Oh, Dying Light, how I love you. I love the way you let me leap across rooftops and climb tall towers like an acrobat with endless supplies of energy. I love how I can dropkick a zombie and watch its flailing body knock over others like a fleshy bowling ball. I love looking over my shoulder as I run through the darkness, only to see a crowd of undead sprinting towards me, growling hideously and baring their ghastly teeth.
But oh, Dying Light, how you irritate me. I hate you for the gunners that ambushed me as I swam underwater, because there was no way to know how to react until I emerged and discovered that I wasn't meant to peek my head out--not yet. I hate you for that time you filled the screen with so much haze and bloom during a boss fight that I couldn't see properly. I hate that sequence when you made me leap from one pole to another, because you made it hard to get a good look at my surroundings, and your button prompts are hardly generous. And I hate these moments most because your systems are strong enough to let the open-world gameplay do the heavy lifting. The harder you try to direct the action, the weaker you become.Fight or flee? It's a decision as old as humanity itself.
If you count yourself among the
Dying Light succeeds when it remains confident in its systems. The combat isn't as fulfilling as it is in Dead Island--you won't be breaking any arms--but out in that wild world, you aren't meant to wade into the horde anyhow. What drives the action is the promise of discovery and self-improvement. There are locks to pick and supplies to nab before the opposing faction gets to them. The balconies harbor new people to meet, who share their stories if you stick around long enough to hear them. When a zombie or six draw near, you swipe, kick, and bash until the blood is flying and the grunts are silenced, and you can return to your pillaging. Dying Light most often approaches greatness when it allows you to improvise your own tune instead of clumsily trying to conduct the entire orchestra.
That a game of such wild fluctuations can still give rise to so much fun speaks well of its high points. Those peaks rise even higher when other players are involved, and you have a few friends (up to three) join you, distracting the speedy virals while you take care of a ground-pounding beast swinging his giant hammer around. Competitive zombie invasions are liable to have you tensing your muscles even further invasions when they turn the game into a nighttime arena. This is Be the Zombie mode, and while using your tentacle to grapple your way around as a zombie is enjoyable, it is the tension you feel as a hunted human that makes these moments stand out. You can tweak your setting to allow or disallow these sudden multiplayer matches, and there's no shame in wanting to explore without distraction. But if Dying Light's nighttime pressures appeal to you, allowing zombie attacks further extends that drama.
I am rooting for Dying Light's success, even as I shake my head at its avoidable foibles. I understand it, I get it, and so I find pleasure in it even as it disappoints me, even when I land between a fence and a rocky cliff and get stuck there, even when I don't grab a ledge or pole after a jump for reasons that I can't quite understand. My dearest Dying Light, I am so grateful for your specialness, for it shines through even when I am prepared to damn you to hell.
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