Dying Light was an interesting oddity at E3 2013. The game is from Techland, the same studio behind the Dead Island franchise, and it certainly involves shambling undead enemies. However, in our theater demo of the game, it seems that there's a lot more to Dying Light. It's a melee-focused zombie game, but mixed with the DNA of something akin to Mirror's Edge. Sure, you can fight off the zombies in melee combat, but you're often better off climbing up a telephone pole and leaping from rooftop to rooftop to avoid the horde.
The pre-recorded demonstration showed the player character in need of tracking down a pair of airdropped supply crates that fell in a village that's densely populated with the undead. A woman in his earpiece was directing him, instructing him that some urgently needed medicine is in those crates. Just as importantly, he needs to get the medicine and return before sundown. This portion of the demonstration showcased more of the free running that takes place in the game, deftly leaping from rooftop to obscure back alleys and then clambering back up the sides of single-story structures.
At one point, a little girl could be heard crying, and though time was of the essence, the demonstrator chose to climb up a telephone pole to get into the building's second level. A little girl was hiding alone in a closet, and after she was located, another team could rescue her while the player continued to the crates. These types of side-missions are apparently dynamically generated in a random manner, though the demonstration didn't delve into what the mission benefits are or what other types of missions there might be.
There are a few types of the infected that must be dealt with, and we saw a selection of some of them. There are the standard shambling undead, who can move at little more than a brisk walking pace and behave similar to the basic enemies found in Dead Island. There are enemies called Virals, which are humans that are infected but haven't yet succumbed to the virus. They act much more human in their mannerisms and ability, but they are still incredibly aggressive. Finally, there are the Volatile, which are apparently something that you really want to avoid due to their large size and high agility. We found out why.
It wasn't long before the demonstrator happened upon the first crate, though it appeared that some well-armed militia was already picking over the contents and ordered him to back off. We reached the second crate soon thereafter, and its contents were intact but the sunlight was dwindling. We had medicine in hand but the daylight was gone, and the demonstration showed that the village is a much more dangerous place at night. At night, the Volatile come out to hunt, and the game is no longer a merry jaunt across rooftops. Instead, the player has to carefully pick a path by using the pulse ability to detect nearby Volatiles and navigating around them. The player can sneak up on and stealth-kill zombies that are standing still. In the demonstration, the demonstrator cut off a zombie's head with a machete.
Of course, at one point, the demo showed what happens when you are detected. A piercing chorus of undead howls combine with the response of a few Volatile roars. The player character goes into a dead sprint, clambering over obstacles and down the street as numerous Volatile moved impossibly fast behind him. The wall-running seemed more important here, and at one point, it showed the player character leaping onto the back and shoulders of a standing zombie to reach a balcony that's otherwise out of reach. It wasn't long thereafter that a Volatile caught up to and pounced on the character, its massive jaws filling the screen as it bit down to close the presentation.
We didn't get hands-on time with the game, but if the demonstration is anything to go by, Dying Light has a lot of interesting elements. The free running allows players to avoid combat, which has obvious benefits, and the world seems to be a vastly different and more dangerous place once the sun sets. The dynamic missions could keep things lively, but more omnipresent is an overall sense of urgency. It isn't a game that you can casually make your way through and pick off the undead. You need to get things done quickly. Or else the setting sun puts you at the bottom of the food chain. We'll know more about Dying Light as it approaches its launch window of 2014. It will be available on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC.
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