Published on February 9th, 2015 | by Edwin Millheim
Dying Light PS4 Review
Summary: Dying Light is an enjoyable yet clichéd zombie game that successfully injects Parkour into its mechanics
Primary Format – Games – Playstation 4
Game Genre – FPS Action & Adventure
Rating – R18+
Game Developer – Techland
Game Publisher – Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Reviewer – Edwin Millheim and Andrew Bistak
The number of zombie themed games coming out in 2015 is quite staggering and I’m sure Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead) can be thanked for this new phenomena. However like most publishers that want to put a twist on things, Polish based game developers Techland are having a go at throwing some curves at players with their latest offering Dying Light that sees the incorporation of Parkour into the gaming mechanics.
However in terms of the gaming environment, it’s nearly impossible to not look at the premise of the game and not think of the Dead Island franchise… the world almost feels the same, you have your city that looks like it has seen better days, you have your zombies and at night, they become more aggressive with even deadlier ones crawling out of the shadows. Of course, the developers did create Dead Island which was another fun zombie romp in the gaming world so the parallels are acceptable!
Then you have to look for and take a serum that controls zombie symptoms for your infected character… yup we’ve never seen that before… ha! Given that, I have to admit the growing list of “seen this done in other games” before was starting to look like a laundry list of items someone decided to just throw in for good measure. But fear not fellow Impulse Gamers… Dying Light has enough going for it in gameplay mechanics to make it different enough and to set it apart to firmly stand on its own.
In Dying Light, players take on the role of Kyle Crane who is some kind of operative sent in to do a reconnaissance of the zombie epidemic in order to gain additional information about the virus. By collating this information, everyone’s hopes are now on Crane that if successful, may hold the answer to a cure. So as you’re dropped into the city that is oh so deadly that no sooner do you parachute in, your world turns to crap. In fact, one would expect that this is the end of this character within the first few minutes of the game.
Thankfully Techland have made the story and character development an interesting choice. So rather than go with the trend of giving the player a choice in what actions to take in cut scenes such as what the character will do… we are along for the ride only that actually works well with the overarching story. As a result, you are an observer of the varied human conditions playing out in front of us and a man’s mounting and often uncomfortable choices in impossible situations.
Even when you are saved by some of the survivors, our player controlled character still has the mission on his mind and decides to stay silent about who he is and his true intentions. This really gives us a window into some of the human conditioning of this character as he stays under cover and not entirely truthful with the people that pretty much saved his life. It’s an interesting dichotomy indeed!
Throughout the adventure Crane struggles with keeping on mission and his feelings of loyalty to his new friends and allies. Although the story is clichéd and the voice acting is a little forced and contrived, other characters introduced are for the most part, quite dynamic, even if it sounds as if English is perhaps a second language, the character dialogue deliveries still comes across strong. So yeah, there is a lot going on besides the main mission and why Crane is there in the first place which eventually questions his own moral choices.
Getting around is a combination of walking, free running and climbing that is very reminiscent of Mirror’s Edge Parkour mechanics which is surprisingly done well. Once you do get into the zone, it all flows very well together and does create a real sense of Parkour. There are also some cleverly placed items so you really need to master the Parkour mechanics early in the game. One of the first missions (or tutorial) in the game serves almost as a wade in the kiddie pool as a NPC teaches how to link these skills together but when you’re in the real world, it’s a totally different scenario, especially with all the killer zombies.
When you do need to use these skills in the early missions, it requires you to run around to certain locations and set traps which at first is easier said than done. However while you’re on this mission, you do learn a bit more about your climbing and Parkour skills as you jump from one utility pole to the next. I found myself on this mission and falling several times before I got the whole pole to pole jump down right and this was without too much added pressure of the zombies. There where zombies mind you, but they were very manageable and thankfully it wasn’t quite yet nightfall.
Also during this mission you are introduced to the concept of distraction. It seems zombies are easily distracted with sounds, just like The Walking Dead and the louder the noise, the better such as firecrackers. By throwing the firecrackers, it moves a bunch of zombies from something you’re trying to get to so half the work is done for you, provided you do it right.
But as you progress so do the dangers which increases the overall difficulty factor. This in itself is excellent because who wants to jump right into impossible odds before you ever get the hang of the controls? So even though most missions do stress the player’s skill as you navigate this zombie-infested world, it does serve as excellent practice to master these controls, especially when you engage in side missions that may not have rewards that are worth your while. Needless to say, there are some excellent moments in the game and players would do well to pay attention to some of the nuances and story as nearly everything serves a purpose to school the player in survival.
Thankfully to deal with enemies and surviving, there are plenty of awesome weapons to be found in the game, including upgrades. Weapons are broken down into three categories that include melee, throwing and ranged. For example, swords, baseball bats, crossbows, pistols, sniper rifles and grenades that are all needed for those pesky zombies!
However for the most part, zombies are the almost mindless shambling flesh munchers which we all are used to due to popular culture. One or a couple are no problem for the gamer as a few melee hits takes them out quite easily. Although it’s not fast, it does work and then you have to watch both your stamina and your weapons durability as they do loose effectiveness with each hit.
Furthermore, the designers smartly made sure that the zombies don’t always moan or make any kind of sound. Sometimes they are silent and in these cases if you’re not careful they are on you before you know it. Then we have the recently infected who are fast and vicious and can not only run by even climb walls to your detriment. Think of how manic the infected where in the film 28 Days Later and you get the idea.
But like the genre, most of these horrific enemies come out at night which had me feeling dread as night started to come during the missions. As I watched as the darkness gathered and the sun started to go down, as beautiful it was, I became overwhelmed with a sense of dread which made it a heck of a gaming experience. That’s because these creatures of the night, once they see you become alerted to you and you soon find yourself running and trying to break line of site in order to hide and lose them. You really do feel a predator and prey kind of vibe in all this which is a top notch experience.
But like The Walking Dead, you also have some fellow humans to contend with as well but thankfully are your typical run of the mill enemies. They can have different kinds of weapons, including melee weapons and blades just like the player but they don’t always seem too bright but depending on the situation, can really give you a challenge just to keep yourself alive during these encounters.
So yeah, there is plenty of combat to be had in the game, though sadly it does not feel too much different than the combat in Dead Islands. Of course there is fight or flight and you can make a choice of either run away or flee but for the majority, melee combat is how most battles will be played out because guns are quite scarce in Dying Light.
However what you will find though is unless you want to attract every zombie and infected your way, guns may well be a last resort because it just brings trouble. Given that, there are other ranged type weapons that are plenty of fun to use like crossbows or even customising the traditional Shuriken. But for guns, the ammo is quite scarce but still provide some enjoyment when the odds are against you but as mentioned, bashing, stabbing or hacking is how you get the job done. I also like how some melee weapons are faster than others which definitely adds to the realism factor.
Although the single-player game is your stock standard zombie experience with Parkour thrown into the mix, the multiplayer component of Dying Light is quite impressive! Working as a team in co-op mode (up to four players) is imperative to surviving but where this game shines is through its Be A Zombie Mode that as you guessed it, allows the player to transform themselves into the walking dead as you attempt to kill your tasty humans as this powerful night predator.
It’s also quite fun to invade another player’s game in Be A Zombie Mode which can be disabled if you don’t want additional distractions. These super powered zombies can even use their tendrils to grapple items and attack enemies but they are very vulnerable to UV light. So while the player is hunting you and your zombie nest down, you’re trying to kill them in the background which can be quite intense for human players. With that said, it’s quite a deadly game of cat and mouse or human and zombie which is quite a blast to play. The cooperative mode also gives players some great challenges like killing the most number of zombies and other fun activities so whether you’re teaming up or killing zombie postal, there’s lots of fun to be founded in multiplayer.
Graphics & Audio
Dying Light is a very impressive looking game on the PlayStation 4 console. The people, zombies and locations look amazing, especially the detailed environment. It’s also a shame that you miss some of the amazing graphics because of how entrenched you are in the gameplay. Lighting and special effects all paint a beautiful pallet in this deadly world and weather effects are nice looking that offers a different feel when the rains come.
There are also night and day effects in the game that work hand in hand with the not just the gameplay but also the story itself which is quite nerve wracking with its dreadful horror. Audio works well, especially the grunts and drones of the zombies but the voice acting is a little too clichéd at times but for the most part, still assists in the overall immersion factor.
Dying Light is a fun game on the PlayStation 4 that definitely borrows heavily from the zombie genre and although the gameplay is not new, the inclusion of Parkour definitely adds a real element of excitement. However the Parkour can also be quite frustrating as a poorly timed jump can lead to your death on more than one occasion.
Nonetheless, the game is quite intensive and really forces you to be on the edge and although it is clichéd, this element of the unknown creates a successful game that tries to separate itself from the pack. Sure it could have been better in some elements but given a strong single player experience, fun multiplayer and the introduction of Parkour plus the Be a Zombie mode creates an entertaining yet challenging first person experience for the player.