Hands on with Dying Light: Good night. Good luck.
I really saw and did a lot at Gamescom. There was tons of gameplay footage and demos of upcoming games, as well as interviews with the people who helped create them. What I lacked was actual hands-on game time. I was quite chuffed on our last day, because my very last appointment was for Dying Light, a game I’ve been excited for since it was announced.
It’s another zombie apocalypse game, but what sets it apart is its emphasis on parkour. You can climb and run along just about all you see, kind of like Mirror’s Edge. It really does come in handy when trying to keep away from the masses of undead that are out to get you. There is also a strong emphasis on the day and night cycle. Daytime really is a walk in the park, with zombies being almost as active as a sleeping cat. Night is when things really get heated. Every enemy is faster, does more damage, and they’re not all that is out to get you. There are other potential horrors waiting around each corner.
That’s the gist of it. I walked into the Dying Light demo room armed with courage, the toughest look I could muster, as well as an extra pair of underwear… just in case. What I never expected was to be playing the game co-op. On the opposite side of the table was another journalist who I had just briefly exchanged a sentence or two with before we entered the room. He hardly glanced at me now. Perhaps he thought I was the wrong person to have his back in the zombie apocalypse.
We started out in a darkened room in some unknown building. Our goal was to plant a bomb and hightail it outta there. There were a few mêlée weapons for us to play with, all of which felt quite nice. I couldn’t really tell how they differed in terms of stats though – if I hit something for long enough, it either got decapitated or died. Still, there was quite the variety, and I’d imagine it was just a handful of the weapons that the final game will ship with. There is a stamina bar to manage, meaning you can’t just spam your attacks. You have to time them and use them carefully. After some brief combat, we planted the bomb and made our way out of the building.
We soon learnt how to make use of the more advanced movement. Climbing and navigating over obstacles or drops is incredibly simple. I did ask about power sliding, and was told that the game does have it, it just wasn’t skilled for that particular demo. The final game will have a skill tree where a player can choose exactly what they feel is most important in surviving the ever looming zombie munch.
Within this first couple of minutes of gameplay, my survival buddy and I had already taken part in co-op challenges that sprung up now and then. They weren’t distracting at all, offering objectives based on what we were doing at the time anyway. He may have killed more zombies than me that one time, but I parkour’d my way out of that building so fast that he was basically in tears. Perhaps that was just my imagination… the apocalypse really does take its toll on one’s mind.
I finally got to see what the world outside looked like. It was pretty darn gorgeous, reminding me of a simpler time before the world went to hell. There was no time for sightseeing unfortunately, we had to rush off to observe our explosions in action. By this point I had already noticed that the co-op we were playing was probably part of the single-player campaign. Any sort of cut scene or cinematic only showed one protagonist in action, kind of reminding me of Resistance: Fall of Man. I really don’t mind this for one moment. Nothing annoys me more than having a game with a campaign which would be fun with some buddies, but it’s left out completely, only offering multiplayer specific campaigns or missions.
The building explodes because REASONS! We start to make our way through the city, we now have to find and destroy a number of zombie hives. Scrambling up buildings really is easy, and I did that as much as I could to stay off the streets. The city also looks rather large… it’s going to be one giant playground for sure.
Till this point, my don’t-trust-my-partner co-op buddy and I had done well. Night was fast falling, and before I knew it, it was pitch black save for some moody streetlights here and there. The atmosphere was thick with suspense. I loved it. Alright, killing these hives might prove to be a little more challenging than we had anticipated! Thankfully, we had a flashlight for nosing around, even though it was as useful as handful of candles strapped together (total over-exaggeration, it wasn’t THAT bad). It lights up directly in front of you, nothing around you.
Say hello to the hunter
When things possibly couldn’t get worse, we are told that there was a hunter trying to kill us. The big reveal at Gamescom was that Dying Light would have a mode similar to that of Evolve. While there were only 2 of us versus 1 hunter in this demonstration, you can have up to 4 people battling him normally. The hunter’s job was to stop us from killing the zombie hives. This can happen at any time during your game – another player may choose to invade and impede your progress. The hunter has 3 lives, while the survivors have a handful.
It’s incredibly agile, leaping in and out of battle. It strongly reminds me of some unspoken love child of Spider-Man and The Hunter from Left 4 Dead. Thankfully, you do have a way to at least keep track of it. Your character has a sort of survival instinct ability. Using it pings across the map, highlighting nearby enemies. What I don’t like about this is that I could spam it as much as I wanted to, meaning the hunter never really caught me off guard. I really hope it will have some kind of limited use or be removed completely before the final game is released, because having it simply took away from the really awesome atmosphere surrounding me.
A more fair weapon against the hunter is a UV light. When aimed correctly, it will slow the hunter down, giving you the opportunity to scare it off or kill it. We managed this only once or twice. It bought us some time to move forward just that little bit forward.
My partner and I kept moving our way through the city, killing hives as best we could while the hunter was an absolute nuisance. Finally, we got to the last batch. It all happened in a blur, but I remember my partner dying, and me killing the hunter just before he could get his grubby paws on my throat. I destroyed the last hive in a tense moment, winning the game. Who was the useless buddy now hey, Mister Other Journalism Man?
I’ve got a soft spot for games of this nature. I spent countless hours playing the Left 4 Dead series with friends. This looks like it will be the perfect replacement. If you are excited for Dying Light, you have every reason to be. I only played it for a short time, and I loved every moment.