Dying Light Review
Player(s): 1 (campaign), 2-4 (online co-op)
Extra Features: Online co-op play, Multiplayer (in "Be the Zombie" mode) Leaderboards
Dying Light is a first person horror action game with RPG elements that is developed by Techland and published by Warner Bros. Interactive. Dying Light is much like the Dead Island series at its core (same developer), but the main character has access to parkour moves that allows for faster movement throughout the environments. The parkour moves really liven up the Dead Island gameplay and makes movement a lot more fluid and faster. Once again you'll be bashing and smashing through hordes of zombies like in Dead Island, but this time there is more focus on running and jumping your way along buildings to avoid them. Hordes of zombies are even more dangerous in Dying Light when compared to Dead Island so avoiding them is a big part of the early stages of gameplay.
The game opens with a GRE agent, by the name of Kyle Crane, being sent into a city (Harran) to retrieve some valuable data from one of the gang leaders in the city. Harran has had a virus outbreak that has caused several people in the city to go insane and get the sudden craving for human flesh. The few survivors in the city are quarantined from the rest of the world and live off of air drops filled with supplies and medicine that are supplied by the outside areas. As Kyle Crane, you soon join up with a gang of survivors and become one of their "runners". Runners are basically the errand boys of the group and go out in search of air drops and other supplies while avoiding the undead that walk the streets.
If you've ever played a Dead Island game then you should feel right at home with Dying Light's open world gameplay. Zombies seem really tough once the game starts because of the lack of powerful equipment, so it's a good idea to avoid the majority of them in the first few opening missions. Once Crane gets access to better weapons and blueprints, he can fight back more often. Just like in Dead Island, all weapons have stats and can be modified through the use of blueprints. You can modify weapons on the go from the menu. Each modified weapon has a certain number of slots where players can add upgrades that can increase damage, handling and/or durability. Upgrades are most often received as rewards after mission. Modified weapons can have fire, electric, poison and other attributes depending on the blueprint that help to damage enemies.
Weapons break easily without having any type of attribute upgrades on them. Once a weapon breaks, Crane can fix it with metal parts that he collects. Each weapon can only be fixed a certain number of times before it becomes totally worthless. At first the constant breaking of weapons was annoying, but thanks to weapon slot upgrades, the durability can be raised quite a bit depending on what all you equip to its slots. The weapons in Dying Light include planks, bats, swords, machetes, sickles as well as many other melee weapons and there are a few guns as well. Weapons can be bought from merchants or found in the environment. Crane can break his damaged weapons down to make metal part or sell his weapons.
Much like Mirror's Edge, Dying Light has parkour moves that allow Crane to run, jump, and climb along buildings to avoid enemies. The climbing and jumping are very smooth and you can easily gain a nice flow to both while moving along buildings. The controls are easy and very fluid for the most part while using parkour. Crane gains access to more climbing moves and overall better climbing as he levels up his agility attribute. Constant use of parkour allows Crane to level up his agility attribute. Crane has three main attributes that you'll be leveling up as you play - power, survival and agility. In order to level up each attribute, you'll need to perform moves associated with the specific attribute - for instance, pulling up a ledge will give Crane points toward his agility attribute. Each attribute has skill trees full of skills that can be purchased with an attribute point per skill. Kane can gain access to a grappling hook, use a shield to defend himself, break an enemy's neck and many other types of special skills by buying extra skills in one of the three menus.
The grappling hook really changes up your overall climbing and comes in handy toward the end of the game where ledges are trickier to climb. Using the grappling hook does not yield any points toward any of Crane's attributes, so it's not good to use it all the time and it also has a cool-down period. The grappling hook can get annoying when Crane doesn't want to catch onto the side of a grappled ledge however, which I ran into often. I died several times from Crane not wanting to grab onto a ledge after a grapple. Dying Light has many quick deaths if you're not constantly observing your environments. Zombies can kill Crane quick and enemies with guns can kill Crane incredibly fast, so you have to stay on your toes when enemies are in the area. Dead Island had the same type of quick deaths as well.
Dying Light has a really nice assortment of zombie types. The game has your standard zombie that shambles slowly but can be a total pain in groups. Zombies can carry weapons that they can toss at Crane and they seem to get even more aggressive when in close range. The game has a spitter type of zombie with an inflated stomach that spits a toxic liquid at your character. There is an exploder zombie that instantly explodes when in range of your character or when hit. Some zombies, such as Infected (raging zombies), are attracted by loud noises (shooting a gun, explosion, etc) so you have to keep your noise level in mind when attacking zombies. You can literally hear the infected enemies shouting and breaking out of building the moment your character makes a loud sound. The zombie models in the game have a lot of unique style to them. I especially like the exploder with its open stomach full of pulsating organs.
The game cycles between day and night. Once night starts to come, you'll start to get a warning over radio about getting to the nearest safe house. As more time continues to go by, your watch alarm will eventually go off and you'll get a warning saying "Night is coming" on the screen. It makes you start to wonder, just how bad is Harran at nighttime? The answer would be that you better seriously change up your gameplay style to remain silent or else you'll have to deal with a group of highly powered enemies. No longer are you the badass seeking out zombies to smash your way through like in the daytime, during night time, you have to stay quiet and sneak along building rooftop and try to stay out of range of Volatile creatures. Normal zombies are still in the areas at night, but they are fewer in number and the new Volatile enemy will be out searching the surrounding areas in packs. The volatiles have a certain range that they can see (that shows on your mini map) and once they see your character, they yell out and suddenly a whole pack of them starts to chase after your character. The very first night sequence in the game is truly a rush.
Nighttime gameplay awards players with double XP for every action performed. You have to survive the entire night and not get killed in order to keep all your XP however. Crane can go to safe houses in order to store or pick up any weapons and also sleep at a bed until night or day. Anytime that Crane dies, all of the experience that he received in the past few minutes of gameplay will be lost. The game has campaign missions that advance the story and there are also several side missions to take part in. The side missions include your basic fetch and retrieve missions, challenge missions, defend mission (defend a survivor) and there are also some survival areas where you'll need to accomplish an objective in a certain area and then get out without dying. It was noticeable very early on that Dying Light has much better reasoning and overall purpose behind its side missions. If you've played Dead Island, then you'll likely remember how its side missions felt like "go here and do this just because..." type of missions. Dying Light's side missions have you doing stuff like finding insulin for a child in an orphanage run by an old man that dons a wizard hat and pretends that he can cure the children and keep them safe, and he does all of this to keep the children from learning the horrid truth of the horrors out in the streets. There are several missions like this with their own unique stories. The game has around 50 hours of gameplay if you go through and do everything.
The overall story to the game is your standard horror story for the most part (not incredibly deep, but entertaining). Dying Light definitely has its high points throughout the game and quite a few surprises in the story. The story was just right for me since I don't expect a really deep story for a horror game. Both the PS4 and Xbox One version of the game run incredibly smooth. The surroundings and overall graphics look fantastic. The game has a nice attention to detail such as objects and particles blowing in the breeze or Crane's vision suddenly becoming slightly distorted as he tires from running. Character models for the main characters all have distinguished looks but minor characters sometimes have repeated face designs - this is very noticeable for males. Some people have the same type of face as another person that is just a few steps down the hall - the character might have a beard or a cap, but you can tell it's the same face design.
The soundtrack to Dying Light reminds me of the music that I hear in older zombie movies from the 70's and 80's at times. Some of the music pieces have a beat to them that reminds me of movies such as Dawn of the Dead. The music is very atmospheric and sound affects have nice touches - such as a muffled surrounding sound whenever Crane emerges from water. The overall character voicing is done well. Roger Craig Smith voices the main character and this is easily one of his best roles in gaming if you ask me. Toward the end of the game, Kyle Crane has some great lines where Roger C. Smith totally gets into his character and helps the player to feel his/her emotions.
Dying Light can be played single player or you can set it to where other players can join your game online and have a group of four players that are free to do the majority of the campaign and side missions. Co-op play activates after the prologue portion of the story is over with. Much like Dead Rising 2 with its duo of Chuck Greenes, Dying Light has all players playing as Kyle Crane. I can't help but feel it would have been better if Techland could have had some extra characters for co-op play. You can have your Kyle Crane in a different outfit, selectable from safe houses, but all players have to play as the same character. Friendly challenges such as kill a certain number of zombies or try to find the most items appear while playing co-op with other players and players can either accept the challenge or deny it and continue on with the campaign. The co-op is more of a drop-in and drop-out style and the overall game is more of a single player game, but it's still a nice addition to have. The co-op mode doesn't add any extra story or events - it's just like Dead Rising 2's co-op where it's multiple players playing the campaign for the most part.
If you pre-ordered the game, there is also a "Be the Zombie" mode where players' games can get invaded by another player that plays as a zombie. You can change the settings to allow your game to get invaded or turn it off during the campaign. One player plays as one of the hunter enemies during nighttime and four other players play as human players. The game switches over to a multiplayer type of game where the hunter has to keep several of its nests from getting destroyed by the human players. The hunter can move incredibly fast and has a tentacle grab that can be used to propel it forward and even an instant death grab. The mode seemed unfair when playing as the zombie however since humans can easily just trap the hunter player with a UV light and take away all of the hunter's abilities. The hunter only has a close range attack while in UV light and all players are free to gang up on him. The hunter can locate human players on the map and the human players can do the same to him. The mode really needs more limitations for human players to allow the hunter to have some actual stealth or have multiple hunter players.
If you're wondering about the differences between the Xbox One and PS4 version of Dying Light they are just about the same. Both versions move just as smoothly as the other and have the same loading times. The Xbox One has some noticeable screen tearing, but I very rarely see it. I've literally only noticed the screen tearing twice out of the 120+ hours that I spent with the X1 version. The PS4 version seems darker and the Xbox One version seems brighter. There are not enough differences here to buy one over the other for graphics however - just choose the system that you like the controller for the best.
Dying Light has some extremely fun gameplay with lots of objectives to do that will last for quite a while and the story is pretty good for a horror game. The game can be continued after the final campaign mission in order to complete all side missions and there is also a new game+ and a chapter select. Thankfully, you can start the game over on the same profile unlike so many other games that require you to have a new profile to start over. The game has a few random glitches that might happen or not happen - I once had a glitch to where Crane's left hand was turned backwards while climbing but it eventually fixed itself. If you like Dead Island or even if you don't like Dead Island, you might really enjoy this game. To me, the game improves on all of Dead Island's flaws from a single player point of view. It's easily one of the best zombie games I have played.
+ Very fun gameplay and tons of things to do
+ Fantastic soundtrack and overall sound
+ Side missions have much better story behind them when compared to Dead Island
- Grabbing onto a ledge after using the grappling hook seems to not always work and often leads to death or loss of health when Crane doesn't grab on
- Some repeated character models for minor characters
Final Rating: 90%. Dying Light is better than Dead Island in just about every way possible.