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June 2024

Dying Light 2 Stay Human

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Techland
Release Date: Feb. 4, 2022


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PS5 Review - 'Dying Light 2: Stay Human'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Feb. 2, 2022 @ 7:00 a.m. PST

Dying Light 2 is a novel vision of the post-apocalyptic experience will bring everything players would expect from a new, radically improved installment in the series.

Buy Dying Light 2: Stay Human

The original Dying Light is probably one of my favorite zombie games ever. The setting and the mix of parkour exploration and zombie-fighting action set it apart from the crowd. It got plenty of post-release support, so the game received new content (both free and paid) all the way up to the sequel's release. After numerous delays, Dying Light 2: Stay Human is here at last. Does it live up to the original? Yes and no.

Dying Light 2 is set about 15 years after the original game. The terrifying zombie plague has spread across the world, and the few remaining survivors live in isolated enclaves, with brave couriers called Pilgrims to connect them. Aiden is one such Pilgrim, but his job is merely a means to achieve the goal of finding his lost sister, Mia. Aiden travels to a walled city after hearing a rumor that the man responsible for his sister's disappearance is there. Now that he's trapped within, he must find a way to overcome his own zombie infection so he can find his missing sister before it's too late.

The biggest new feature in Dying Light 2 is a more flexible system of plot progression. You're frequently offered choices between two or more dialog options that can influence the plot. You may follow one group instead of another, allow a character to live or die, or decide when to lie and when to the tell truth. Characters remember your choices, and it can influence how they treat you.

Unfortunately, Dying Lying 2's story is a lot more disjointed than the original. It lacks a cohesive core cast to really bring things together. Perhaps this is due to the flexibility of the options you can take, but it ends up being a net negative. Characters disappear for huge chunks of time and change personality traits on a dime, and plotlines go entirely unresolved. In general, the whole thing feels like it falls apart beyond a certain point. Perhaps other paths come together better, but considering I went for a "be nice to everyone" playthrough, I was surprised at how much was glossed over off-screen.

The ending is bizarrely underbaked. The central conflicts are poorly explained, and I'm not clear why things had to happen in a specific way because it seemed like the most the antagonists were willing to say was, "It has to." The ending slides feel like they're lacking a lot of info, and in one case, it contained arguably the single most egregious cop-out deus ex machina I've ever encountered. Having something miraculous described by a single paragraph of white text that makes it feel far less satisfying.

I'm not fond of the changes that Dying Light made to the infection. The basic premise is that everyone is now infected, but if you hop under a UV lamp for a few minutes, you're fine. The infection lacks the same sense of urgency. It's a neat concept for a "15 years into the apocalypse" story, but it defangs the menace a bit. This is very much a game where the primary threat is human beings, and zombies just happen to be around.

Dying Light 2's parkour is different from the last game. Aiden's explicitly tougher and stronger than the average person, and that means he has what amounts to low-level superpowers. He can't fly, but he can run faster, jump higher, and move through the environments with greater ease than Kyle ever could. This means the gameplay feels less realistic and a bit more streamlined but not in a bad way.

The parkour is fun. You're able to string together combos of movements, and once you get some levels under your belt, they combos flow together seamlessly and allow you to move between rooftops without stopping. I spent quite a lot of time running around and enjoying the mechanics (to the point that my parkour movement skills were about 3-4 levels higher than my combat skills), and I never tired of it. It feels awesome to figure out the exact string of combos to go from location to another.

Unfortunately, that is why I'm mixed on the paraglider and grappling hook. This is a problem that the original Dying Light had, but Dying Light 2 ramps it up. The paraglider allows you to instantly glide. If you hit an upswell of hot air, you'll fly high, and you can glide across huge sections of the city. This feels great and is a ton of fun, but once you get it, you stop interacting with the parkour mechanics since you can fly over most of the map. Much like the original game, the grappling hook effectively lets you skip all of the "climbing" stuff and scoot yourself up anywhere that it can latch on. I really like both items and they're fun to use, but they make it less effective to climb normally.

Parkour is naturally integrated into the combat system. You can vault off enemies to smash foes behind them, or you can come down on their heads with a terrifying smash. Use your grappling hook like Scorpion and pull enemies over, so you can splat their heads. By the end of the game, I was barely using my weapons because the hand-to-hand stuff was just more effective. A quick tug with the hook and a stomp on the head was enough to one-shot anything that wasn't a miniboss.

Beyond that, combat hasn't changed very much from the original Dying Light. You can find a wide variety of pre-created weapons in the environment, and you can customize them with special items that alter their effects and restore their durability. All weapons eventually break, but if you have a good weapon and are careful to upgrade it only after you've used some durability, then it'll last until you out-level it.

Beyond that, it's mostly a (literally) smashing good time. You can use parkour moves or special charge attacks to bonk enemies until they fall over. I can't say it's complex, but it's pretty fun. There are even special items in the environment like spears and broken bottles that you can use on enemies to inflict huge damage. It's largely unnecessary because enemies aren't lethal in most situations, but it's still fun.

One of the bigger changes is the new infection meter. As part of the aforementioned changes to the system, when you are infected, you slowly begin to transform when you're out of the sun. This effectively puts a time limit on indoor missions and nighttime excursions. The time limit refreshes if you are exposed to UV light or use some items that can cure it. Should your meter run dry, the game is instantly over.

This might sound tense, but it's kind of the opposite. The game errs too much on the side of caution, so sources of UV replenishment are basically everywhere. Special items can fully heal you, and there are multiple UV lamps in any dark area. I like the idea of making it dangerous to go indoors, but the changes to the gameplay to compensate for it lessen the experience.

For example, nighttime has been severely nerfed. In the original Dying Light, going out at night was almost a death sentence until you had some experience under your belt. Dangerous super-zombies would hunt you down, and the streets were filled with aggressive biters. Now, going out at night is not much different than going out during the day. "Howler" zombies give chase if they see you, but they only dwell at street level and are easily killed. You're expected to go out and start killing these special foes because they drop tokens to upgrade your crafting blueprints.

The worst change is that the terrifying nighttime chases, which were one of the coolest aspects of Dying Light, are all but gone now. The powerful Volatile zombies are still technically in the game, but they only show up in a handful of story missions or if you let a chase go on for a really long time. I used to have to consider if I wanted to run back and sleep until morning, but now, there's no reason to bother.

There's a fair bit of content in Dying Light 2. In addition to the main story mission, which has branching missions and multiple endings — although the changes don't seem that significant — there are a bunch of side-quests. Some quests provide lore, others grant rare resources and experience points, and others still can yield blueprints to craft new weapon mods or consumables. They don't feel as rewarding as the previous game, since so much can be purchased from the vendors, but it's a nice way to keep busy.

 You can also influence who runs the city by bringing back power and water stations and assigning them to either the Peacekeepers (military police who rule with an iron fist) or Survivors (the free people of the city). The more you support one side, the more benefits you'll get in their territory. The Peacekeepers give more weapons and traps, while the Survivors give additional mobility options and a free revive. The game will also have four-player co-op, but unfortunately, that wasn't available in our review build.

For the most part, Dying Light 2 looks and plays well. The early section of the game had terrible motion blur that made me worry the entire experience was going to be like that, but it smoothed out once I was in the city. I played on Performance mode, which kept a mostly reliable frame rate, but it did hiccup here and there. Quality mode ran too inconsistently for me to enjoy, and I hope that it is patched more in the upcoming weeks. The voice acting is largely solid, but some lines sounded off. My only complaint there is that Aiden and Kyle sound too similar sometimes, and that makes it feel like I'm playing the same character again.

I encountered a frustratingly large number of bugs. Some of them may not appear in the final release, which will have a day-zero patch, but they were aggravating. The worst was a sound glitch where the audio stopped playing during cut scenes unless I restarted the game, often forcing me to replay entire sections to get back to where the glitch happened. There were broken triggers, and one of my level-ups did not give me a skill point until the next time. None of these ruined the game, but they were worth noting.

Dying Light 2 is a good game that happens to be the long-awaited sequel to a great game. There's still a ton of fun to be had, and the exploration alone is worth the price of admission. At the same time, it's bigger without necessarily being better. I had a lot of fun with it, but I can't help but feel more positive toward the original. If you're looking for a fresh new world to smash zombies in and you're burned out on Harran, then Dying Light 2 will scratch that itch well.

Score: 8.0/10

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