Gamescom 2014: Hands on with Dying Light
I didn’t quite know what to expect from Dying Light after stepping through the doors of the WB Booth. I’d seen a few trailers that outlined how it was approaching the first person open world zombie game, and knew it was created by the same team as the first Dead Island, a game I enjoyed despite some technical issues and choices made in designing the latter half of the game. I knew there were two important aspects to the playing of the game, that I had to respect the differences between day and night, where you are the predator in the former and the prey in the latter and that parkour would be my friend and savior if used effectively.
As I sat down in that small room I was handed a pair of very comfortable headphones, with a microphone dangling off the end. Ok, headphones I get, but why would there be a microphone attached. Something was afoot. I glanced quickly to my right and saw a fellow journalist taking a seat and being handed the exact same pair of headphones that I had on my head, fair enough. And before the kind demo guide had even begun telling us how to proceed he was fiddling with his Xbox One controller. With a sigh signalling my feelings of frustration for this generation’s lack of an attention span I looked at the screen waiting to be instructed and saw another NPC, potentially friendly, leaping over a barricade in the small room the demo level started in and barreling towards some zombies. Our demo supervisor then politely instructed him to come back and join the docile on in the starting area. It was only then that I realized that I had forgotten this game had coop?
I then also recalled the fun I had with Dead Island’s cooperative gameplay, the feeling of satisfaction and tension of trying to stay alive and accomplish your objectives not just for the game, but for a real life human being. I had the exact same feeling as we progressed through the dilapidated apartment building our demo began in, being shown the ropes of zombie head smashing and basic parkour. Then a little twist was added, a coop challenge was proffered before us, kill more zombies than the other person in a limited period of time, simple enough in concept, less so in execution, especially when you assume that like the previous game zombies can be taken down with some firm smacks to their big toes. Oh no, destroying the brain is the only way to dispatch these ghouls, as it should be. There isn’t even a health bar to determine how close to crushing their brain pan you might be. It would be frustrating if the basic combat wasn’t great at providing extremely satisfying feedback to every hit you land with the myriad of craftable (but not by us) weapons at your disposal. I think this combat is better even than Condemned’s, if anyone remembers that gem.
So we spent some time killing zombies, and getting a handle on the controls which are quite intuitive. Attacking is relegated to the right trigger, the longer you hold the trigger the heavier your attack is, and the more you deplete your stamina bar. You can kick with the right bumper and your parkour skills are activated by a press of the left bumper. Up on the directional pad is how you toggle your flashlight. An essential tool for navigating through the dank and foreboding hallways and apartments that had a zombie drooling in seemingly every corner. The right bumper activates your parkour skills, which while they helped me jump over some crates and over a few gaps in the apartment building didn’t really come into their own until after we entered the city proper. Oh did I mention it was nighttime?
Remember what I said about nightime being the time you didn’t want to be outside? I’d guess it was between 9 and zero chance thirty when we leaped into the dark, but extremely pretty and atmospherically rich city streets. But come on, how hard could it be, we made it through the apartment building with nary a scratch? We’ll destroy those zombie hives in no time flat. We only have five lives to do it you say? Ha! We only need one!
We began happily scrambling over the rooftops, occasionally decapitating the stronger, faster, but still manageable zombies and were halfway to our first hive when a bloodcurdling cry of rage stopped us in our tracks. What the hell was that? Oh, you are now being tracked by a special, hunter zombie that moves more quickly than you do, can see in the dark, and can kill you in one hit, and he’s being controlled by a member of the development team, just in case he wasn’t terrifying enough. But before we had simultaneous heart attacks we were introduced to a tool that would save my life on numerous occasions. Remember that horrible Blade reference I made earlier? Besides captain smiley-pants Techland also took another trick out of Blade’s book and gave us a UV filter on our flashlights, which when aimed correctly can aggressively dissuade the hunter from pouncing on and dismembering you or your buddy. If you can hold it on him long enough it can also sufficiently weaken him so that when you do get your filthy mitts on him you can take him down in short order.
Did I always manage to stop the hunter from ripping me or my coop buddy limb from limb? No, but we did manage to pull off enough hunter kills for the dev. team to call us huge pains in the ass by the time we took down the last gestating zombie with two out of our four lives left. And I also played enough of Dying Light to know that despite it being another zombie game, the easy to control parkour, immersive presentation and fun coop challenges make it feel less like it is just another zombie game.
I also had a very nice chat with Maciej Binkowski, lead Game Designer on Dying Light, which will be published in a seperate piece a little later.
Check out Dying Light’s Gamescom trailer below.
Dying Light will be released on the Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC next year
For another take on the game check out Joey Lampe’s impressions of the demo he played at this year’s E3 by clicking here.