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Dying Light review: This fun, free-running zombie slaughterfest trips over the details

Hayden Dingman | Feb. 4, 2015
It's funny: In 2011, Techland basically killed zombie games for me.

When the lights go down in the city

"This is The Tower calling. Just a reminder that you should be inside by nightfall."

It's your cue to stop what you're doing and get inside. No, seriously. Dying Light has a fully dynamic day/night cycle after the first few missions, and it's not just a lighting swap. It's two very different games.

Dying Light essentially gets to channel George Romero at both stages of his career. In the daytime, you'll encounter slow, boring zombies. But at night, the "Volatiles" come out — extremely fast, agile zombies that can and will murder you in seconds if they see you. When you're told to get inside, you do it.

Or you don't. There is a benefit to going out at night, namely more experience points. Certain quests also require you to go out at night, because apparently nobody in this world has any regard for your safety.

I'll say this: I've seldom been more tense while playing a video game than I was playing Dying Light's night sequences. First you're creeping around, desperately hoping the Volatiles don't spot you. Inevitably one does, and then it's an all-out sprint to the nearest safe house. It's terrifying, especially at the start of the game when your equipment has all the stopping power of wet spaghetti.

In a New York minute

Essentially, Dying Light's systems are fantastic. It's an open-world game that takes full advantage of its open-worldness, building in all sorts of mechanics and letting you screw with them at will. One of my favorites is still the dropkick, with which you can send zombies plummeting from rooftops down to the street below.

Which brings us to Dying Light's story.

It's not good. Like Far Cry 3, it's one of those games where you sit around waiting for it to surprise you and it never does. It's not even a bad story, but it's predictable from start to finish. It hits all the beats it's "supposed" to hit and nothing more.

And I literally just brought this up in my Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell review, but Dying Light also does that thing where it knows it's doing something annoying, and instead of the developers just fixing it they instead put in a line of dialogue to "jokingly" explain it away.

In Dying Light, it's the fact that the game consists mostly of inane fetch quests taking you back-and-forth across the map for little-to-no reason. During one of these interminable missions your character, the bland-as-grass Kyle Crane, talks about how even he feels like he's just doing fetch quests. Ha ha, Techland, you got me! You acknowledged that I hate feeling like I'm doing fetch quests! Congrats!

 

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