Tying all of this together is a day/night cycle that makes you fear the dark. Well, at least until you realize that the super zombies that chase you at nighttime can be avoided relatively easily. Think of them as super-fast and deformed Metal Gear Solid guards who have vision cones that appear on your map. Simply avoid running into one and you’ll be okay. Also, even if you do get spotted, it’s possible to run away without them fully realizing what they’ve seen. Still, it’s not always that easy, and there will be multiple times where you’ll be running for your life and quickly cycling through your inventory to find blinding flares or distracting firecrackers to drop behind you.
Nighttime has been well-advertised in promo videos for Dying Light, but it doesn’t play as much of a role as you’d expect. Sure, you’re free to sleep the day away and go out after sundown if you’d like, but most major missions can be completed when the sun is shining. Certain side missions do require darkness, though, and there are plenty of them. Getting from one to another may annoy you, though, because there’s no fast travel mechanic.
Keep in mind that, with the game’s Be the Zombie add-on (which is now free for everyone), other players can invade your game and try to kill you as well. When they do, it sets up a mini-game wherein one person tries to destroy eggs as a human while the other tries to kill the human as many times as possible. At least, that’s what I gathered during my less than impressive time with it. Playing co-op with up to three others, and challenging each other to different tasks (ie. who can collect the most loot? or who can defeat the most zombies?) was certainly more fun.
Tying all of the above together is a middling storyline, which has us playing as government agent Kyle Crane, whose name is fitting given the fact that a couple of the game’s most memorable segments take place on gigantic construction cranes. Mr. Crane, you see, is working for an agency that is searching for not only a dangerous criminal who’s thought to have escaped to the fictional city of Harran, but also a file full of top secret information. Of course, things don’t go as planned and all Hell breaks loose.
Trust me when I say that you won’t remember Dying Light for its plot, because it’s far from amazing. It does its job pretty well, though, and isn’t half-bad. Still, it suffers from both a lack of originality and the inclusion of a forgettable protagonist.
Harran, itself, feels like a place you’d come across in Africa or the Middle-East, and is full of things to do, from challenges and collectible hunting to air drop retrieval and survivor saving. Its split of slums and city locales is a nice touch, but even then it still lacks originality and memorability. You’ll have fun exploring it for a while, but may have a hard time memorizing routes and areas, simply because everything is so familiar and uncreative. At least it looks quite nice, with some impressive draw distances and a solid amount of detail apart from the odd disappointing texture.
There are tons of zombies to battle, and several different mutations, so you won’t get sick of seeing the same ones over and over again, outside of one or two special guys that appear quite often during the latter half of the game. Overall, most of the deadites also feature impressive details, including torsos that bruise and extremities that come off. They also explode very nicely.
Unfortunately, some screen tearing and frame rate hiccups do appear, especially when you walk through grassy fields in search of herbs. It must be the separately animated tufts of grass or something, because the green stuff causes the game to fall behind and struggle to catch up.
Continuing on, the sound isn’t great. It’s fine, and like many other things in the game, it gets the job done, but there’s nothing particularly special about it. The voice acting, as a whole, ranges from decent to mediocre, and none of the characters really stand out. They all serve a purpose, though.
In conclusion, Dying Light is a definitely good game, but far from a great one. There’s a lot of potential here, as well as some high-quality building blocks, but unfortunately, things didn’t fall into place perfectly. It’s technically superior to Dead Island, but running from zombies isn’t as fun as killing them over and over again. Furthermore, the game’s problematic downward climbing (or lack thereof) ends up being more frustrating than you’d think.
Pick this one up if you love zombie games, but don’t go into it expecting a masterpiece.
This review is based on the Xbox One version, which we were provided with.
Dying Light had the potential to be great, but it just wasn't in the cards this time around. What we've received here is certainly solid, but is marred by frustrating traversal issues and a lack of creativity in other areas.