Techland – the folks behind Dead Island – have taken another stab at the arguably dead zombie genre with Dying Light. The immediate reaction, and probably a pretty fair one, is to just write it off as Dead Island 3. Until you play it, that is. Some games need to be played to be understood, and Dying Light is just such a game.
Yes, it’s yet another game in a giant open world populated by shambling, ambling hordes of walking corpses and much of the experience is still focused on hacking and slashing your way through the undead, it’s got an incredible shantytown atmosphere and a blistering pace to set it apart from..well, just about everything else. It’s a survival horror with a bit of a twist; involving a lot of parkour-styled running, climbing over things and sliding under things while trying to void those nasty zombies.
And you’ll use those skills quite a bit as you traverse and manoeuvre around a very open, open-ended world trying to avoid the hundreds, perhaps thousands of zombies that litter the streets. And it really is quite open ended; you can use whatever route you’d like to get to where you need to be; over rooftops, through tunnels, in and out of windows and under things – setting off nifty traps to keep the face-chewers at bay.
It works incredibly well – and you’ll soon feel like one heck of a free-runner, as you dodge a swarm of zombies, dip under a pipe, resume a full run, scale a wall, jump in through a window, run down the opposite wall, set of a timed car bomb before ducking in to a building for some necessary reprieve.
When the sun goes down though it all changes, and the zombies become considerably more agitated and agile – with some of them even having the ability to scale walls and run over rooftops that you do. They all begin to home in and head straight for you. Tossing a quick, noise-emitting ball of bait temporarily draws zombies away , because the one thing you don’t want is to be cornered by a rabid pack of runners, who’ll happily munch on your head.
When the demo had ended, I’d only just made it through to a safe house with a horde of zombies in pursuit – and I was still shaking from how intense and exhilarating it was ten minutes later.
The combat itself is still a bit on the wonky side, but Techland has already nailed the free-running, resulting in a tense and terrifying first person survival horror that takes the good bits from Dead Island and Dead Rising – including a crafting system – and blends it with Mirror’s Edge. Oh yes – it’s visually pretty mind-blowing, and it has four player co-op to boot.
It was one of the biggest surprises from Gamescom – and a certainly game to keep your eyes on. It’s coming to PC and next-gen systems in 2015.