I missed out on Dying Light last year. As somebody who adores anything zombie related, me skimping out on Techland’s undead offering should be considered nothing short of an absolute travesty.
I had my reasons though. My PC, while still somewhat decent by today’s standards, lacked the RAM required to run the game. And then I got my PlayStation 4, but by that point (late 2015), the hype for Dying Light had long passed. As a result, I forgot it even existed.
Thankfully, this is one of those rare instances where my ignorance and horrible memory worked out in my favour. I finally got to experience Dying Light in its ultimate form, thanks to The Following: Enhanced Edition. It’s a package that contains both the base game and the new expansion, along with a bunch of other goodies that were not present in the original last year. Is it worth playing? Let’s take a look…
Is this thing Haraan?
Dying Light kicks off in quite a spectacular fashion. Players take control of Kyle Crane, who right from the beginning, we know is a mysterious operative for some or other government organisation out to obtain a mysterious file. He jumps from a plane, and parachutes straight into the city of Haraan – a place that is victim to some or other virus that’s made most of its inhabitants somewhat… hungry.
Not even a minute or so later, his landing goes horribly wrong, and he encounters a couple of bandits. In the ensuing scuffle, he gets bitten by a zombie. It wouldn’t be much of a game if he died then and there though, would it? No, Crane is luckily saved by other survivors. Unfortunately, one loses their life to the horde during the rescue.
Infected, and indebted to those that saved his skin, he is left no option but to pull his weight and take on jobs from the game’s main central hub – a building simply known as the Tower. Its inhabitants soon discover that Crane isn’t just any ordinary old survivor however – he’s good at getting jobs done. Why? Well, he just so happens to be an expert in combat, and somebody who’s also conveniently very good at parkour. The latter is what makes Dying Light a true standout in the flood of existing zombie titles.
Apart from being filled to the brim with the undead, Haraan is, in most places, a claustrophobic collection of close-knit buildings. Any ordinary human wouldn’t last a second in the narrow alleyways and streets that stretch throughout the city. Crane on the other hand, can navigate it all with ease, thanks to his handy climbing skills. Alessandro described it perfectly in his original review last year:
The slums of Harran are gorgeous to behold, especially at low light times such as dusk and dawn. Although inhabited by the undead, it absolutely blossoms with life that makes the lack of any fast travel nearly a non-issue. Becoming familiar with parkour routes and safe back alleys became one of my favourite pass-times thought my campaign, with the sheer amount of detail poured into the design of the city truly paying off.
It’s also notable that among the mess of abandoned cars and derelict buildings lie immaculately designed, well thought-out routes for you to run, jump and fall your way through. Dying Light brings together everything that a game like Mirror’s Edge was and mashes it together with former Dead Island attempts. You’re encouraged to fly rather than fight – rooftops become a safe haven from the hordes below and miss-timing a jump leads to a swift and untimely end. It’s interesting that a game primarily focused around zombie horror actually doesn’t derive fear from its players through these creatures, but rather through an undeniable sense of vertigo. Gravity is your greatest enemy in Dying Light, and it takes a while for you to truly understand how to tackle it.
It did take me a while to understand it all. I honestly think I died more times at the hand of a miss-timed jump then I did to an actual zombie.
Cause this is thriller, thriller night!
Not that I didn’t die many times at the perfectly manicured hands of the undead too mind you. The streets of Harran are littered with dozens of zombies at any given time. Not paying attention to their movements, as slow as they may be, will result in a good few deaths. They can sneak up on you within seconds, especially if you’re too busy focusing on scavenging nearby surroundings.
They’re not the only enemy you’ll have to worry about. There are faster, more lively undead too. Virals will chase you relentlessly, and climb up whatever you think you may be safe atop. They will appear randomly, or at the slightest bout of noise. Shooting a gun may get the job of killing an enemy done quickly, but if you do decide to make use of a firearm, prepare to face a whole lot of these speedy fellas who just love being drawn out by sound.
Along with Virals, Haraan is home to other special infected. There’s one that will explode like a bomb at close proximity, another that will spit poison gloop at you from afar, and others, who are just so goddam infected by the virus that they’ve ballooned into meaty, hard-hitting tanks.
And then there are the Volatiles. They are deformed, tough enemies that only come out at night, and who will stop at nothing to rip you from limb to limb. They can be avoided entirely by those who sneak properly, but I assure you, this is no easy task. They patrol the streets persistently, and leave very little room to slip through. Have one spot you and before long, you’ll have a bunch of them right up your ass looking to hand over a swift death.
Any normal person wouldn’t go out when the sun goes done. Doing so grants double XP however, and offers the perfect high risk, high reward scenario for those who like to live a little dangerously.
This I suppose, explains why I took so long to level up, particularly toward the end of the game. You see, I like the sun – most of my time in Dying Light was spent looking at blue skies. The only time I went out as a matter of fact, was when the narrative forced me to.
Sssshh… don’t say a word!
Speaking of narratives, Dying Light’s is easily its weakest point overall. The gameplay is spot on, the visuals stunning, and the overall game design, quite spectacular. When any NPC opened their mouth however, I found myself cringing – probably more than I ever did during all my encounters with Volatiles combined. The voice acting really leaves a lot to be desired, and the story of the game itself is very clichéd and forgettable. Crane as a character isn’t too bad to be honest, but I felt very little attachment to him, or his goals. In the end, I didn’t risk life and limb to see the story to its conclusion, or to save his skin. I did it because I wanted a lump of XP, or a nice reward in exchange.
Surprisingly, the side quests somewhat mitigated the weak narrative. I don’t know why, but most of the additional content that didn’t have me pushing toward the credits was of a much better quality than the game’s main story. Techland for some reason, stumbled when it came to telling a compelling tale. Yet, their attention to detail in optional parts of the game really left an impact.
For example, while running past one building early on in Dying Light, I heard somebody crying. I found my way into the structure, and made quick work of a zombie that attempted to grab hold of me. I then found the source of the noise. It was the work of a little girl, who had locked herself away in a cupboard. She warned me to clear off, lest her dad found and hurt me. He was very angry apparently, and wouldn’t take kindly to me being around. I was left wondering who in their right mind would leave this helpless child alone when it hit me. That undead chap I had killed earlier? Well…
Catch a ride!
All of the above essentially, is applicable to the expansion. The Following offers more of the same as the original game; excellent visuals and fun gameplay, but with the same sort of story short falls.
The core difference really, lies in the scenery. Instead of the rising, crumbling structures of Harran to scrabble up, players are instead offered a large, rolling countryside to explore. It makes for a nice change of pace.
I did certainly have my doubts at first, truth be told. I mean, as I said above, Dying Light really stands out because of its parkour. Limiting that by throwing players into a much larger, flatter, playground, would surely harm the overall experience, right? Wrong! Crane soon finds himself in possession of a buggy, and it more than makes up for the lack of free-running freedom.
When he first gains access to the vehicle, it’s basically a concrete slab held together by four wheels. Soon enough though, after putting enough points into the new driving skill tree, it VROOMs. If you’ve ever enjoyed the likes of Carmageddon, you’re practically guaranteed to love The Following. Mowing down hoards of zombies is insanely satisfying!
For those who are more adventurous, driving at night provides an even greater adrenaline rush. Volatiles are back, and more violent than ever. They won’t just watch you drive by idly either. No, they will actually jump on to the car, and do everything in their power to claw hell out of you, no matter how fast you are going.
I can’t even begin to describe the palm sweating that took place on my night-time excursions. One wrong turn or one slight miscalculation, and it was tickets. What a thrill though! I found myself driving after the sun had gone down many times – just for the fun of it.
As a package, I can hardly flaw Dying Light: The Following Enhanced Edition. Sure, the story is weak, and there is the odd bug here and there, but that’s hardly something to worry about when there are dozens of hours of zombie-slaying goodness just waiting to be enjoyed. Techland have put together one hell of a playground!
Exploring it never seems to get old – I always feel like there’s more to do. I’ve not yet combed every nook and cranny of Harran, nor driven every inch of the countryside in The Following. I look forward to uncovering more each day though. Seriously, Dying Light: The Following Enhanced Edition might just be one of the best zombie games I’ve ever played. I would highly recommend it, whether you’re a fan of the undead or not.
Last Updated: March 14, 2016