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Dying Light :Another Apocalypse

Which of these is easier for you to believe? That Techland is actually capable of delivering a technically proficient game or that, despite what feels like a decade of near-constant zombie outbreaks and fever-pitch ‘situations’, civilisation is still wholly unprepared to combat a serious case of the living deads? Given Techland’s track record, we’d be inclined to swing to wards the latter. That said, as anyone that relies on public transport can attest to, if the local authoritative bodies can’t manage a train time table how could they possibly organise an assault on the zombified masses? And so we turn to Dying Light: a next-gen exclusive that has made us realise that Techland is not only capable of competency, but that gangland marauders will be forever more prepared to combat chaos than the government, go figure.


Perhaps the reason these viruses get so horribly out of control is because we are always sent in to contain them. It’s been this way for a decade of survival horror; the lone ranger capable of packing an unusual amount of violence, items, and terrible quips into a bottomless backpack. All the while having patience of steel to deal with inane objectives and half-cut NPCs that figure a good use of your time is to bring certainly stale chocolates to their inanimate “mother”. Instead of, you know, bludgeoning the baying horde of monsters at the door.

But that’s Dying Light all over. Another paradise in turmoil, another biter-bashing romp from the studio responsible for the charmingly disappointing Dead Island franchise. 2015’s biggest surprise so far Dying Light isn’t shithouse. In fact, it’s actually pretty damn fun. It’s an obvious blend of Dead Island, Mirror’s Edge and Far Cry 3, retaining the visceral action of the former whilst terminating the infuriating bug infestation and reliance on terrible Australian accents that drove us to near-insanity back in 2011. But there’s really no getting around this sticking point: Dying Light doesn’t feel like it aspires to be anything more than the spiritual successor to Dead Island. It doesn’t just resemble its predecessor in substance, style and setting it reuses entire gameplay mechanics and systems, but spruces up the core experience with a sexy coat of Xbox One paint and the addition of parkour.
“As a spiritual successor to Dead Island, it’s a noticeable step-up in quality and technical proficiency”
There’s still an unruly focus on bloody, head-smashing melee action. The gunplay is still detestably loose for the limited firearms you’ll come across out in the open world. The kick you’ll utilise against the undead when your stamina bar is depleted which happens whenever you swing a cricket bat or machete seems to reuse the same exact four-year old animation. The crafting also returns, allowing you to create weapons with all manner of ridiculous elemental effects as you endlessly sift through crates and boxes for blueprints, upgrades and resources. And, yes, you’re going to be doing a hella-ton of fetch quests. Just because you’re the only person capable of saving the world from disaster doesn’t mean you won’t still become the absolute bitch for every poorly dialogued asshole you encounter during your twenty or so hours with the main campaign.

Good thing  Dying Light has parkour, then, to break up the familiarity of it all, right? Hello, are you still there? No, of course you aren’t. You’ve slipped into a boredom coma because like the rest of the world you’re as sick of parkour being forced down your virtual throat as much as you are seeing it practiced when you trudge on down to the shops on a Saturday morning. Congratulations, you can hop between small gaps like a kitten, now get out of the way so we can grab a coffee.

Good lord we’ve become cynical, grumpy bastards haven’t we? Blame the on-going delay to Mirror’s Edge 2, the hatred directed at Shadowrun and that ever-lingering disappointment Brink dumped on us a generation ago. While it’s certainly refreshing to view the beautifully rendered city of Harran from the rooftops, basking in the beautiful sun-soaked skyline and billowing smoke plumes the act of free-running doesn't feel as intuitive as it could, or should, be.
 “Another paradise in turmoil, another biter-bashing romp from the studio responsible for the charmingly disappointing Dead Island”
 It’s a one-button affair, of course, with the awkwardly-mapped RB handling jumping duties. Hold that down while sprinting or jumping and you’ll grab onto whatever ledge you’re looking at. It works, but it isn’t elegant by any stretch of the imagination. Once you eventually unlock more parkour abilities such as a new set of longer-lasting lungs, thigh muscles capable of leaping you over enemies and, of course, shins of steel to let you slide Dying Light finally gains a bit of momentum, loosens up and becomes a little more fun. You’ll welcome it when it does though; the open-world is huge and, with a distressing lack of fast travel, the rooftops are the only real way of getting around before night falls.

It’s strange though; by putting so much emphasis on movement and manoeuvrability, it almost feels like Dying Light has disconnected itself from the core experience that Techland has recreated from the ashes of  Dead Island. You’re actively encouraged to avoid combat. Instead of revelling in the violence and brutality of the ridiculous situation, you’re essentially pushed to circumvent altercations with walkers and the roaming gangs of AI characters entirely.

That’s not to say it isn’t still immensely satisfying to slice limbs off with a flaming Excalibur-replication sword or to crack skulls in with a beefed up cricket bat but it isn’t as anarchic as the combat found in  Dead Island. Should you feel the wanton desire to go on rampages, you’re going to find yourself dying quickly and often especially if you get caught amongst a horde of zombies with your pants down and a lack of molotov cocktails in your backpack. Should you die, which you will, you can also kiss goodbye to all of your recent EXP gains it’s possible to essentially waste an entire skill tree’s worth of levelling gains with a misplaced jump or dodge.

Worse still, Techland is so eager to have you bounding across rooftops like an enthusiastic  Assassin’s Creed cosplayer that it’s made the penalties to avoiding it relatively punishing. Weapon degradation is a nightmare to control and manage even the hardiest weapon will reach breaking point after just a few strikes, not to mention the fact that they can only be repaired a certain amount of times before becoming useless. The economy system is brutal; discovering that baseball bat you bought for most of your cash and upgraded the fun-loving hell out of will only last for a few fights is a depressing realisation.

Another depressing realisation? Once the sun goes down you aren’t anything like a badass zombie-slayer. Dying Light features an interesting day-night cycle that dramatically alters the pace of the game and your chances of survival. At night, deadlier, mutated zombies come out to play, known as Volatiles, and cause a ton of trouble. While staying out beyond curfew can reap massive rewards, the Volatiles are far more agile, vicious and difficult to exterminate. In fact, Dying Light constantly suggests you head to one of the many unlockable safe houses and catch some Zs to avoid the danger all together.

Dying Light proves to be fun in small bursts, but lacks the energy to carry your attention throughout a prolonged and immensely tedious campaign. The side-quests and world exploration aspects are undoubtedly the big draw, but played over long periods of time you’ll begin to feel deflated by the limitations on the combat and parkour systems. You’ll enjoyment will depend largely on what you want Dying Light to be. As a standalone new IP, you’ll find its criminal lack of new ideas and dull re-purposing of aging mechanics and systems constantly scratching at any prolonged enjoyment you might look to have. As a spiritual successor to  Dead Island, it’s a noticeable step up in quality and technical proficiency for Techland across the board, and a good sign that the studio has left its bug-laden past behind it.

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