Dying Light (PC/PS3/PS4/Xbox One/X360 - 2014)
For those of you who were hoping the zombie game craze that buried us this generation would die out in the next, don’t you realize you can’t kill what’s already dead?
Techland, specifically the team that brought us the first Dead Island (and not the rancid Riptide), is jumping right back into the open-world zombie domain with another co-op onslaught in Dying Light. What stops their latest game from being just another Dead Island offshoot? At the surface, not much, but there’s two key gameplay mechanics that’ll really have your inner survivalist’s makeshift fire cooking.
The first being a night-day cycle that directly impacts your play style. By day, the undead slog through the tattered city streets, allowing you to explore and hunt for supplies with relative ease – if you’re the kind of person to feel at ease around walking, moaning corpses, anyway.
By night, the situation escalates from George Romero to all-out Zack Snyder. Zombies gain strength from the nightfall and become more agile, alert, and awfully aggressive. You’ll be chased down and made chow faster than you can scream “28 Days Later” but here’s where Dying Light’s second exciting feature comes in: free-running.
Avoiding obstacles, darting down allies, and actually taking to the rooftops will be your only chance of surviving. Clever little design touches like being able to look over your shoulder mid-run for pursuers and the ability to spot dangerous “powerhouse” zombies in the environment add to the flight-over-fight system. The comparisons to Mirror’s Edge are inescapable – there’s no way to write “first-person free-running” without having DICE’s game immediately flare in my synapses – but the implementation within a horror game is too good of a concept to ignore.
The genre is well worn (“decayed” even), yet harnessing the next-gen might send a jolt of life into the dead. [Although, it should be noted, Techland intends on releasing some sort of scaled down version of the game for current-gen systems]. Dying Light is looking at an ambiguous 2014 release date; more than enough time for Techland to win our zombie killing hearts over again.