REVIEW: “Dying Light” brightens up the zombie apocalypse

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Dying_Light_Screenshot_28

  • reviewed on PlayStation 4 / Rated M / $59.99 / released January 2015
  • OFFICIAL SITE: dyinglightgame.com
  • PURCHASE LINK: Amazon
  • FINAL: You NEED this game. 5 out of 5 stars

“Dying Light” takes the overdone concept of a zombie apocalypse and grafts it to a first-person parkour-based exploration game. In the role of soldier Kyle Crane, players run up and down a fictional Middle Eastern city trying to keep one jump ahead of both zombies and survivors. While the theme is old news, seeing it through the eyes of a gymnast who rarely needs to resort to ballistic weaponry makes for a very fresh take.

With a first-person perspective, “Dying Light” puts you uncomfortably close to the undead horde. The trick is that you’re able to vault over them on your way towards a building, where you then scramble up multiple stories for safer ground. Most zombies are, predictably, terrible at the hand-eye coordination required to climb walls, so you are encouraged to stay on the rooftops. Climbing is quick and easy, allowing you to sprint down filthy alleys and leap to open window frames. It is an absolute rush, and to the game’s credit, your character starts out great at it and only gets better. Right away you’ll feel like a parkour superstar, zig-zagging through zombie mobs and treating abandoned cars like a hopscotch board.

The game succeeds in striking a middle ground between unsettlingly realistic visuals and fantastically wild athletic abilities. Any further towards the unbelievable and Crane’s skill might be seen as cartoonish superpowers. Conversely, if it leaned too far in the other direction you would lose the sheer fun of launching yourself over the city’s vehicles and architecture.

The world of “Dying Light” slowly rolls through natural day and night cycles. Not only does that generate fabulous sunrises and sunsets, but it lets the game amp up the danger during night. Early on, you may not want to even venture out at night; the game starts sending you cues that night is coming so you can head to a monster-free safehouse for the duration if you choose. Should you feel brave enough, “Dying Light” has aggressive hunter zombies that only appear in the dark. When you’re dashing through the city with these beasts at your heels, your path ahead lit only by the narrow beam of a flashlight, the parkour turns into a fun panicky dash for survival.

It’s good that running from danger is so entertaining, because the actual combat in “Dying Light” is half-baked. Despite multiple ways to customize your weaponry, there’s a lot of wild blunt-object swinging that never seems to connect. In situations where hand-to-undead-hand is required, you’ll eventually smack the enemies down, but there’s plenty of absurd zombie slap fighting on the way there.

The game’s greatest failing is an uninspired storyline, fronted by a boring white soldier predictably torn between his orders and his humanity. However, like many video games, the storyline is constantly sidelined anyway thanks to an amazingly distracting series of side-quests. The world of “Dying Light” is large and detailed, providing hours upon hours of missions. Since this is what the game does best – letting you explore – even repetitive quests are fun to tackle.

The team behind “Dying Light” figured out its strengths early on. Rather than fielding another violent zombie exploder, they opted for a game where you play more of a scrappy bike messenger than a macho murder machine. “Dying Light” is a must-get in the ongoing video game war against zombies.

 This review is based on product supplied by the publisher. “Dying Light” is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. Image courtesy Techland.

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