Dying Light Review

Publisher Warner Brothers
Developer
Platforms tested PS4 PC
Bienvenida jugadores to my review of dying light, this covers my play through on ps4 and pc just to highlight any difference between console and pc versions.

First up if you have a high spec and decent PC, in this case we are talking around my i5 4690k and GTX970 then the first and biggest difference is the frame rate. If you drop the settings slightly to match PS4 then a pretty much locked 60fps is your reward, outside of this they are pretty much identical but please check out my detailed head to head to know more. If your PC is not of that level and you have a 2GB or less card and lower than 8GB of system ram you may experience less than PS4 performance and quality. Be under no illusions this game needs a good rig, I have placed the minimum and recommended specs below for pc with recommended getting you around/above console performance which is still very good and a pretty much locked 30fps. My AMD 8350 and Radeon 7870 machine for example performs worse than the PS4 version even at lower settings.

With that start out of the way we can experience the rest of the game across both identically, the PC version does suffer from some occasional stutters from time to time and textures not loading fully but these are rare and far from a real concern, PS4 also has this but to a much lesser and short lived degree.

The game begins with a video capped at 30fps playing out as you are air dropped into Harran a city overrun and swarming with the undead, which all seems an ideal recipe to get your arse munched and so you are served, being saved from becoming a 4am nightclub refugee yourself by a small group of fighters hauled up in a tower block of relative safety located in the slums. Here you realise that survival is the order of the day & night with you now being infected they kindly give you an injection of antigen the formula that keeps the infection at bay, as they search for the cure for this new type of rabies. After going through the standard rites of passage and a training section to get you used to running, vaulting and effectively Jackie Chan style traversing this shanty undead town. At first this feels very clunky and awkward, not only as the jump button is mapped to the R1 on the pad but also the fact you have to look at the ledge, roof or whatever you want to grab and keep the button held down to clamber up. But after a while and some practise it does get easier and more familiar using R1 rather than X to jump, on PC the space bar is more standard with the mouse but again holding space and shift for running is a bit clumsy, with the normal fast and accurate benefit of mouse muted slightly here as the style of game just fits more at home on a pad IMOP. Combat is another area that also feels alien and lumbering. Zombies at first take an age to go down, rather than a rotting meat bag they seem to be more of a bad ass cyborg taking multiple strikes to subside. This is made even more frustrating by the relative speed at which the melee weapons degrade and break leaving you with nothing but limp swings and hurled abuse for defence. But the most likely action is to leg it which you will be doing a lot of as the game has no fast travel and the map is big and as you work through it more sections open up.

The main story revolves around you playing undercover agent Kyle Crain sent in to find the cure and help save mankind, but with some questionable orders issued early on being a difficult line to follow and cross, soon you become the hero Harran needs to rescue and over throw the overlord dictator that controls most of the city. Whilst the story although in no way original or surprising is serviceable to keep you resolute on the journey to the end. But it does offer up as more diversity in the side quests and NPC’s you meet throughout your extended holiday here. Most like the main story involve much fetch questing and although this a criticism aimed at most games like this, see FarCry, Dragon Age and certainly Dead Island it does have some nice branching or segmented missions that get you interested enough to take on the next one to see where it all leads.

Visually it is a lovely looking game, with it being an open sandbox you are free to explore and it looks like a gorgeous holiday resort at times, bathed in South American sunshine with a full day night cycle. Detailed and smooth shadows are cast across all objects and zombies, your torch also cast's shadows as you explore and creep about. Chrome engine 6 is used to generate these visuals and again it's update's include a physically based shading model which includes spherical harmonics to calculate indirect lighting as you play, this is a far more approximate method to handle light diffusion and radiance of objects/material based on the glancing angle of light and surface. Pre-calculated light probes are used at set times of day and then blended together to handle the progression from glorious bleached sunlight to gloomy night and here the game takes a huge 180. During the day even early on you can simply run, climb and dodge the lumbering hordes with nary a care not so when night falls. The viral zombies come out and these are far more capable and panic inducing than the day numbers crowd, tension is further increased by the day mob getting a new lease of life with them now resembling 28 days later sprinters. It makes night missions the toughest most dread filled sections of the game.

It is made harder by the lower light levels and the film grain that is present during the day but far more impactful here and with the parkour control never being as free flowing as the originator mirrors edge excecution, but where this game offered up a very sterile or clinically clear path to follow, Techland have allowed the mechanic to be completely open and effectively if you can reach it you can climb it. At night when being chased, with the rear slow-mo view adding great tension as a nice visual touch and even though this can sometimes be your downfall I like its addition and what it adds. But here shows up most the need to improve your character through missions both main and side with exploration, traversal which adds to your point bank you can use to upgrade your skills. And midway through you have a decent set of abilities that allow you to jump on zombie’s heads and shoulders, slide past with ease, slice and dice multiple munchers with grace, but it never feels as smooth and fluid as you would hope. The parkour becomes much more satisfying and easier with time but the combat although improves and your crafted weapons last longer and deal more damage still feel a little gimped and clumsy moments still occur. I like that guns are very scarce and even though popping heads like water melon's is fun, the flesh feast flare they send off makes them a last choice action rather than a regular tool of destruction. The human gangs are not much cleverer than the hordes and it is good to lure them into a trap and allow the game’s biggest obstacle to aid you in your cleansing of them. With characters and voice acting in the game being good if not great, they stray far enough from being ultimately generic in their execution to work and some of the voice work can undermine any great connection or empathy you get and this is mirrored in the protagonist being very much a 2D military like character with the Chris Redfield voice work of Roger Craig Smith and become's as engaging a character as Jason Brody from FarCry 3 and this is not the games only hint of Ubisoft said open adventure. The upgrades, mission structure and crafting all have the feel of a zombie filled iteration of that game which includes opening up towers and radio beacons. This being a particular are of frustration with the climbing method being unclear and the need to keep checking your locater to match the height needed to find the switch and it does not feel a FarCy from it at all....sorry couldn't resist.

Sound is a high point of the game with great meaty sound effects, wind howls, zombie moaning and shrieking which echo and reverb in tunnels accompanied with a great electronic soundtrack that really fits the game well, just that some of the dialogue and acting can feel a little lacking at times. It is a big, big game with the main story taking well over 14-15 hours to finish with side missions adding at the minimum the same again and this should be applauded but the retreading of the same areas can get a little grindy early on and breaks from long play sessions are advised to alleviate it.

Ultimately it offers up a better more consistent and enjoyable game than Dead Island but feels more like an upgrade of that rather than an entirely new slant. Having a much better split of mission structure that still lets itself down by having far too many checkpoint Charlie's sitting at a desk or door waiting for you to collect the mission memo and do their bidding. It would be nicer to have more missions where you went off with another AI character or group and the mission dynamically altered based on events of your actions or in-actions. Being sent empty handed, one manned into these missions just has a parallel of horror movies need to explore a darkened cellar noise! alone, wrapped in a towel, but this is hardly an exclusive issue to dying light. MP co-op is also unlocked early on allowing you and 3 friends to work through the game and side missions which can add some group laughs as you deliver an en masse kick in on the walking dead. But most fun is had with the Be the Zombie mode, enabling you to assume the guise of the night prowlers with its own upgrade path which can be satisfying invading other games and tearing the hapless human limb from limb with ease, when this happens to you though it amplifies your relative weakness to them, it does have the option to turn this mode off for players that want to concentrate on the Single Player aspect alone. Enemies in the game do expand with huge, powerful armed zombies, Gut exposed bombers, Vile puke spitters and even armed agile ones that dodge, evade your attacks keeping you honest as your repertoire expands.

Summary

It offers up an enjoyable and time consuming game that will not surprise or shock in anyway and sometimes can feel a chore to complete on long repetitive missions with the entertaining but standard villains along with the linear and scarcely explained rebel group leaves you with a vast, fun at times but forgettable tale of zombie culling.