E3 2014: Dying Light Preview

Last year at E3 I got my first hands on time with Techlands parkour-based zombie title, Dying Light. This year, I got my second encounter with the game with an in-depth demo.  Dying Light is, on the surface, cut from the same cloth as Dead Island. The visual style of the zombies and the way the player acts, all feel ripped right from the core of Deep Silver’s zombie massacre extravaganza. The thing that makes Dying Light such a unique experience is the ability to traverse the environment with ease. If you can see if and there is a ledge nearby, you can climb it.

When jumping into the demo I was given a quick overview of the controls and given a simple objective, get to a waypoint. The first thing I noticed was, at the start of the game everything is hard to do. From climbing walls to taking on a single zombie, it was a challenge. It was often easier to just run away from everything then try and fight. The Parkour elements felt cumbersome and hard to execute, and the overall experience felt difficult and terrifying.

The night sections in this early part of the game are where things get very difficult. Every zombie you face is now stronger. At night the only real option is hide and avoid being seen. If you happen to get spotted, then the best option is to run, and hope you can stay ahead of the hoard. This is where the game really shines.

Dying Light takes place in a fictional location, with many areas to explore. From slums to a European city, it all gives a sense of place. The next part of the demo shows off a later segment in the game, in a city landscape. This is the part of the demo that raises the most questions for me. Armed with a much higher set of skills the traversal and combat challenges of the early part of the game are now trivial. Pulling out a knife like tool and slicing up many zombies at a time, this part really felt more action then horror. Running and climbing was more a convenience then a necessity, and the fear of the undead was practically non-existent.

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Granted, this section of the demo was built to show off an unrealistic set of stats, it does raise the question what does Dying Light hope to do in a landscape filled with zombie titles? It is a game with real promise, but it also could fall flat as many games before it. Will this be a game where you always have the sense of dread at the concept of night, or will it show off how powerful you, as the player, can be? I for one, hope Dying Light rises above the crowd and lives up to the promise, giving us a truly unique zombie experience. But like everything from E3, we will have to wait until release to find out for sure.