Dying Light: Preview - Games Weekly

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Dying Light: Preview

Anyone who enjoys zombie games has spent some time with Dead Island. When it was first shown in action, the game’s brutal melee combat and starkly contrasted setting gave it instant appeal for those who like their games with a touch of darkness. While it wasn't without its share of problems, Dead Island did more for developers Techland than anything they had produced in the decade before (including the Call of Juarez series), and thanks to its successes, the team expanded over the years, eventually growing to almost three times the size.

Dying Light was originally intended to be the sequel to Dead Island , but once development got underway it became clear that there were simply too many differences, and soDying Lightwas born. With the original Dead Island teamat the helmthis is an exciting prospect for the developers and players alike: improved technology, more intense combat,a move towards deeper role-playing and horror aspects. Lead producer Tymon Smektala tells it like it is: “Dead Island helped us to make Dying Light, but Dying Light is a totally different beast.”

The developers are keeping quiet on most of the story elements of  Dying Light , but we do know that it takes place in a fictitious version of Istanbul called Harran, which has been quarantined following a zombie outbreak that’s ravaged the world. Players take on the role of special operative Kyle Crane who’s under the employ of an organisation called GRE. In the beginning of the game, Crane is tasked to parachute right into the middle of a Harran and locate a man who might hold the cure for the zombie virus. As expected, there are a few twists and turns along the way and before long Crane finds himself in the middle of trouble with more than just the undead. There are still a few living people in Harran, and as history has taught us, people tend to lose their cool during a zombie apocalypse.

Like Dead Island, Dying Light plays from a first-person perspective to get the player right up the noses of the shambling (or sprinting!) hordes. And you'll have to get right in there: most of the weapons available are designed for melee use; hammers, cleavers, batons, bats, axes, sledgehammers, and even swords are up for grabs. Firearms like rifles, pistols and shotguns are also present, but ammunition is scarce. Besides that, firing off a rifle in the middle of the night in a city filled with creatures looking to snack on your grey matter is not a particularly smart thing to do unless you like playing the role of a worm on a hook. There’s also a zombie breed that is extremely sensitive to noise, and likes to eliminate the source of it without asking too many questions.
“If you’ve seen it in a parkour video, it’s probably on the list of moves available.”
But combat will be a far more complex matter than walking up to a zombie and pressing A to bash their lights out: target body parts to cripple, disarm (often literally), break bones, or even decapitate your would-be biters. You'll also have access to a wide variety of special manoeuvres that can be performed in combat, depending on whether you tend down the agility or power sides of the character skill tree. Agility moves are for those who like to keep going: don’t slow down to engage those walking corpses when you can simply avoid fighting altogether; you can run past them, slide under them, or jump over them. Those who desire a more direct approach will have plenty of options as well: power moves like 360-degree spins, sweeps, jump-kicks, head-stomps, and all sorts of other icky flights of fancy are at your disposal. Techland have stated that there’ll be over 50 abilities to unlock. Most of these abilities will be active rather than passive, and open up plenty of opportunities to find a play style that suits you; most of the missions in the game can be completed in multiple ways.

But there’s far more to do in Harran than simply fight zombies. During the story you’ll be required to move throughout the city, and with bus services likely not reliable, that means you’ll be doing so on foot.  Dying Light  borrows much inspiration from  Mirror’s Edge  when it comes to player movement, but instead uses a dynamic system called Natural Movement that permits players to go absolutely anywhere, provided they have the necessary skills and/or equipment. Run up and along walls; vault across large distances; slide under obstacles; dive roll to break your fall; if you’ve seen it in a parkour video, it’s probably on the list of moves available. Oh, and there’s a grappling gun in case you’re feeling lazy. But don’t think that just because you can get to the rooftops you’ll be safe from the clutches of undeath: the zombies might be slobbering fools during the day, but at night, everything changes...
“You’ll also have access to a wide variety of special manoeuvres that can be performed in combat, depending on whether you tend down the agility or power sides of the character skill tree.”
Dying Light features a dynamic day/night cycle that you’ll do well to keep an eye on. During the day you can move through the city in relative safety, dodging or engaging with small packs of zombies as necessary. But when the sun sets, the zombies become more powerful. Their glowing red eyes tell that they’re more alert; their senses are keener. They also become smarter, capable of hunting down any intruders (that’s you), and even laying ambushes for the unwise. They become more aware of each other as well, and will cooperate to bring you down. You will become the prey, and they’ll make a meal of you if you’re not extra careful. They also become more agile at night, and will chase you up walls and over gaps within their reach. Thankfully you do have a few tools at your disposal: it’s possible to set traps to buy yourself a bit of time or knock off a few valuable hit-points from your pursuers. But really, it’s best just to stay indoors. Find a good book and worry about the apocalypse in the morning.

Dying Light  is a bold step for Techland. With the  Dead Island  series out of their hands (Deep Silver owns the rights to it), this is their chance to really show what they’re capable of. Warner Bros. is simply there to help with distribution and marketing: this is Techland’s game, and from what we’ve seen it’s more than capable of surpassing its spiritual predecessor.

There’s plenty about Dying Light  that goes off the beaten path of sanity, and this applies especially to the weapons department. You’ll be able to upgrade and customise your weapons from a pool of over 100 base items spread across the schools of slashing, stabbing, bashing, burning, electrocuting, and whatever else you’d like to use to deal with the undead. As you move through the game world, you’ll have ample opportunities to loot bodies, car boots, luggage, and many more treasure chest variants to find the crafting components that you’ll need to build your ultimate arsenal. It seems like weapons take damage during use, but it also appears as though you’ll be able to perform quick repairs to keep them fighting fit.

If it’s fun by yourself, imagine doing it with three other people! This rule applies to so much in life, and Dying Light is no exception. Up to four players can join together to take on the challenges of the game world, either supporting each other in the completion of quests or simply banding together to go and bash in as many zombie heads as they can.

But Techland isn't happy to simply leave it at “there is co-op”. During their play-testing, the developers found themselves competing with one another every now and then: racing to quest locations or having impromptu zombie-bashing contests. So they decided to implement this system officially. During your co-op adventures, you’ll occasionally be presented with an optional challenge to test either agility or strength. The player who wins gets themselves a neat little XP bonus and, perhaps more importantly, bragging rights until the next challenge pops up.

There’s also a purely competitive game mode called Be The Zombie which, as you might have guessed, lets you play as one of the undead. How it works is rather interesting: when you join in the BTZ mode, you’ll be thrown into someone else’s game. There you’ll spawn as a Super Infected called the Night Hunter an incredibly agile zombie who moves and fights in a way much like the Hunter from Left 4 Dead. The Night Hunter is tasked to hunt down the player(s), and if it kills everyone, it’s declared the winner. The humans, on the other hand, must destroy a number of hives which were spawned in the area: if they do so before being eaten alive, then good for them!

While it’s extremely powerful, the Night Hunter is a bit of a glass cannon; players must use their sneakiest tactics to break apart the players and take them down one at a time. The Hunter is also extremely sensitive to UV light, which makes those UV flashlights the players carry all the more pesky. Burning the Hunter with these lights will drain its power, buying the players more time to get to the hives and deal with them while the Infected recharges.

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