Unlike a zombie bite, Dying Light gets better with time. You'll feel a little underpowered during the undead-'em-up's opening exchanges, but as you gradually cross quests off your multiplying mission log and sink your teeth into the title's story, Polish developer Techland's parkour-inspired escapade really comes into its own. This is essentially Dead Island with the budget required to do it justice – and while it's not exactly the most original outing ever made, it will get its claw into you if you allow it.
The plot is as predictable as they come, plopping you into the running shoes of the ever-dependable everyman, Kyle Crane. You've been dropped into the infected South American-inspired city of Harran by a shady organisation, and it's there that you're tasked with rendezvousing with the natives in order to recover a mysterious file currently in the possession of a tyrannous war lord. It's an ambitious premise, but one that's packed with pantomime personalities and dodgy double-crosses, and it ends up offering little more than context for the release's corpse culling sandbox.
It doesn't help that the voice acting across the board is beyond bad. The ex-Call of Juarez maker is renowned for its questionable use of accents, but its latest endeavour borders on self-parody at points. Most characters can't seem to decide which country they're supposed to be from, so what you're left with is a rabble of expatriates performed by Eastern European actors. This wouldn't be so bad if the title didn't attempt to tug at the heart strings at times, but it does, and any attempts at poignancy subsequently fall laughably flat.
Fortunately, this clearly isn't an affair that's coveting some kind of story-telling award, and it makes it easy to skip through the dismal dialogue in order to get to the title's meaty core. At its infected heart, this is an open world quest-a-thon in a similar vein to Far Cry or even Fallout, in which it's fun to simply get out in the field and be the problem solver that everyone expects of you. Within about five hours of starting the release, you'll have a mission log longer than your chew bitten arm, and all of these can be solved individually or co-operatively with a party of up to four players. Naturally, you'll all play as the same person.
Locomotion is crucial in any sandbox game, and this adventure succeeds by giving you a tremendous sense of speed. Building upon many of the abilities teased in Mirror's Edge, you'll be sprinting across favela rooftops and through winding sewers, performing all manner of slick manoeuvres. This isn't as fun as it should be at first, purely because the progression system limits your stamina to an almost obstructive degree, but as you start to level up and acquire skill points, you're afforded an impressive sense of freedom.
The thing that really makes the system shine, though, is just how tightly designed the sandbox is. Unlike in DICE's seminal release – where there was only ever one true path that you could take – Techland has managed to infuse its free-running outing with dozens of different routes, allowing you to pick and choose exactly where you want to go. The studio does break the momentum that this enables in places – pixel hunting for an entrance into a blocked out building is the ultimate mood killer – but when you get a real run going, the satisfaction is immense. As already alluded, this only gets better with time, too, as you increase your energy levels and even unlock grappling hooks.
Of course, you won't be entirely unobstructed while going about your business. Harran is infested with lifeless lurchers, and you'll need to dispatch of these should the situation arise. Much like Dead Island, you'll be spending most of your time swinging melee weapons such as cricket bats and machetes, but you will eventually happen upon woolly firearms. These aren't especially fun to fire, and it's clear that the emphasis has been put on hand-to-hand combat; fortunately, this area equips itself rather well.
As with the parkour, the game limits you a little too much at first, so you'll be spending several hours desperately clocking the undead with table legs in order to do any damage at all – but once you've crafted some serious makeshift murdering materials, you'll feel right at home. Slow-motion and x-ray effects depict the damage of particularly brutal strikes, while elemental properties can also be attached to your preferred body puncturing implements. You'll need to gather up various bits and bobs in order to construct makeshift pieces of kit, but scavenging the environment for goods is all part of the package's appeal.
Sadly, the release does lean a little too heavily on weapon degradation, which will leave you feeling cautious when it comes to actually taking your very best gear out onto the field, but later unlockable skills diminish the impact of this – another example of the experience getting better with time.
Still, whichever goods you have in your arsenal, they won't be especially effective at night, as the dynamics of the game completely change. While you'll earn double experience points for being out and about when the sun's gone down, you'll find yourself up against much stronger iterations of the undead. This can lead to chases, as you attempt to outrun your aggressors and return to the sanctuary of a nearby safe house. Unlocking these havens demands that you do the kind of busy work that's so common in open world games, but it is worthwhile, as leaving yourself stranded in the evening is undeniably the easiest way to get yourself killed.
These pitch black pursuits inject the title with some much needed tension, as the horror aspect can take a backseat through much of the game. There are some instanced encounters which ratchet up the scares, but you'll spend much of your time smiling at the silliness of the various enemy types. These all have ridiculous alter-egos – from the scaredy-cat Bolter right the way through to the explosive Bloater – and you'll learn how best to deal with them over the course of the game. Sadly, fighting human foes demands a lot less forethought, as you descend into button bashing territory.
Fortunately, whoever you're fighting, the presentation is top-notch. There are some aliasing issues here and there, but the fluttering of foliage and pronounced lighting effects give the release a really strong tropical flavour. Facial animations are poor across the board, but given the already dire voice acting, this doesn't really detract too badly. One surprise standout, however, is the soundtrack, which makes excellent use of soaring synth leads and snappy drum beats in order to create an otherworldly ambience; the music's truly one of the highlights here.
And listening to it while you're in co-op is one of the best ways to experience the game, as it's all been seamlessly implemented. You can port your character and inventory into other peoples' campaigns and help them along the way, with the release throwing in makeshift challenges that add a competitive edge to the action. You may, for example, be asked to slaughter more shufflers than your accomplices, and a dynamic leaderboard will pop up plotting your progress next to your pals. It's a simple addition, but it gives the adventure that little extra edge, and encourages banter as you go about your business.
Slightly less successful is the Be a Zombie mode, which was originally intended as a pre-order bonus, but is now free for all. This essentially creates asymmetric multiplayer matches within the open world, as hunters can invade other players' games during the night. The objective here is for the zombie to off a certain quota of humans, while those of the flesh must destroy various nests. But while the corpse is fun to fight against, the mode isn't particularly well balanced if you're playing alone, and you'll be scrambling to switch it off in the options after a couple of interruptions.
Dying Light starts out disappointing, but once you allow its brand of undead action to circulate your bloodstream, it can be difficult to put down. The storytelling is expectedly lacklustre, but with some 40 hours' worth of quests to complete, this is the type of title that's made for kicking back in co-op and culling corpses to your heart's content. The best thing about it, though, is that it gets better as the time flies by.
I may pick this up in the spring. My backlog is huge enough as it is.
I'll pick this up later, already have too many games to get through first.
Nice review sammy- when's the disc version released in the uk?
I was having a lot of fun until my save file was bugged and I lost my items, money, blueprints, and XP, only comfort is I'm not alone with this issue.
@sonicmeerkat Dang, that's why I'm constantly always saving my progress to Cloud across the Vita, PS4, & PS3
Thank goodness for GameFly. Got this release week because of them.
@XFsWorld Actually I uploaded 3 separate saves from cloud storage, it wouldn't recognize them, there's some serious issues with the save system in this game.
I mostly agree with your review sammy, only that this is clearly a Turkish inspired city and area, nothing like South america, names and accents and all. Also I don't think the voice acting is that atrocious. I hate zombie games, but happen to love this one. I didn't feel it started disappointing but rather eased me into the workings of this huge game. The progression system is really well implemented and 10 hours in (most of them coop which is fantastic) I've only seen 17 percent of the main story but am already sporting an impressive arsenal of gruesome modified melee weapons like prying irons, police batons, meat cleavers and fire axes! It's also worth mentioning that the collision detection and the damage depicted works wonderfully well, cutting off limbs and smashing skulls never were that fun... Also I don't agree to your button mashing comment, if I fight humans or zombies doesn't matter, I always use the games mechanics to the fullest, easiest way to dispatch of humans - that tend to dodge or block your attacks - is to push them away when they attack you, kick them in their knees or hamstrings which makes them fall to the ground most of the time and then just finish them off with a barrage of well aimed hits to the head - or once you've unlocked the skill - just curb stomp them. This, in my opinion is by far the most technical and tactical melee brawler I've played since condemned. Besides those little nags I agree with your review. Generally I'm very pleased with the game and would rate it even higher like 8.5! It's pure mad fun for me!
Nice Review Sammy! I recommend playing this game with a decent pair of headphones (preferably with dolby function) since the sound design of this game is really top notch - funny voice acting aside. It just sucks you right into it =) And the drop in/drop out coop is awesome^^
Def gonna pick this up at some point what I've seen looks awesome but need to clear my back log first. Far too many games!
I'll be picking it up within month or so of disc release. The only thing I'm worried about is getting bored of side quests, we'll see. I'd like to see some variation in side quests much like morality choices in some games, there should be options to do it one way or another, being forced to be the good guy and completing a bunch of good deeds isn't always all that fun.
They have seriously messed up the launch of this game. I was going to buy it, but it will now be released at a similar time to 'The Order' and closer to Dead Island 2. Since I refuse to pay £15 more for a digital copy (Come on Sony wake up), I plan on picking this up when its down to £20.
@Scollurio I dunno, it seems South American to me - although I'd agree that the city area has a European flavour to it. More likely is that it's a mash up of many different real-world locations, which probably didn't help when they were casting the voice actors.
Thanks for reading!
"One surprise standout, however, is the soundtrack, which makes excellent use of soaring synth leads and snappy drum beats in order to create an otherworldly ambience; the music's truly one of the highlights here."
Hmmm, i think i might be sold. I know the story would be a throwaway one.
@Bad-MuthaAdebisi Yeah,i'd prefer the option to play Mr bad guy in games more. Anyhow,Great game,9/10 or least it would be - if the hud wasn't so intrusive -with no options to remove hud features.hoping hud options are patched in soon as its to immersion breaking for me to enjoy playing it currently.I've been ranting all over the the interweb about this,and i've contacted techland twice with no reply yet.Frustrating.i'll let you guys know if they do reply.At least it put me off turning on my ps4 for a few days so i've missed the latest psn spam attack debacle,so far.Fun
@get2sammyb It's an actual place! https://www.google.at/maps/place/Harran%2FŞanlıurfa,+Türkeifirstname.lastname@example.org,39.0304326,7567m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x15343dad4905e597:0x6a17c99b458fad05 (without the waterfronts and the more modern architecture featured in the game). But also the names of the people, especially living in the tower made that impression clear to me. No matter what. Zombie games are the LEAST racist games out there, no matter the origin the person had before zombiefication it's just as fun killing them as it is killing the other Zombie guy.. I'm REALLY enjoying myself!
Be a zombie is showing as £7.99, might get it if I can convince a friend to get it. Looks more fun I co op
@Scollurio Well, consider me schooled, then. I still say the first map has a favela-like, Brazilian slums feel to it - but I definitely see where you're coming from.
This is Sao Paulo:
Why are reviewers complaining about weapon degradation? It's a survival game. Just scavenge the appropriate parts and repair it. I'm always stocked up on things like metal parts, gauze and batteries.
I managed to get this game for $20 due to a glitch on gamestop's web site and Sony even gave me a free code for the season pass.
With Evolve out next week i'll probably wait a month or two for the disc version, and by then hopefully the price has dropped a bit.
That is one of the best reviews I've read about the game!
@THEundying27 I think, for me personally, because this isn't survival horror. It's designed around running around, having a laugh in co-op clearly. As a result, I personally would like to take my best weapons with me, but I'm scared to do that, 'cos I don't want them to break.
@get2sammyb there are ways to preserve your weapons.
1. Stock up on metal parts/items to repair them.
2. Pick your fights wisely
3. Take advantage of throwing zombies onto spike traps and using all the other traps available.
4. Molotov cocktails are your friend!
Great review! I'm enjoying the game too much
It is one of the funniest games in recent years for me...not the most spectacular or groundbreaking, but awesome fun!
Dropkicking zombies in the face is the best
Any game where you skip story & dialogue scenes because they are so bad should never get an '8'. Ever.
Also other reviews on Metacritic are saying this game is super buggy.
@Godsire- Dragon Age Inquisition and Skyrim had way more bugs than this...I think glitches and bugs are part of the open world games. Also, I don't agree with your statement...Tetris had no story, Super Mario barely had any story, etc etc...since when are games about story? Games are supposed to be, well, games...not movies!
Also, Sammy, I think you forgot something in your review that, for me, it's great in the game! The fact that you lose survivor points when you die is awesome...it makes me tryhard everytime because I got the feeling that I really lose something! Most games don't have that and I think it's an excelent idea
@get2sammyb I am two trophies away from the plat and both seem to be glitches.
I've hardly played it yet -Due the hud being a bit a intrusive,hoping for a patch for hud options.Techland replied to an email i sent regarding hud options and they said "Thank you for your ideas, we'll pass them to our dev team. Keep in mind that those ideas might not be implemented in our game" fingers crossed,i'm sure the major functionality bugs will ironed out soonish anyway though guys.Patience.
@get2sammyb just a bump, but, any news on when the following will be released as a stand alone download? I'm hearing it could be sometime in October. This true?
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