by Preston Dozsa
previewed on PC
Bring a friend
Dying Light’s premise sounds simple enough when you first hear about it. You’re stuck in a quarantined city, bashing and slicing your way through crowds of undead zombies while running, jumping and climbing through the streets. Now that’s all well and good when you’re by yourself, but when you add another human to the mix? That’s when things start to get interesting.
The demo on hand at Gamescom featured two players (The game allows for a maximum of four) in an apartment building about to prime some explosives in order to send a message to the outside world. After priming the explosives, we had to escape the building through the basement, fighting through its undead residents along the way. For those who have played developer Techland’s last game Dead Island, the general combat is quite similar, with weapons degrading over time with each hit and some weapons having additional side effects.
While escaping the building was exciting, the real fun came with the competitive challenges. These are optional objectives that pop up from time to time to keep things interesting when you’re travelling between points on the map. The first challenge I played through was to see who could kill the most zombies in a room before time ran out, which was shortly followed by a footrace to see who could get out of the building the quickest.
Once you emerge from the building’s basement and set off the explosives, you can have a look around and see how truly massive the area is in Dying Light. It’s not an exaggeration to say that despite how large it is, it is still possible to traverse it in any way you want. At first I followed the roads and staircases as we ran to our objective and it took some encouragement from the Techland developer guiding us before I started to jump and climb my way through the city. But when I started, it was impossible for me to go back to running around the streets normally. It’s so freeing to jump between buildings and clamber over cars as it allows you to create your own method to deal with the situation at hand.
That situation took a turn for the worse when the developers revealed the surprise they had warned me about at the beginning of the demo: a Hunter invasion. A Hunter is a powerful type of zombie that can jump and climb between buildings extremely quickly, and can tear apart a player in the blink of an eye. Most importantly however is that the Hunters are controlled by another player that can invade your game. The survivor’s objective in an invasion is to destroy several zombie hives to remove the Hunter from your world, and if the players die too many times the Hunter wins.
Fortunately for the survivors, they come with a sonar tool that can detect the presence of a Hunter as well as a UV light that stuns and slows down the Hunters enough to allow for a quick and clean kill. This requires teamwork, as it is extremely difficult to take on one Hunter by yourself, and it proved difficult for the two of us to fight without some closely working together. Fortunately, we prevailed, thus ending the demo.
While the section of the game that I played lasted around 20 minutes, the intensity of the experience was surprising. Running through a dark building was simple enough, but having to fend off a powerful zombie in the middle of night as a dozen zombies rushed towards you from all directions was heart-pounding. Backlit by a burning car, the scene became a frantic melee that had me rushing to complete our objective. And this wasn’t a set piece: it was a normal, albeit random event that could occur at any point during normal gameplay. If Dying Light can keep us this pace, then the fans of the zombie genre can have another title to look forward to when it releases next February.