Can Dying Light Freshen Up a Rotting Genre?
The thrill of first-person parkour can be a game changer to zombie-killing action games, but developer Techland needs to work out its technical kinks.
Dying Light is quite a surprise; it blends the first-person free-running mechanics of EA's Mirror's Edge with a zombie apocalypse open-world concept. Combining the two may seem unorthodox, but the game's day and night cycle gives it a good reason to do so.
While your player character is out in the day, he performs a supply drop collection here and a stash-recovering objective there to get supplies and weapons, as well as gain skill points to bolster his current abilities. Melee options aren't in short supply, as you have access to a baseball bat, a machete, and a sledgehammer to take down zombies coming after you.
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Be it a big one that can dish it out as much as it can take it, or a green pus-filled one that explodes upon death and unleashes corrosive goo, swinging at enemies and knocking them down is satisfying thanks to responsive controls. However, you can't swing irresponsibly because doing a melee attack drains your stamina meter bit by bit. When it's empty, you can't even deal a full-brunt swing on even the slowest of walking corpses.
Running, jumping, sliding while running, and dropkicking a zombie while doing a running jump feel great too, though the gamepad controls have taken us a while to get used to. You get access to handguns too, but their loud booming gunshots will alert nearby undead that will relentlessly pursue you.
All of the above may remind you of Techland's other zombie game, Dead Island. When nighttime hits, however, that's when it differentiates itself from its cousin. Your free-running skills are put to the test; the zombies become more aggressive, slightly more intelligent, and tougher to kill.
With ammo being scarce and weapons not having much of an effect, you don't have much of a choice but to run like hell. Fleeing from the undead horde to your safe house is really thrilling and tense, as zombies can pop up wherever and whenever, as well as pursue you to kingdom come. A couple of tricks come in handy: you can push away zombies by holding the X button while up close to an enemy and then flick the left analog stick to any direction, or you can use a zombie as a platform by double-jumping over its head.
Even with the thrill of the chase, we had some trouble with the game's camera. While a game like Mirror's Edge reduced head-bobbing effects and had a white blip in the centre of the screen to minimize potential nausea from the free-running, there is no such luxury in Dying Light. We foresee players getting motion sickness easily with the constant motion your player character has to go through to survive and complete story objectives in the game.
Dying Light's melding of gameplay ideas could make it a surprising success, thanks to its day and night open-world mechanic. This being the studio that did Dead Island: Riptide and Call of Juarez: The Cartel, however, it may be dealing with an uphill struggle. Zombie game fans can expect this undead genocidal concoction in 2014 for next-gen consoles, the Xbox 360, the PS3, and the PC.
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