Techland has raised the bar with their FPS zombie survival game Dying Light. Not only is it fun from start to finish but it also has a great story line, a unique Be The Zombie multiplayer invasion mode, fantastic parkour movement and a co-op mode that is a hell of a lot of fun. Did I mention it’s fun?
You are Kyle Crane, a Global Relief Effort (GRE) agent in search of highly sensitive files which were stolen from the agency by Kadir, a local political figure hired to maintain order after a zombie breakout in the fictional city of Harran. After you parachute into Harran you seek refuge in ‘The Tower,’ a safe place from the infected. It is from here that you explore the open world, meeting survivors and scavenge for resources.
The GRE frequently drop air crates filled with helpful resources for the people of Harran if you can beat Kadir’s non-infected men to the punch. You can then take it back to the tower for rewards and experience. If you don’t beat them there you will have to fight them off, which can be difficult, especially at lower levels. This continues to happen throughout the game and is a good way to level up, get to know your surroundings and get used to the controls. Somewhat counterintuitively, the R1 button is jump and you need to hold R1 in to hold onto the edge of buildings which is very unusual and took me a while to get used to it. Collecting these resources as well as doing side quests could be enough fun to ignore the story line, and I have spent many hours doing just that. There are of course bigger events that unfold as part of the story which shouldn’t be missed.
The amount of blood and gore and limbs you can chop off makes it clear how this game earned its R18+ rating. The combat is fairly ‘realistic’ in its own way and it can take quite a few swings before a zombie goes down (and before you run out of breath). After repeated use, weapons take wear and tear and eventually become ineffective and won’t do any damage until it’s repaired. Oddly, a broken weapon doesn’t actually appear any different visually it just does no damage to the zombie horde. Luckily, you can always kick a zombie and it does some damage, particularly when you kick them off a rooftop.
I like how it doesn’t take too long to grind for parts for the upgrades and most weapons you can repair at least 2-3 times before it is unusable. The weapon upgrades and modifications are good fun, and there are lots of them. Throw some conducting liquid on a zombie and attack it with an electrified modified weapon and watch him light up like a Christmas tree!
I like how even with high skill levels and superior weapons, you can still sometimes get caught out trying to kill more zombies than you should and find yourself getting eaten. This tends to keep you on your toes and maintains a sense of tension.
Speaking of toes, you do a lot of running throughout Dying Light. The game doesn’t offer fast travelling options within the map, (you can fast travel to the next map at the tower when you unlock it) but this didn’t bother me too much as the map isn’t ginormous. To get from one side of the map to the other takes about 5-10 minutes depending on how many zombies you want to stop and kill along the way.
Whatever you can reach you can climb up, jump on or hang off. You run quicker and jump higher the more you level up depending on how you play the game and what skills you wish to unlock. With the addition of the grappling hook skill, you can travel up and down buildings quicker and without jumping on other things first, this is a lot of fun and is a great tool to get away from zombies too.
Towers in Dying Light are very similar to the climbing puzzles in Far cry and at the top you can generally find things like safe houses, missions and collectables. When you have climbed to the top you can zip line down and I must say jumping off the top of a bridge and climbing up the tall buildings certainly played on my fear of heights. After jumping off I actually felt the pit of my stomach drop, the realism and effects are outstanding.
The leveling system is similar to the Elder Scrolls games in which you earn experience in a certain skill set by using those skills. The three skill trees are Agility, Power and Survivor and all accommodate to your chosen play style. If you are more of a blood thirsty killer and tend to slaughter every zombie you see, this will increase the Power rank which will in turn unlock skills that give you more killing techniques and thicker skin. If you are someone who wants to focus on parkour and can get through the story and quests without dying, this will unlock skills that allow you to run faster and jump higher. The Survivor rank is increased by completing missions and by gathering supplies for the tower and in an interesting twist some Survivor rank experience is lost upon dying, I like this aspect as it makes you not want to die due to the consequence of losing rank and ratchets up the tension when you’re being chased, particularly by the game’s faster and nastier night zombies. When you’re running for your life you are also able to look behind when you run which is freaky.
During the day, zombies are slow and predictable (unless you make a lot of noise, which brings out a pack of quick running vicious zombies). It’s when the sun disappears that the ‘real’ zombies come out, and if you don’t have a UV light, flares or your best running shoes on, then your hopes of survival become much slimmer. The weather can also affect visibility and if it’s raining at night when it’s the hardest to see and there are crazy zombies after you you’d best find yourself a safe house. Safe houses are located all over the map, all you need to do is kill a couple of zombies in a locked down house, switch the power back on and sometimes close a gate or block a doorway and the area is “safe.” I easily unlocked all of these safe areas and disappointingly they are all very similar. It would be nice if there were more difficult safe houses to unlock with a better reward for capturing it.
I really enjoyed both co-op and invasion modes. You can either help your mates progress through the game with up to 4 player co-op, or you can be the zombie and waste away their hard earned experience.
You can change your settings so that you can be invaded by a player-controlled zombie (or not if you want to just get through the game) with the aim of destroying its nests around the map, or if you are the zombie, hunting down other players and eating them.
If you join a mate with a higher or lower level than you, it will disable your progress of your game which I think is good because it means you get the chance of going through the whole game and understanding what’s going on, but all skill points and loot you get is still saved which makes it worthwhile.
One thing that I found frustrating in co-op mode is that if you want to go up an elevator, progress through the story or side quest, or even talk to particular people, the game requires everyone to be there to experience it. Although I can see why this is the case (so everyone knows what’s going on story wise), I think this should be restricted to certain story missions where it is necessary, not when I want to go up to the 18th floor in the tower doing something trivial and my mates are out killing zombies. You can fast travel to where the other player is wanting to go/progress to which makes this bearable.
Overall Dying Light is a very fun and enjoyable FPS zombie survival game with or without friends. It has new and innovative features that take this game to the next level. I can’t wait for the DLC to come. I’ve heard a rumour that there will be dune buggies! get around it!
Reviewed on PS4.