the way, like the dreaded feeling that it was going to be another Dead Rising 2, and that it was going to eventually submit to the same mission driven game play that every other zombie game reduces down to. But those blips were really just my anxiety getting the better of me.
Sure, Dying Light is mission focused, but it’s so much more. The parkour elements are one of the games biggest assets, along with the RPG style skill trees. The more you run, jump and climb, the better to get at it, the more you kill zombies likewise. And there is plenty to do outside of the missions, like clearing out safe houses (that will become essential to your survival later in the game) to helping out random encounters and looting the hell out of this city gone to ruin.
The storyline is predictable but still has me hooked enough that I don’t skip on any of the cut scenes. I’m genuinely interested in the plight of the survivors I’m trying to help, whilst at the same time angry at my puppet masters who want me to do dastardly things.
But storyline only takes you so far, and with a zombie game, it’s about the zombies and the environment. Being able to parkour your way across town is awesome. But your skills don’t necessarily mean you can just jump out of harms way. I’ve had many a panicky moment when I misjudge my attempt to climb a wall only to fall down repeatedly as zombies close in on me. Nothing like messing up what you know you can do, to get the adrenaline and fear going. And that’s another thing about Dying Light. It’s the first zombie game in ages, possibly ever, where I have found myself being genuinely afraid of zombies.
Especially at night time.
Dying Light has a dynamic day night cycle, and if you think the daytime zombies are bad, wait until your first night time mission, where you get introduced to the volatile zombies. These fuckers can run and are tough as nails. The first time you meet them, none of the safe houses are available to you, and you have to make it back across the city to home base. The first thing you try and do, after realising you can’t just stand and fight them, is run like hell. It’s here that you soon remember that you only have a limited amount of stamina and you have to rest. Volatile zombies hunt you down and don’t give up. You have to get out of line of sight before having a rest. Best you know the city like the back of your hand, as you’ll be running and jumping for your life.
But don’t think that by avoiding the night life you can have it easy. Nope, as you progress through the storyline, the zombies evolve. First come the fast ones – these feel like fresh zombies and still have a bit of Jekyll and Hyde in them, trying to remain human by fighting the urge to feast on you, but loosing to the inner demons. These guys run, climb, chase you. Then there are the tough bastards with human sized hammers, the exploding ones and the ones that spit green poison at you. And that’s just in the early stages of the story.
Crafting is essential for survival, as guns are scarce and bullets even more so, it comes down to melee weapons, and these weapons degrade over time and then break. But they can also be upgraded and made into more powerful weapons. This is where you have to pay attention, because a baseball bat required you to pummel a zombie to death, exhausting time and stamina. Upgrade your weapon of choice so it makes faster work of zombies. And use your brain. Why fight when you can distract, or use the environment to kill them. But beware, make noise and zombies will investigate.
Dying Light is a brutal, bloody and visually satisfying game. It’s made me fall in love with zombies all over again, but in a way that make me fear for my life.
And then there is the co-op mode. Now this will depend on who you play with and their skill level obviously, so the game may not be much of a difference playing co-op as it is single player. For me however, I got to co-op with Geeksphere‘s Skip Parker, who tends to spend more time playing with tech, than playing games. The co-op worked well, flawlessly giving us an experience that helped both our mission progress, despite being at different stages in the game, enabling us to gain our own level ups and loot as well as being able to challenge each other to things like who killed the most zombies.
But rather than the brown pants affair that I was having with the single player game, playing with Skip added a whole new level of fun to the game. miss-communication would see me leaving Skip cornered by an angry mob of zombies whilst I took a shortcut not realising he was not beside me until I was too far away to help out! The more we played the better our team work became, but it still added a layer of fun that took away from the darker scary themes that the single player missions evoked.
Reviewed on: XBox One
Rating: R18 Graphic violence and offensive language.
Reviewed by: Jonathan