Dying Light Preview

Zombie apocalypse meets ultimate ninja warrior Batman.

Dying Light is Techland's newest foray into the zombie apocalypse genre. Right away, it's clear that the tone of the game is far from Dead Island's so don't think that this is a rehash of what you've already seen before. Everything from the environments to the combat systems has been revamped to allow players to have an original experience.

After exiting the tower, which acts as a safehouse for myself and other survivors, I was able to test out the most notable aspects of the gameplay: free-running movement. Being able to free-run over walls and obstacles and travel over rooftops is a key factor in bypassing enemies. Unlike previous Techland games the zombies in Dying Light are quite formidable, so even though hand-to-hand combat is quite satisfying, it is not always the best option. Running up walls and taking out lone zombies on the tops of buildings is more ideal than rushing into a crowd of them and hoping to best them with melee combat.

Your success dealing with enemies and your environment will rely heavily on the dual leveling system. Your agility skill tree levels separately from your strength skill tree. If you want to level up your agility, you will need to climb buildings and execute more free-running movements successfully. If you want to level up your strength, you will need to use more melee attacks to kill enemies. Once you begin leveling these two areas more, you will see a noticeable change in how your character performs. During the beginning of the demo, climbing over walls was clunky and took a long time, but when we jumped ahead to a later portion of the game where my character was more agile, the movements were quicker and much smoother.

In order to execute parkour movements, you will need to make sure you hold down the free-run button and make sure the camera is aimed in the direction you wish to travel. The parkour mechanic can take a little getting used to, but it is immensely effective. At one point I had missed a jump while traveling across some rooftops and was sure I was going to fall to my death until I pressed the free-run button mid-fall. I immediately latched onto the nearest ledge and was able to climb back onto the building I had been attempting to scale.

In the first scenario I played through, I was tasked with reaching a watchtower and trying to figure out why fellow survivors had not been responding to radio transmissions. Upon reaching their destination I found them taken hostage by bandits. In an attempt to free them, I was able to take out a few of the bandits through melee combat but I was forced to make a hasty escape. How did I do this? By jumping off a nearby ledge and falling onto a large pile of garbage. It was an amazing experience and definitely added to the daredevilish aspect of the gameplay.

To get a jump on these bandits, I would need to wait till nightfall. By traveling to a nearby safehouse I was able to sleep until nightfall, when the bandits would be the most vulnerable or may have moved on. Once out in the night it is very important to survey your surroundings with your "night sense" and see where your nearby enemies are. Traveling by high ground is even more important during nightfall as the zombies come out in larger numbers and the addition of an even more volatile foe, the Volitas. 

These Volitas are indicated on your map in red, but once they get on your trail you must escape as quickly as possible. Running away from them is thrilling and incredibly terrifying as I could barely see where I was going and could only hear the sound of the Volitas screaming behind me. My savior was reaching a light tower that I had been attempting to reach beforehand. Now that the bandits had cleared out I could boot the generator backup and restore power and light to a small portion of the town. Doing so helps keep the zombies at bay.  

The second scenario I was thrust into took place further along when my character was more agile. A survivor had radioed in asking for assistance getting medication. How long you take to get to the survivor's location strongly determines the outcome of the situation. Since my combat skills were a bit more advanced, I was able to take on more zombies at once with modified weapons. I cleared away enough zombies to continue making my way toward my destination.

Along the way I reached a vantage point that enabled me to see bandits in a city square below. By blowing up some barrels nearby their location I was able to attract the attention of nearby zombies who ran at the bandits from every direction and some of them even climbed out of sewer drains. Once the impromptu ambush was set I continued on my way and utilized a new tool that would help me cross wide gaps without having to touch the ground: a grappling hook. This is an invaluable tool that is highly effective and highly entertaining to use. It helped me get to the survivor a bit faster but my carelessness had caused me to get side-tracked and waste time. The survivor had begun to turn and attacked me after I reached his location, forcing me to kill him. If I had been quicker, the outcome may have been different.

So far the story is the only aspect of Dying Light we have yet to have see much of, but one thing we can be sure of is that the gameplay is going to be highly enjoyable. Once it releases you will be able to play as one of four protagonists and create a play style all your own based on how you prefer to handle zombies and bandits. One can only hope that the revolutionary style of the free-running mechanic translates to the plot making it as dynamic and intriguing. Dying Light will be released later in 2014 for Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.