Dying Light: Dead Before Dawn

Though zombie games never really went away I couldn't help but feel there were more titles featuring the living dead than usual at this year’s E3. So to rise above the crowd you have to do something pretty special and Dying Light has just enough to ensure it won’t get lost in the undead shuffle.

Set in a fictional Istanbul style city of Harran the world of Dying Light is, as you’d expect, filled with a variety of living dead monsters. The basic slow and stupid biters are at the bottom of the ladder but they can still pose a serious threat as can the agile runners who can just about match your climbing abilities. There are creepy infected children called screamers whose voice can distort your vision and bloated zombies that shoot acidic goo, but the king of the living dead only comes out when the sun goes down.

“During the night we have the volatile,” explained Maciej Binkowski, Lead Game Designer of Dying Light, “which are the night creatures that can tear you to pieces in seconds. When you see them you don't even think about fighting them. They're very agile and they also work as a pack so when one sees you it'll call for support and then you're in real trouble.”
So you’ve got a lot to deal with and more often than not running away is going to be your best bet. During my hands-on time I found my parkour abilities served me well as I was often out-matched and in need of finding a place on the map, such as rooftops or narrow alleyways, to give me a tactical advantage.

One of the most notable features is how well the game handles your presence in the world. Your character feels weighty and the variety of climbing animations make the act of clambering up a wall look as hard a task as it probably is in real life.

“One of our team members said a lot of times in games you feel like a balloon full of air,” said Maciej Binkowski, “so we spent a lot of time giving you weight and giving you the feeling that this body has momentum when you're running. The same goes for the combat we tried to make it visceral and we want you to feel like you're hitting things.”

So often in video games darkness is one of your closest allies. Hiding in shadows and staying out of sight has been key to survival in a plenty of games but in Dying Light the glow of a street light at night is a beacon of hope against the light fearing monsters that hunt you.

“Night creatures are light sensitive so you can even use your flashlight to stun them,” said Binkowski. “This extra second might be just enough to save your life, but it's nothing that will keep them away for long. So when you're securing shelters you've got to make sure there's a lot of bright light, so each zone that is considered 'safe' is well lit.”

As fun and unique a lot of the climbing and fighting mechanics in Dying Light are it was the tension of staying alive that I found most compelling. The zombie genre might be blowing up again like a sledgehammer to the skull, but at least it’s bursting with games that seem well worth your time.

Whether you love them or hate them pre-order bonuses are here to stay. And as much as it pains me to say it Dying Light’s sounds like it might be worth going in for.“Anybody who pre-orders the game gets access to this special mode called Be the Zombie,” said Maciej Binkowski, “it's a [player versus-player] mode where you get to play as a super-infected zombie and you jump right in and act as a powerful enemy and troll them.”

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