previews\ Sep 2, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Dying Light Hands-On Preview: Parkouring the undead world by day

Dying Light

Back in June, I had the opportunity to watch a presentation for Dying Light, an upcoming open-world zombie-survival action game with hardcore parkour elements and an emphasis on time of day. Basically, during the day you have to make your way around the city, scavenging for supplies and dodging the hordes of zombies through acrobatic maneuvers. When the sun goes down, though, the real fun begins – and by fun, I mean death as the zombies and other creatures become faster and more powerful.

Having recently been announced back then, I was only able to watch with intrigue as the developers leapt from building to building in a world overrun by zombies and other foul creatures. The game certainly looked good – with next-gen graphics and lighting – but anyone who has played Dead Island knows Techland’s gameplay doesn’t always live up to the promises of their vision. Needless to say, I had my reservations.

At PAX Prime this weekend, I finally had a chance go hands-on with the game which is built largely on the same overall concept of Dead Island, while throwing in an element of parkour. While the open-world nature of Dying Light was constricted for my demo, presumably to keep me from seeing too much of the environment, I was still able to get a good feel for the newly added gameplay element. Traversing the rooftops and navigating the streets felt natural, smooth, and effortless. Whether it was hurdling walls, jumping rooftops, or sliding under debris, Techland has nailed the parkour element in Dying Light – which is a good thing considering how much emphasis has been placed upon it.

Dying Light

Despite the limitations of the demo, I was able to get a good feel for the types of side missions that will be available in the game. While on my way to the main objective, which involved finding a missing person, I would run into other survivors in need of my rescue. With a few simple swings of a machete, I was rewarded with cash and reputation that I assume will be valuable later on.

As for combat, well that can still use a bit more polishing. It’s definitely an improvement over the Dead Island franchise, but it still feels somewhat clunky and slow. Decapitations and chopping off limbs still feel as rewarding as ever, and there’s definitely no lack of gore.

What’s most appealing about Dying Light’s gameplay isn’t necessarily the mechanics, but the concept. For once in a game, you are actually more encouraged to run than stand your ground and fight. Perhaps that’s the reason for such emphasis on travel. My demo actually took place during the day, when it’s considerably easier to survive the swarms of zombies, but come nightfall I suspect it won’t be as easy. I’ll let you know when I go hands-on with the night time portion of Dying Light later today.

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