Dying Light ReviewPrice: £39.99
Publisher: Warner Bros
PC, PS4, Xbox One
I've played so many zombie games in the last few years that I've begun making a noise like a zombie whenever a new one is announced. "UUUUUUUUHHHHHHHH," I go, when Undead Studios or some-such reveals Yet Another Open World Zombie Game With Survival And Crafting Elements. It has reached the point where simply referencing
the abundant yield of this particular genre is approaching the point of cliché.
Techland are partly responsible for the growing sense of ennui surrounding the undead. Their Dead Island games are prime examples of zombie survival at its least ambitious, borrowing various systems from other, more interesting titles and using zombies as a sort of fleshy glue to create one brown, sticky whole. The game was slow, the melee combat was flimsy, and its zombies were about as interesting as you'd expect a shambling corpse to be.
In some ways Dying Light is quite similar to Dead Island. It too borrows many of its mechanics from other sources. The difference is that it works. Dying Light's adoption process is far more specific than Dead Island's vaguer open-world antics. What's more, Techland have clearly learned from their earlier efforts, because the vast majority of what was broken in Dead Island has been fixed, refined, or improved here. In short, Dying Light is the whetted steel to Dead Island's blunt instrument.
Dying Light places you in the running shoes of US government agent Kyle Crane, who happens to be the world's worst covert operative. Deployed into the zombie-infested city of Harran to retrieve stolen documents from a fellow agent gone rogue, within seconds of his arrival he is beaten to a pulp by bandits and bitten by a zombie. James Bond he is not. Rescued by a survivor named Jade, Kyle is taken to a nearby sanctuary known as the Tower, where he finds himself torn between his mission and his desire to help the people who saved him from a grisly death.
Although Kyle sucks as a spy, he excels at running over rooftops and breaking zombie faces. This is fortuitous, as it's also what you'll spend most of your time doing. As a free-running game Dying Light is essentially what everyone hoped Mirror's Edge would be seven years ago. Anything that looks like it can be climbed can be, and the open nature of Harran means you're free to pick your own path, rather than having to move according to the rhythms the game dictates.
At the same time, it doesn't do the hard work for you as Assassins Creed tries to. You need to direct Kyle specifically toward the ledges you want to climb, and he can only jump a short distance. Missing a jump doesn't necessarily mean certain death, but if you're leaping from a high ledge you'll need to identify a safe landing spot, be it in a pile of rubbish, on top of a vehicle, or a comfy shop awning.