When there’s no more room in hell…
We were all prepared to write something clever and scathing about Dying Light after developer Techland announced that it wasn’t a new Dead Island game, it was something better. Watching it from the queue at Eurogamer Expo 2013, it looked an awful lot like the developer’s previous zombie-bashing series. You’re in first person, you have an array of melee weapons found around the environment, and there’s lots of zombies who stumble towards you begging to have their heads caved in. Where Dead Island was clumsy was with the movement and quests, the Island was less open world than you would think to look at it, with narrow corridors all over the place, particularly in the final act of the game. That being said, Dead Island did have a spectacular atmosphere at the start, with the sun and blood drenched beaches in the opening third providing a unique and original setting for what ended up being an enjoyable but flawed co-op game.
A few minutes with Dying Light has completely proven Techland are telling the truth, they’ve learnt a lot since Dead Island.
First of all the movement is much more fluid. While not quite up to level introduced in Mirror’s Edge, it’s definitely in the same ballpark, with sprint and liberal use of ‘RB’ and ‘B’ allowing you to mantle over nearly every surface and slide under low benches and through small holes. In our six minute gameplay demo there were a surprising number of zombies at any one time, killing some just tended to attract more, so often running was the best option. Rather than needing to find a choke point or glitchy door where the zombies would lose sight or despawn, in Dying Light you can just climb up onto a nearby rooftop and then continue your journey across the high ground. While that might seem like a tempting way to play the whole game, of course Techland have considered this and have liberally dropped goodies and weapons across the lower ground forcing you into a risk/reward decision about whether or not it’s worth getting involved in a fight for the sake of a new weapon or some health. There’s also side quests and little events like a man being attacked in his barricaded home, where saving him can net you a few hundred dollars.
The spirit of Dead Island is still very much alive (or undead) within the melee combat, but there seems to have been a tightening of the physics and hitboxes. Hit an enemy in just the right way and their head will go flying off, even weaker hits tend to send them sprawling onto the ground or into other zeds. Within our time in the demo we managed to slice many with a machete and then switch to a sledgehammer which let us use a neat spinning attack, sending corpses flying all over the place in the unfortunately enclosed room we decided to try it with. There were also some neat throwing knives that were let fly instantly with a tap of LB, and some firecrackers that could be used to distract a horde long enough for you to climb to safety.
The point of the demo as far as we could tell was to reach an overpass, at least getting there took us pretty much the whole time allowed. At the very top after climbing our way through a factory, we came across two humans. Without thinking we used some firecrackers, but this just seemed to annoy them, proving smarter than their undead counterparts. Unfortunately they weren’t smart enough not to take a few knife-slashes to the neck and they dropped fairly quickly, just as our demo ended.
Graphically, Dying Light is about on a par with Dead Island: Riptide, but with some nicer lighting and a much more expansive world. There’s bits of destructible scenery and the parkour really opens up the run down town the demo takes place in much more than the islands of Dead Island games ever were. Trailers have shown night-time to be a more atmospheric and terrifying ordeal but sadly we haven’t had a chance to experience that for ourselves. While we were fans of the Dead Island series, we’re much more excited about Dying Light than we were before playing it, don’t let the familiar looks fool you, this is something new.
Dying Light is going to be releasing on current and next-gen consoles as well as PC sometime next year. We’ll bring you more news as we get it!