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Lifewire / Kelsey Simon
Fun character movement
Variety of zombie types
Smooth melee fighting
Easy during daylight
Dying Light is a unique take on the zombie survival genre, offering fun in-game movement, impactful melee combat, co-op gameplay, and a variety of zombie enemies.
Dying Light is a first-person action-adventure game set in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Its headline feature is kinetic parkour traversal through an open-world infested with unique zombies.
The first time you launch the game you'll be treated to an artistic video over the background of a news report. It explains the situation in Harran, the city where the game takes place. The game proper starts with a cut scene that shows you on a plane, about to parachute out. There’s no character creation here, although once you get a little further into the game, you’ll be able to pick your clothes.
The initial cutscene starts with you on a plane, preparing to jump. Your name is Kyle Crane, and you’re an undercover operative. You’ll parachute to the earth while your boss explains your mission―to find a stolen file―but the second you hit the ground, things don’t go as planned. You’re attacked and forced to fire your weapon to scatter your attackers. Of course, in zombie-infested Harran, a gunshot is zombie bait. Suddenly they're swarming toward you and things look very dire, until you're rescued by a pair of strangers, a man and a woman. The man dies saving you but you and the woman escape. Her name is Jade, and she’ll play a big role throughout the story as you try to win her and her brother’s trust.
Harran is a whole different city at night.
You’re a spy sent in to infiltrate this group of survivors by the Global Relief Effort or GRE, but now that they’ve saved your life, you start to feel like you owe them. They’ll send you on missions to prove yourself, such as setting up traps for air raid supply drops or battling the hostile bandits that prowl Harran's streets. Throughout the game, you balance accomplishing the GRE’s task with serving the best interest of this group of survivors you find yourself increasingly attached to.
This is a fairly linear game with regards to the plot. There's a main storyline for you to follow, with some optional side quests that you can take or leave. The narrative does a decent job of building up the circumstances for Kyle feeling torn between his mission and these people, and you’ll learn more about the virus as you go, as well as Antizin, the drug that could lead to a cure.
You won’t have to wait long in the game before you’re introduced to its main unique mechanic: parkour. Other zombie games focus on having slow zombies you can run away from, or dumb zombies you sneak past, but Dying Light takes a completely different approach. Instead, the basic zombies are fast and almost always know where you are―but they can’t climb or jump. This means you can stay safe by leaping between rooftops, running up ramps, balancing across bars, etc. The parkour feature is the biggest thing that makes Dying Light unique in an oversaturated genre, and also part of what makes the game so much fun. It’s entertaining to cross the city running as fast as you can without pausing, challenging yourself to get from point A to point B without ever touching the ground.
If you do happen to find yourself on the ground with a few zombies around you, you’ll have a variety of weapons you can smash a zombies head in with. The game focuses mainly on melee, with occasional firefights with other bandits. The melee weapon system has an upgrade system that involves fusing together found materials. The melee combat is solid, and your swings connect in a satisfying way.
You won’t have to wait long in the game before you’re introduced to its main unique mechanic: parkour.
There are quite a few different types of zombies, and more are introduced the longer you play. There are runners who can parkour right along beside you, frog-men zombies that spit acid, and hulking beasts that swing giant sledgehammers. It’s this variety that keeps the gameplay fun―until night falls.
Harran is a whole different city at night. If you aren’t in a safe zone, you’ll quickly learn that running through the city at night is terrifying, specifically because of a zombie type called volatiles. Volatiles are crazy strong, super-fast, and will chase after you relentlessly until you get out of sight―not an easy thing to do when you’re freaking out. It can be a real rush to try to do a mission at night, so if things aren’t feeling tense enough for you, just wait until the sunsets.
The graphics of Dying Light compare well to other triple-A titles, though it feels like the developers took more care with the scenery than the characters. Human models look a little plasticky, but the world around you is textured beautifully and rich with small details like posters and graffiti that help make the world around you feel real.
Character animation is also excellent, and the buildings and other objects within the world offer a variety of ways to jump, climb, and crawl. The open urban landscape of Harran allows players to decide how they want to explore, acquire materials, and fight. You’ll be able to come at certain locations from a variety of angles,and it's this sense of freedom and attention to the environments that brings Dying Light together.
On PlayStation 4, you can purchase the game for $14, a fantastic value. You’ll get more than enough gameplay and fun to justify a purchase at that low cost. However, if you want to play on PC, you’ll have to either wait for the game to go on sale, or you’ll have to pay $40. Considering the game is older now, and Dying Light 2 has been slated for release in June 2020, we’d suggest getting the game on sale (it goes on sale often through Steam). There’s a lot of fun to be had in Dying Light, especially if you have a friend to play with, so if you’re thinking about getting the game, we’d say go for it.
There are a lot of other zombie survival games out there, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’d recommend them if you liked Dying Light. You might consider Days Gone, another PlayStation 4 zombie apocalypse game set in an open world, but if the parkour was the main attraction, you might look into the game Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. The game follows a girl in a sci-fi world and features first-person parkour running and fighting. Instead of the rough and gritty world of Dying Light, Catalyst takes place in a sleek futuristic dystopia that's all glossy chrome and burnished glass.
An original in the zombie survival genre.
Dying Light is a game that took an overdone trope and used it to create a fresh game. Its fun parkour and co-op gameplay make for a great gaming experience, particularly when shared with friends. The variety of zombie enemies combined with the excellent melee combat keep the experience fresh even in the late game―and if things feel too simple, doing a mission at night is a wholly different experience from daylight outings. Dying Light is a great game in the zombie survival genre that we would recommend to most players.