Techland’s newest innovation is Dying Light. This zombie parkour death fest has been teased ever since the very first E3 events for the PS4 and the Xbox One. It’s been one of my most anticipated games in a long time and when I finally did get my hands on it, I wasn’t disappointed.
The very first bit of gameplay I experienced was incredibly choppy, poorly optimised and actually unplayable. The frame rate couldn’t have been higher than 10 FPS on the highest parts and way below 1 on the really bad spots and it didn’t have any effect when I changed the graphics settings. This, after a friend reminded me about the new driver update, I found to be my fault. After installing, I found it to be much better indeed. The frame rate was mostly smooth with dips on occasions. This was whilst running on medium however. In terms of graphics settings Dying Light is incredibly lackluster. There are far fewer options than I’m used to as a PC gamer. Textures have only minimal settings with high, medium and low. The same goes for anti aliasing which is normally swathed with different degrees of it depending on just how beastly your hardware is but in this however you get only on or off. It’s a bit ill thought out and I think it shows that Techland were focusing a lot on the console releases of the game than making a definitive PC experience. With a lot of games this ends up to its detriment however with powerful enough hardware the limited options don’t make that much difference. The game looks pretty breathtaking on most settings.
This isn’t a game you play for the story. It’s not some shockingly bad farce that’s going to make you want to cry with horror, but it is best to not expect much. All you really need to know is that it’s a zombie apocalypse and you and a group of survivors are struggling for well… Survival. The gameplay is what you should come and stay for. At the very instant the game begins you’re about to air drop into what will become your virtual playground for the duration of the game. In the fictional city of Harran a small slice of Turkish culture has been captured and presented to you in an open world format. After the short tutorial you are free to go where you please. You can roam, searching for loot in the many chests and containers strewn across the slums. You can collect bits of material to craft into handy bits of kit ranging from firecrackers for luring zombies to UV flares for keeping them away. You can make all sorts; the game even let’s you upgrade your weapons for extra damage and extra effects. It’s a simple crafting system but it’s very effective. Whilst there are a few vendors that you can buy materials from, you’ll find most just by exploring and looting as you go.
The two biggest chunks of gameplay are the parkour and the combat. The parkour is incredible. It’s one of those things that can be a pain in the ass at the start; you don’t know how far you can get away with jumping, falling, how high you can climb or what you can even climb on. You learn very quickly if you stick at it however and you get some handy skills to aid you along the way. Also, for future reference, you can climb on basically anything that looks climbable. This makes getting around Harran a cinch. Your movements are fast and fluid. You’ve got options. There is always a way out, at least there is when you’re outside. Now and then you do find yourself in more enclosed spaces though and it can be troublesome but sometimes you have no other option than to fight your way through.
Visceral . That’s the word I’d use to describe the combat. It’s like Picasso had a red period. Blood, guts and broken bones. That’s what it’s all about. Dismemberment. It’s limb splittingly, skull crushingly violent. It’s one of the most graphic games around and it makes it feel personal. Where in other games, when you’re causing mayhem, you’re often using guns and high explosives, in Dying Light you’re (normally) using machetes, wrenches, pipes, swords, axes. It brings you just about as close to the action as it can without it being you on the receiving end. It’s sickeningly brutal and that’s magnificent. The first time you kill a zombie you’ll have weak weapons. It’ll take lots of hits. You’ll fumble about not making the hugest impact but when they fall, it feels like a triumph. By the time you’ve gotten stronger and found nastier weapons you’ll be chopping and hacking limbs off left right and centre. You’ll be clearing hordes single handedly and it will still be just as fun. Fun but still challenging.
Right until the very end, night is something to be feared. With friends you can take on its perils earlier however you won’t want to hang around alone. In the night zombies get more fierce. There are those that will hunt you relentlessly and if caught they will tear you apart with ease if you’re not careful. It makes you strike a balance between being sneaky and being loud. It wants you to be careful and considered if you want to stay alive but given the skill or enough brute force you can take on the terrors with relative ease.
With others the game flourishes. Tearing around the city with a few friends in tow is fantastic. Leaping into hordes recklessly turns from a survival faux pas into a hilariously violent bloodbath. Along with the fact that there’s safety in numbers, there is also more opportunity for there to be danger, whilst you can now be revived with a 30 second window from being downed to death, it does make you sometimes too confident. Often my group have launched ourselves into a fight only for us to fall like dominoes. The game keeps you on your toes like that. Even when you feel invincible, the smallest of slip ups can cause the tides to change. It can be tough but it’s always fair. If you’re unprepared, you’ll struggle but if you take a considered approach then you’ll find it a lot easier and just as enjoyable, if not more so.
This is a game that I’d definitely recommend. If you’re not a fan of zombie games then perhaps not. I’d say give it a definite miss if you don’t want to play co-op either but if you want something to have a laugh with your friends, look no further than Dying Light. It’s a game that has massive replayability as there’s oodles of fun to be had especially when shared. There’s no kind of mindless violence better than mindless violence with your mates.