Dying Light

FBT plays the gaming equivalent of the floor is lava

Finally, I can combine my favourite genre, RPG, with my least favourite opponent, Zombies. This is going to be the best or worst game I’ve played. The marmite of my game library.

I hate zombie games – and I’m hypocritical; Half-Life, Fallout 3 and Doom feature Zombie-types and they’re in my top ten all-time faves. Maybe Dying Light, an Assassin’s Creed meets Arkham City in Zombie mode will show what I’m missing.

A mysterious virus breaks lose in the city of Harran, turning the inhabitants into zombies. When GRE (Global Relief Effort) is unable to stop the rate of infection, Harran is sealed off while the virus takes its course and the survivors… try to survive until the zombies die off. Meanwhile, a militant group inside the city steals a file implicating GRE in the outbreak, so GRE send in a Snake Plissken to get it back.

In Harren, the zombies are split between Romero-style shufflers during the day, and 28 Days Later rage-infected brutes at night. The day zombies (daybies Alex would’ve called them) are slow and thick and more of a hindrance than a threat. Unfortunately, the majority of the human opponents you face aren’t much smarter. An early mission had me shut down a drug dealer, but he and his cronies couldn’t walk up some stairs I was at the top of. Instead they circled around the bottom step calling me a coward. True, but a coward who can use stairs.

Meanwhile night-time is a perfect mix of terror and annoyance. The concept is great, but the actual play is just tiresome. You can’t see anything, do anything, have any fun cos the night zombies rip you to shreds or spawn everywhere you need to be. It’s not a tactical switch up from the Day scenes, it’s just dark with stronger zombies. And it cheats. Rather than a constant clock countdown you manage and anticipate, night falls are story dependant and of course you’re miles from where you need to get to when the sun suddenly sets. And if you get killed you’re resurrected at the nearest safe spot. Fine, I’ll just wait out the night here? Nope, game demands you reach the safe spot the mission giver is at otherwise Night never ends. Brains. More than once the game just takes you out of the world.

Parkouring is fun, looking for ways to avoid being on the ground and trying to navigate the whole city without touching the floor and becoming zombie food, but it feels a bit gimmicky – night zombies can climb ruining the tactical approach, you gain a grappling hook making it even more Arkham City, while parkouring is more inconsistent than Assassin’s Creed. He’ll make leaps that defy physics, then miss a jump he could have stepped over, or be thwarted by a 4-foot wall when he leapt a 10-foot fence two seconds ago. While they’ve gone out of their way to make everything traversable and as fluid as possible, it’s a real moment-killer when an easy jump bests him. And who is he anyway?

He’s Generic McNobody, aka Kyle Crane – even the name sounds like a straight to video star. Of course he develops a conscience and decides to help those trapped instead of covering up GRE's Racoon City-sized f’up. Crane is distinctly average, except for his ‘zombie-sense’ which he gets from an early bite and has to be managed; it would be more interesting if the skill tree was human or zombie, like Prey’s Human v Mimic skills, and letting Crane gain more powerful skills at the cost of his humanity – he’s not exactly a strong personality anyway.

The other problem is you spend forever digging through everything for anything. I’ve never hit a rotting zombie in the face with a wrench, but I’m certain the tool would last longer than the 2-3 hits before needing a repair. It’s very Craft heavy and a bit of an arse, there’s dozens and dozens of blueprints, alterations, changes and improvements, all of which requires you to dig through every bin, locker and box looking for stuff. Even in Expansion Pack The Following, which greatly expands the map and includes vehicles, you’re endlessly getting out and foraging for petrol and junk to keep your buggy going.

It does have the feel of a game intended only as a co-op. It’d be a lot more fun playing with a pal or three, working together to navigate and draw zombies away from each other. As a single player it’s a bind to get through. There’s an awesome mode called "Be the Zombie" which, as you’d expect, lets you play as a zombie – and you can just offer yourself up to any co-op team as a zombie for hire.

Despite my whinging though, this is a solid game; as an RPG it is cleverly built and believable, and I really enjoy parkouring above the zombies. The city itself is deep, detailed and full of options. I had the best time spotting an object and pondering how the hell I get there. The story is good too, its only when I get a mission that things get cliched, and dated in the way you’re forced into lethal situations – one side mission had me re-wiring spotlights, but at night. Why?! A true RPG would let you plan, observe, but this tends to push you out the door with a mission and a bat and sacrifices all the ingenuity it gives you in free-roam.

The game’s spec-ed editions are low-priced now with Dying Light 2 here, and it is worth getting. There’s multiple DLCs including backstories and expansions, and ‘Hellraid’, a dungeon crawler reskin which can be found as an arcade game, and is often more fun than the main game. Ultimately, maybe this game just isn’t for me; I dislike Zombies and they've added nothing new here, and its not quite RPG enough to stand-out. It is a legit game but only if you have a zombie kink.