Dying Light


The term people tend to use is “dynamic gameplay”: unplanned, random events in a game that arise out of its systems, rather than a preplanned script. In open-world games, the attempt to create dynamic gameplay is why a lot of them will invariably send you all the way across the map to get from one objective to the other. They’re trying to bait the systems with travel time.


My tolerance for open-world games usually comes down to how much fun that travel time is. In a bad game, you just drive there, viewing any events that happen along the way as an irritating distraction. In a fair to good game, the trip itself is entertaining enough that you barely notice you had to make it.


Dying Light is flawed, but it’s a fun world to navigate. You play the part of Kyle Crane, a parkour runner in the zombie-infested Middle Eastern city of Harran, and it’s your job to scrounge for supplies and run errands in parts of the city that would kill anyone else. After three months under outbreak conditions, previous runners have set up ramps, obstacles, and traps for you, all of which you need to stay ahead of the mutants and zombies that are one step behind you at any given time. Dying Light goes so far as to make your character terrible at combat for the first couple of hours, just to make sure your emphasis is on parkour, and it works. If Dying Light had a fast-travel option on your initial run, I would not use it, and that’s some of the highest praise I can level at an open-world game.

If all Dying Light had to offer was high-impact anti-zombie parkour, it’d be a worthwhile game. You can have a lot of fun just running around Harran, kicking zombies off of rooftops, and if you ever want a more intense experience, all you have to do is play at night. Daytime Dying Light rapidly turns into a power fantasy as you level up, gaining new moves and finding better weapons; nighttime Dying Light is a stealth-based survival horror game with a razor-thin margin for error, as your field of vision drops to nothing and the zombies are replaced by tougher, faster “Volatiles.”


In a lot of ways, Dying Light is a natural evolution of Dead Island, to the point where a lot of systems have made the trip between games untouched. It still has some of the most visceral-feeling melee combat out there, and takes a childlike glee in flauting the laws of physics so you can go ahead and have an electrified, poisonous machete for some reason. You start Dying Light as half-useless, avoiding every fight you possibly can and ending up winded after a couple of wild swings, and end it as a skull-crushing figure of legend.


There’s a lot I like about the game, although to be fair, I’m a pretty easy mark when it comes to zombie apocalypses. There are only a couple of serious problems, but they’re big ones, and they drag down the product as a whole.

First off: Bombers. I don’t know who approved these things, but it’s amazing to me that at least a few dozen people must have looked at these things and decided they were worth including.


The Bomber’s your standard-issue fragile, explosive zombie. Touch it or attack it and it goes off like a bomb, killing anything within its blast radius, which includes you if you’re close enough. They’re more or less a feature of the zombie genre at this point, and Techland’s used it themselves with Dead Island‘s Suiciders.


The problem with the Bomber is that, on detonation, it does enough damage to count as a one-hit kill. It’s also virtually identical to any other male zombie, has a two-second wind-up time on its detonation, and is only identifiable from a distance by its strange teetering walk. Bombers can show up from anywhere and kill you with no warning, which turns into a farce when they spring out from vans you’re searching, appear out of closets behind you while you’re securing a new safe house, or show up during melee-focused challenge missions. In effect, the Bombers mean that every so often, without warning, you just die. It’s a great feeling when you actually manage to avoid one, but for every Bomber you outwit or outrun, there’ll be five or six that detonate on top of you.

Human opponents aren’t much better. Several of the later story stages in Dying Light degenerate into shooting galleries, where you have to face off against several faceless goons with assault rifles, or melee gauntlets where the limits of the combat engine are sharply outlined. You have a useful dodge move, but human opponents will constantly parry everything you throw at them and have pinpoint accuracy at a two-block range with their throwing knives. Every time you have to fight humans in this game, it’s much more trouble than it’s worth.


It’s an old story, when it comes to games like this one. Dying Light is great when you’re free-running across the city, avoiding zombies and exploring its detailed world. Whenever it tries to change up the formula, it takes an immediate head-first dive into frustration. A theoretical sequel that featured less fights against humans and watered down the Bombers would easily be one of the best games in the open-world genre, and even this one is fun the majority of the time. When it’s bad, though, it’s really bad.




Reviewed By: Thomas Wilde
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Rating: 75%

This review is based on a digital copy of Dying Light for the PC provided by Warner Bros Interactive.

5 Comments on “Dying Light

  1. Seriously dude, why are you whining in this review?

    You hate the Bombers, why? because they can kill you in one shot? OK!!

    These things are easily killed by throwing a star at them. nothing difficult about that dude.

    Same goes with the Humans, try not engaging them directly at first. Throw a Molotov at them and let them bake then go in for the kill. Or learn how to play the game better. Nothing very hard about it.

    But I guess you want the Humans to be as brain dead as the Undead Zombies. Just shaking my head at you right now in disbelief!

    I swear, today’s game reviews are nothing more then a bunch of spoiled ingrates that seeming forgot that games are not tailored to just your way of playing. I guess you all have forgotten that little aspect of gaming.

    • Agreed. The game is open world, and lets you approach any situation anyway you like. You barely even need to kill any zombies if you don’t want to. And when you do, use the equipment they give you and make an easy meal of it.

    • Also, dying is hardly an issue when you have at least two players. Because reviving is easy!