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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.

Of course, a better solution would be to, you know, not rely on fetch quests for every single mission in the game. But oh well. I'll just sit here and grind my teeth down to nubs as I cross the map for the hundredth time.

It's a shame because Dying Light has moments. I don't want to give any of them away, because that would spoil the impact. There are certain pieces of the larger puzzle though — a side-quest here, a random event there — that actually approach the genius of that Dead Island trailer. One series of missions I actually said "Oh damn" out loud as grim realization dawned on me.

It should be easy to make me say that. It should be easy for zombie games to elicit some sort of reaction from me. It's the apocalypse! People are dying. There's not enough food or medicine to go around. People are tired and stressed and looking for some last shred of humanity in the world. It's a setting ripe for Oscar-quality heartbreak.

So much potential, and it's seldom used to fruition. Instead we get fetch quests. We get the easy way out. We get Dead Island and Dead Rising and Nazi zombies and all the other half-assed, goofy genre schlock.

Dying Light tries to be more. Not often enough, mind you, but damn, does it have its moments.

Bottom line

Dying Light is a better Dead Island. It's more serious, more polished, and an all-around smoother experience from start to finish.

Does it redefine zombies? No. Does it radically change anything about video games? Not at all. In fact it's fairly clear where its influences come from, in much the same way as Shadow of Mordor. Is the story great? Nah.

Is the game as a whole worthwhile? Yes — blemishes and all. 

A note on performance: My initial impressions piece mentioned running into some pretty severe performance problems. But after last week's patch, Dying Light now runs at a smooth 50-60 frames per second on my GTX 970-powered machine. I've heard a few other people are still having issues, and I've experienced longer load times in the aftermath of the patch, but in the absence of any widespread game-crippling bugs I've decided not to factor it into the score.

 

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