Game review: Dying Light

You can't always avoid confrontations with the undead in Dying Light. Picture: Contributed

You can't always avoid confrontations with the undead in Dying Light. Picture: Contributed

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Scale the heights and look out for bites in this open world zombie survival horror.

Dying Light

Platform: Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4 / PC

Score: 7/10

ON the face of it, Dying Light ticks every box when it comes to popular gaming trends of the past few years. Open world setting? Check. An outbreak of flesh hungry zombies? Check. Check. If a new IP was devised by a committee of marketing executives at major publishers, chances are it would not be dissimilar to Techland’s next generation debut. History shows us that just because a premise is in vogue, it does not necessarily mean it works as a game. In Dying Light’s case, it almost pulls it off.

Although much has been made of the fact that the Polish developers are behind Dead Island, the game that shares the most DNA with Dying Light is Mirror’s Edge, 2008’s inventive if flawed free runner. Whereas EA DICE’s title promoted a clinical, exacting form of parkour, Techland favour an altogether more frenzied take. You run to survive, seeking out higher ground to escape the undead hordes. It can be inelegant at times, but it does a fine job of ratcheting up the tension.

The setting offers a refreshing change for an open world game

The middle eastern setting is a refreshing one and injects vim into the game’s core premise: survive by scaling and jumping around the urban environment, descending to lower levels only when absolutely necessary. That is not to say you must avoid the zombie hordes; Techland has devised a generous arsenal of melee weapons, the grizzled nature of which give great satisfaction, provided you remember they can break. There are guns, too, but they are in short supply and draw attention to your location.

And you will need to fight: repeatedly. Even if you find novel ways of exploring the vertical cityscape the zombies will still pose a threat. They frequently arrive in vast armies, not unlike the swarms in Valve’s Left 4 Dead series. The city is at its most dangerous during nightfall, when more brutal subspecies emerge from the gloom, providing thrills and tension. What is less enthralling is the nuts and bolts of the missions, which too often amount to fetch quests that deaden the pace and hinder the sense of freedom.

Although the campaign is hindered by fetch quests the multiplayer is considered and taut

Techland deserve credit for taking the time to implement a considered and taut multiplayer offering. What might have been an afterthought borrows imaginatively from Left 4 Dead, with one mode pitting a group of players against another one who plays a Night Hunter, a fearsome opponent. The drop in/out co-operative option for the main campaign also gives great value. Just when you thought there was no room for another zombie game, along comes an enjoyable new contender.

TIPS AND TRICKS:

Jumping from a treacherously high building is often an option - just look out for piles of rubbish, awnings or other items below that will break your fall.

It is possible to upgrade weapons but it is best to replace them regularly - they will break eventually, leaving you vulnerable.

Target bomber zombie from distance. If they are in a crowd of the undead, all the better, as anything in the blast radius will be taken out at the same time.

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