Dying Light did something very different, albeit not something they wanted to do but Techland, who we interviewed about Dying Light the MGLMix Podcast, were forced to release the game digitally and the retail copies had to wait until the 27th of February. With that being tomorrow (at the time of writing) we thought it best to make this our first Review Revisited of the year.
Scoring and reviewing a title is very difficult in a culture of constant patching and changes so we’ll revisit games at times in order to check the issues we mentioned in our reviews persist.
Thanks to a big update that includes a Hard Mode and a number of fixes in the game we believe the quality of the experience in Dying Light that people buying the retail copies of the game tomorrow is higher than the Digital Download original we reviewed. The Game Quality score has increased and the Overall Score is now higher as a result.
So the first major release of the year is here in Dying Light by the Polish developer Techland, creating a new zombie filled world that takes some building blocks from their previous games in Left 4 Dead and Dead Island. But this game is a new breed of zombie and a new level of game for the developers.
Dying Light boasts big sandbox areas full of the undead, lots of crafting and options when it comes to making head smashing weapons. There is a so-so story that pulls you along. The constant threat of the night falling and the Volatiles coming to hunt you in packs across the cities. Multiplayer mode lets you take control of the zombie and hunt other players leading to some fantastic matches plus single player side missions really add a level of variety to your experience.
Despite some nice graphics and some fantastic atmospheric sounds in locations, some of the usual glitches that have affected previous games by Techland do spoil the experience at times. While the Parkour element works very well at speed, trying to be accurate can lead to getting trapped or missing ledges when you’re looking right at it. Things get stuck including your character, Crane and other players should you manage to get passed the hit-and-miss matchmaking system in multiplayer.
But while the bugs will make you shake your head, the overall experience will leave you (blood)thirsty for more and more simply because it’s just so much fun to play.
Both Noaksey (N) and Myself, Respawn Rossco (R.R) have been reviewing the game between PC and PlayStation 4 with Noaksey focusing more on working with or killing other players online while I smash AI zombie brains in the campaign mode.
Look and Feel
R.R – There are so many things going for this game in its visuals, sound and general design that really make an impression on you right away. The detail in the city of Harran is impressive with buildings crumbling, walls painted with blood and bits of flesh, flies buzzing around dead bodies while the remnants of what places used to look like are damaged and rotting. This doesn’t stop there, characters are well created with some well designed faces on the main characters and even side quest characters too, while some of them do look quite similar.
N -When I started the campaign, which was required to get to actually play in co-op mode after completing a few missions, the first thing I noticed was just how alone you were. When you’re running around exploring you quickly realise that the city is massive and the zombies numerous. My first few fears were then realised when I had to scale a crane and actually felt a bit of vertigo when I looked down, such is the scale of the map. It certainly is impressive.
R.R – Zombies are of course where the big effort has gone and to see the unmistakable look of a Volatile – a zombie that only comes out at night – chasing you though the dark streets not only looks one nasty beast (they look a lot like a zombie and a vampire got a bit freaky one drunken Friday night to me!). Other zombies are also well designed with good enough variety so you don’t feel like your constantly killing the same thing over and over.
Where the game let’s itself down is in it’s technical glitches, there are a number of times you are running at full speed and grab nothing or miss something you are reaching for. You end up stuck between objects for no reason or a zombie gets trapped in a wall/between floors in a building. Considering they have worked so hard to create an immersive world that really sucks you in with the visuals and the amazing sound effects that create atmosphere and tension you really feel, its a shame all that hard work is broken up by some fixable issues.
Of course, a lot of these things are patchable so it’s likely this element will improve.
Story & Characters (R.R)
I focused my efforts on the single player mode and first impressions wise it was great, the start of the game gets u right into the mix with a twist that bites are common and are treated with a drug called Antisin which stops you from turning. The main issue is a gang, led by Rais a psychopathic leader and criminal, is hording all the air drops of the drug. From here things take a turn to the predictable all too often, missions see you being on an errand but in order to complete that primary errand you have to so two or three secondary errands to get what you need. Lather… rinse… repeat.
When you consider that voice acting has a huge range from being good in the main characters, Crane, Jade and Rais are particularly well done, while others are just a bit too stereotypical or plain bad. Facial animations are generally good although lip sync issues don’t help.
The story mode in effect does it’s job, Techland have always said that the game is designed to be out in the open world and exploring the zombie infested cities so the nature of the quests does do this I just feel they could have been more imaginative in the main mission structure. On the other hand, side missions are excellent and really do have you interested in doing more things for the people you meet. A clearly insane Gas Mask-Man and a guy called Jeff making a fort out of gas pipes were highlights as I enjoyed getting involved with the distractions to be found in Dying Light.
Co-Op & Multiplayer (N)
Dying light actually does cater very well for those of you out there looking for a bit of online play, the game has two options:
Campaign Multiplayer – While you explore the games open city, you may want to get together with friends and jump into a game together. This is very simple, allowing the player to use the pause menu to access the lobby. Here you set up your online preferences, invite friends or quickly join another online game, its smooth and easily accessed. Once online, playing with others the game gets even more fun exploring the city together plus you can set challenges between yourself and your fellow zombie fighters on which the winner gets a boost in one of two Skill Trees. My favourite challenges I have tried out have been “Kill the most Zombies” and “Get to the drop first”. Another cool thing about online play is that you do not have to stick together and if you come across a point where you need others to join you to continue the other players get a pop up on which they can fast travel to you to allow for the game to move forward.
Be the Zombie – This option proved to me to bit of a let down in that it didn’t actually allow you to connect most of the time. Out of 30 attempts I played as the hunter only once for a full challenge, and this once I was fighting against a duo of very over powered players which I didn’t have a chance against. The matchmaking is something Techland really should work on as a priority, at them moment it’s too reliant people choosing to be “friendly” and allow someone to invade my game, so they could level up (I did so as you gain xp even if you lose). There is good experience to be had here but it’s very hit and miss right now.
This is why you play Dying Light! You get this game to smash in zombie brains, sprint around the city during the day and creep around more stealthily at night. You make weapons that are simple everyday tools more and more lethal by modifying them with savaged parts found as you explore. Crafting is simple and can even be done mid battle (always makes me smile for some reason) so long as you have the blueprints that teach you how to create the modification and what parts you need.
It’s not all easy going though, these items soon get damaged smashing bones and bodies around so you have to ensure you keep spare weapons that are effective in battle. You also need to think about what you use on which type on enemy as there are different types of zombie to contend with along with more intuitive human gang members to take on.
While shooting is part of the game in some aspects the majority of your time is spent using hand hack and slash weapons that make brutal sounds and get a huge thumbs up from me.
Parkour is the other main gameplay feature that stands out and it has one of the strangest learning curves I’ve ever had in a game. One moment I was struggling to get to a ledge and not really getting it at all then a moment later I was running around the city like The Predator. Put simply, this is really really good at getting around fast and there is hardly any issues with frame-rate during speed running during my time with the game. It does have some issues when the pace is slower however as trying to be accurate often sees you fall for bizarre reasons but this is more due to some technical issues mentioned earlier than the Parkour controls themselves.
In my notes I first wrote down that there was no difficulty setting for Dying Light which I found a little surprising and something to think about if there was a problem and in the first few hours I was thinking the game is a little too easy since your standard zombie is more of an obstacle than anything else. But once night time play becomes an option you soon see what Techland thought about here, it leaves the choice to you… if you want to have a easier experience then play the game during the day; for more of a challenge do more at night where the Hunters are out, and these things want to chew your face more than a 45 year old “cougar” after a few cocktails! And just like the Cougar, they are best avoided using the mini-map to help you.
Technical glitches aside, the gameplay is really fun and just has you coming back for more or finding yourself shocked that it somehow got passed 3AM on a work/school-night. Techland have certainly done what they set out to create in this respect.
With the main story, side missions, co-op and multiplayer Dying Light really has some serious options on how much time you can spend with the game and with the gameplay and world being so fun to play around in there is a lot that will keep you coming back for more here.
While the game lets itself down with an average story, representative missions and some hit and miss characters, Techland have really pushed themselves to create a game that rivals many other open world experiences and will no doubt have many games spending hours and hours sprinting around the world they have created.
If your looking for a story driven, The Last of Us style post apocalyptic experience then this game is not going to work for you, nor is it designed to. This game is focused on fun, engrossing and addictive gameplay that has you itching to play more despite the technical flaws that will make you shake your head in frustration at times… but then something awesome will happen and you’ll immediately forgive it.
Dying Light Review Format: PS4 & PC