So, I started off this section of zombie games with a bit of a treatise on why zombies are so pervasive in our culture and you can read that part here. You can read my first zombie game review about State of Decay here.
And now continuing on in reviewing some zombie games, because that’s mostly what I’m playing right now, I’ll head into a game I mentioned previously, Dying Light.
BE WARNED, MAJOR SPOILERS!!! (and probably swear words)
Published by Warner Brothers in January 2015 and developed by the Polish studio that brought us Dead Island, Techland offers up another open world style, horror survival zombie game. Dying Light could be considered a more beautiful and more polished version of Dead Island. With parkour.
There’s a little intro, a newscast basically telling you about a fictional Middle Eastern city called Harran. A quarantine has been instituted, a wall built, perhaps there are survivors or not but supplies are being dropped in anyway.
Then you start your game and you know you’re definitely in the realm of “big game”, excellent graphics, setting up storyline, big cinematic opening. And poof, you’re leaping out of a plane into Harran while your GRE (Global Relief Effort) handler, or whatever she is, sounding suspiciously like Joan Cusack (although it is not said actress), updates you on your mission, to find some dude who may have have a cure which might kill everyone, blah blah, and may be one of the leaders of the two main factions in the city. You land hard and are immediately beset by bandits.
Okay, now I have an issue. This is something I didn’t mention in my review of State of Decay. There weren’t any bandits or ruffians or whatever in State of Decay (well, just a few interactions with the Wilkersons, but they don’t really cause external problems like raiding). Just other survivors who may or may not like you but at least are not coming at you for your stuff. Most apocalyptic visions have humans practically falling into madness at the first whiff of collapse. I would like to hope that we might build conclaves of civilization after some period of chaos. That banditry would not be the norm. One can only hope.
So, here we are, at the mercy of bandits when everything goes to hell as zombies descend upon the hapless group, including you. But, lo, you are rescued by Jade and her friend Amir (who is eaten in the process) and you wake up in The Tower. Which does actually seem to be a conclave of fairly level civilization. You find out you’re infected with the Harran virus (having been bitten during the fray) and now rely on Antizin, a drug that apparently slows the effects of the virus and keeps you from changing into a slavering, flesh hungry undead monster. And still, you’re trying to find the dude with the files and figure out out to get back out of the city. So, off you go.
First off, it’s gorgeous. Of course, this statement is becoming more and more, “Yeah, and?” Meaning that with the new generation consoles such as the XBone (again, my affectionate term for the Xbox One) and the PS4, it’s all looking pretty good these days. But there’s Pretty for the Hell of it, and there’s Pretty with Intent. And I feel the city of Harran has intent, I mean, if The Tower is any indication. You can walk up to a wall and view pictures hanging there in detail. It almost seems as every little thing has been given thought. I start wondering what the lives of the people presented in these photos must have been like before all this started. I feel drawn into the background world that I may never ever know. The same with clothing, people wearing T-shirts with details on them that you can make out. One was the image of some movie graphic, which you run across later in the abandoned movie theater. The books and DVDs have titles, everything has detail. It feels immersive and you do question – what was this place like before?
But I have one issue…. Seriously, people, CLEAN UP YOUR APOCALYPSE!! I mean, I know everyone is all taken up with survival and such, but at some point, there has got to be down time, right?? RIGHT?? And you could totally pick up all that debris strewn about and straighten up furniture and basically make things generally decent in your hideaway lair. And that might even lift spirits and make things easier on you psychologically but also logistically. But do people do so? Hells no. Almost every single zombie or apocalyptic game/movie/show is dirty, disorganized and messy as hell. I mean, the people in The Tower are all just sitting around…. just sitting there doing absolutely nothing… THEY COULD BE CLEANING UP THE DAMNED APOCALYPSE!!!
Now, out and about the city… and well, I ain’t so good with the jumping. I never have been. And I certainly don’t think like a parkour-ist? I recently watched a movie called Tracers which featured parkour running thieves. As our strapping young hero is learning how to do parkour, he keeps falling flat on his face when trying to leap over a car. The lady heroine says to basically be where the car isn’t or some such thing. I don’t have this skill, to be able to scan the landscape and immediately choose and execute a route (well, unless I’m driving the car or motorcycle in “real” life). Plus… seriously bad with the jumping, remember? I have to carefully approach walls and figure out where to jump to next, etc. The game pretty much encourages you to do it at a run. Because, you know, zombies.
And wow, the zombies must be made of freaking kevlar because you swing your lame little pipe and it practically bounces right off them. In State of Decay, Dead Rising 3 and even Techland’s first zombie game Dead Island, they go down at least with a couple of swings of effort. But here, it feels like you have to whale on them over and over. And unlike State of Decay, even with its hordes, the zombies are EVERYWHERE. Noise alerts them and you can’t really take on even one without a bunch of others coming for you. In Dead Rising 3, you can gleefully wade into the masses swinging a scythe (on fire, natch), cutting down swaths of zombies. The point of Dying Light seems to be more about the stealth and, of course, the jumping. I am far less about stealth and way more about charging in screaming and sword swinging (most likely) or occasionally the high perch with the sniper rifle as my play style. So, games like this can have high frustration levels for me.
Fortunately, the zombies are fairly slow and stupid, so I have been able to carefully take on a few scattered about in one area. For the most part. UNFORTUNATELY, there are the sort of fresh ones, maybe more recently turned by the virus and those fuckers seem to pop up out of nowhere to attack you. And they are fast, running straight at you, limbs flailing. And since there isn’t a “radar” on your mini-map, you really have no idea where enemies are or heading to. And then let’s not forget nighttime.
Oh yes, nighttime is its own level of hell in this game. First off, there are night and day cycles. Dead Rising 3 had this as well, with the zombies shifting in characteristics between the two. During the day, generally your basic undead, but during the night, glowing red eyes, far more aggressive, faster and harder to kill. Now, Dying Light sort of offers up the same thing: faster, nastier, jumpier “Infected”, and also allows you to receive better XP gains and such if you are out and about nocturnally. HOWEVER… there is some really bad-ass freaky shit that comes out at night. There are a few different kinds of these zombie mutants but to me, the worst of the bunch were the “Volatiles” from whom you just basically had to flee but usually if they spotted you, you’re dead. They pounce and kill you. Of course, the game doesn’t just leave you dangling like fresh zombie bait out in the middle of the night. During the day you clear out “safe houses” and you can stay the night in these areas safely until dawn comes. Jade lets you and other “runners” know over the radio that you have an hour before night falls. Get thee hence to The Tower or a safe house and huddle against the darkness (the infected at night in this game are very sensitive to UV light and lights in general); so basically you sleep with the lights on, locked away in tiny rooms. But of course… the game ALSO pushes the nighttime issue by forcing you out and about through required quests, such as “Fetch me the gooey flesh of a spitty mutant zombie!!”, which of course, only come out at night. Sigh. Running about at night was the worst, for sure. I just wanted to curl up and ignore the darkness, XP benefit gains be damned.
Unfortunately, I didn’t last very long with this game. I gave it enough of a good try to be able to say, “Yeah, I played Dying Light and am familiar with it” (plus having watched HOURS of play by my husband, who, having liked Dead Island a great deal, thought Dying Light was a much better version and he finished out Dying Light and most of its DLCs). Partly it was the Jumping requirements. Partly it was the stressful nighttime play. But I admit I didn’t complete the game (even though I know how it ends!!) and I’m okay with that. (And I also fully admit that not completing games is kind of a thing with me…. very short attention span).
In Short Conclusion
In general, Dying Light is a very well done zombie game. It is beautiful, despite the messy apocalypse stuff and the game play is smooth. If I were better at the jumping, I absolutely would have stuck with this game and finished it out. Maybe I’ll come back to this one and see if I can’t improve that whole parkour business and get up in the jumpy grill. I’d even continue playing with the crazy shit at night. If you want a really high adrenaline pumping experience, play this game and go make a thing out of rummaging around in the dark.
What did I gain from the game, or think about?
Well, if it ever came to a zombie apocalypse where I had to rely on my physicality, I’m going to be undead munchy snacks. Not that I’m a couch potato or such. I vaguely exercise and I practice a Russian combat martial art. But I’m not at my peak for sure. My endurance wouldn’t last a bit of a second. I have a t-shirt, zombie motif, natch, as previously mentioned in the first zombie post, that says “The hardest part of the zombie apocalypse will be to act like I’m not excited.” But really, it will be a horrifying, terrifying, traumatic thing to live through. And it’s a good thing to be in shape to do all that would be required in such an apocalypse. And, I think that freaky mutant nocturnal zombie shit would just break me. I mean, the dark is hard enough with just regular zombies shuffling about but imagine having to gird all your defenses against shit that can leap or move really fast, in the dark when you are your most vulnerable. Plus, we can basically wrap our heads around the concept of a zombie, be it medically, meteorically or naturally/supernaturally induced, but the further you get away from the template of ‘plain old zombie’, the more uncertain shit gets. So, having these incredibly creepy or somewhat more alien types of zombies coming at you, I imagine that would change the game a bit. By which I mean the surviving the apocalypse game in real life, not this game!!
Also, I would totally clean up my apocalypse.
Played on XBox One.
“Dying Light cover” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –