“Good night, good luck.”
Last year, Warner Bros. and Techland made us all too familiar with this phrase, thanks to the introduction to Dying Light, a first-person parkour-style action/adventure. In the game, you play a courier who’s trying to make his way to shipments and other waypoints, while battling a horde of the undead, and other gun-toting enemies, along the way.
When the game was shown last year at E3, it was nothing short of stunning, combining the slick combat style of Techland’s Dead Island series with excellent climbing techniques and, as expected, better visuals. However, the team decided that a 2014 release wasn’t in the cards, and opted instead to schedule it for early next year. Judging by our latest hands-on time with the game, though, we think that the wait will be worth it.
In the new demo the developer brought to E3, Dying Light presented some great new mechanics. Perhaps the most vital is the introduction of a grappling hook. You basically throw out a rappel line to rooftops or any other given adjacent point, and then quickly work your way up to the structure seconds later. Not only does this provide a better way to get around the plagued city, but it can also help you in a pinch if you’re surrounded by zombies. (And let’s be honest, there are situations where you simply will be.)
Next up, weapons play a bigger part in Dying Light. You can actually modify and upgrade weapons accordingly, and we saw a couple of interesting combinations in the demo. The flame knife, for example, cuts through enemies like butter, and also engulfs them in fire so that they can burn others. That doesn’t necessarily kill them, though, so you may want to watch out for an attack from behind. In addition, an electrified axe makes it easy to slice an enemy right down the middle, should the situation call for it.
As with previous hands-on, Dying Light also requires occasional stealth and diversion. A super fleet of zombies, which track sound and movement in the dark, present a nightmarish scenario to the game, forcing you to run like crazy (fighting these guys is suicide) and get to cover. You have firecrackers that you can use to distract them and slip past, and the number of ways to get there, through the game’s unique open-world structure, presents many possibilities.
A large upgrade system is also in place, where you can improve your character’s agility and strength in a number of ways as you progress. In fact, the more you do certain items in the game, the stronger you become in these areas, with plenty of moves to unlock. The foot stomp is a particularly useful tactic, and that’s just the tip of the blood-soaked iceberg.
Dying Light is a visual feat. The city that you fight your way through is dazzlingly detailed, with torn rags hanging off of buildings and dynamic time-of-day effects, so you know exactly how much sunlight you have before you’ve had it. The explosions and zombie effects are also quite good, especially when you splatter one and watch the blood fly. (We’re telling you, that axe is something special.)
Our time with Dying Light was all too brief, but Techland left the impression that the final game will be well worth tackling. We’ll find out when it arrives next February, flaming knife in hand.