Techland have put together a game that boasts over 50 awards and nominations, but is it any good?
Having welcomed our second child into the world its safe to say my time spent outside of work and kids has a certain amount of value. Its priceless. So you can be sure that i have invested time into this game to bring you my review.
First, let’s get it out there, dead island was a mixed bag. Visually impressive whilst bringing a new twist to the open world games getting a lot of attention on the last gen consoles…. ZOMBIES! Ok the story sucked, the cut scenes were terrible and it glitches you through the floor. However some of my favourite gaming moments came with that dross. The first time i kicked a zombie in the back was so satisfying i haven’t stopped laughing about it since. Why am i still talking about dead island? It’s the foundation of Dying Light, the template from which Techland have drawn up their latest offering.
To make a sweeping statement in paragraph four might be seen as cavalier but here goes – If you played dead island, you can give Dying Light a miss. Add a different location and free running to your memory and save yourself £50. If you haven’t then give it a go. Dying Light brings an interesting mix of heart pounding thriller action with slower paced tactical combat. I’ll talk about the good stuff first.
The single player campaign of Dying Light offers two worlds – Day, you can see whats coming, the city of Harran lays ahead of you and looks fantastic, the infected amble casually about the streets and rooftops allowing you to plan your path to the next waypoint. Free running across rooftops is relatively simple with a point and press approach and carving a path through the city whilst taxing is fairly easy not to get overwhelmed by zombies.
Night is altogether a different experience. You become the hunted, venturing out at night will reward you handsomely with the upgrade system offering you double XP. This is almost worth the frantic and frenzied pulse raising chases you must survive to prevent a violent and grizzly death at the hands of a night hunter. A super strong, fast and all round nasty b*stard. They seek you out, are attracted by noise and light, whats worse? There are loads of them. Whats even worse than that? Some missions MUST be played at night so there’s no getting round them!
In terms of an immersive gaming experience, Night gameplay stole the show. At one point i had to take my headset off and go to bed thinking “I’ll play the next bit when its light outside” – that to me is the sign of a good game. Couple it with having to do some thinking for yourself, the game doesn’t point you directly to the object you are looking for or highlight the right path to take – you are allowed (thank you!!) to use your own intelligence and feel a sense of satisfaction for getting to the next waypoint unscathed. Whilst the game offers a few difficulty levels and even a post launch patch to give an extra hard mode, i played through on Normal difficulty. Happily i died, quite a few times, which i like because it allows you to get better at the game, you have to think like a survivor and not go wading into a room full of infected with just a nail in a board.
The combat in Dying Light has split my opinion – on one hand I thoroughly enjoyed lopping off limbs and getting the old faithful kicks and stomps to the moany masses. The slo-mo fractures and critical blows created mini breaks in quite hectic situations. On balance the weapons could have been done a lot better. Yes you get to create all sorts of weird and wonderful mods – from electrically charged machetes to exploding throwing stars and all sorts in between – but they didn’t feel present in the game. Swiping and slicing at your foe broke the illusion for me as the visual and visceral feedback couldn’t convince me i was actually hitting anything. Don’t get me started on the guns….. aiming was a disaster offering minimal difference between hip fire and ADS.
As in most post apocalyptic Zombie infested worlds it is often the human survivors who are the most dangerous inhabitants. This is where the story of Dying Light takes place, unfortunately it isn’t told particularly well – leaving me wondering why i was helping the people on either side and from the word go admiring the many different twins i came across, often in the same corridor -“Didn’t i just see you back there? … oh, no you are supposed to be a different character…. oh….. oh dear Techland”
I was pleasantly surprised when i found myself caring for a couple of characters but some of the twists and turns in the story i felt i should have been bought into, i really didn’t feel the connection the developers quite clearly wanted me to feel. It’s not all bad though, the story is paced well and allows the action to build and momentum to continue as the pressure of surviving, outrunning and escaping the enemy whilst getting to your objective snowballs into all out action. Your reward for completing the mission is a calm spell, whilst always keeping one eye on those pesky bitey buggers. This was put together well and often I embraced the mission success and opportunity to regroup, re supply and explore some of the surrounding area before heading onto the next objective.
While the single player story took most of my time there is the option to play this cooperatively with a quick join option when you reach safe zones, allowing you to party up with like-minded survivors – take on the next mission or go freestyle around Harran. A nice feature to the online play is the ability to invade others games – taking on the role of the night hunter you can jump into others sessions and really ruin their night! Be the Zombie mode features a standalone option where you can test your skills as one of the undead, stalking and ultimately ripping to pieces the humans who are attempting to destroy your nests. I honestly couldn’t get going with this mode, it felt like an after thought from the start and did little to make me want to play it, i gave it an hour…. It couldn’t convince me to give anymore.
So there you have it, much like the world it inhabits my review of Dying Light is rather bleak, glimpses of hope are there for those motivated enough to go after them. It’s not a bad game but it lacks deep down quality and many of its pros are merely on the surface. My advice, if you can get it for less than £30 it is worth a play through however if you absolutely have to play an open world zombie game on a current generation console you may want to wait for dead island 2 to land.