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Dying Light 2 review: Parkour survival horror breathes new life into zombie games

Leap to new heights in Techland’s open-world title

<p>Players will navigate Villedor via parkour and paragliding </p>

Players will navigate Villedor via parkour and paragliding

When Techland promised that its new game would take over 500 hours to complete in full, reactions were split. It bought out the age-old argument of games being too long, focusing on quantity over quality with repetitive gameplay. It was only when that statement was clarified on Twitter that a full run-through would take around 20 hours to complete that it became clear what those extra 480 hours would entail.

Sure, you could spend months retracing every step, making different choices through multiple play-throughs, salvage every scrap and weapon, undertake every side-quest and explore every infested metro station in its open world – and you still wouldn’t see everything. And with the extra story DLC confirmed for after release, that remains doubly so.

But rather than focus on what Dying Light 2 can promise, we should first look on what the game already delivers just a few hours in...

A world devastated not just by the shambling infected, but the tribalism of those unlucky enough to survive it. A day/night cycle, that rewards curiosity over caution, a city that’s as fun to navigate as it is to stop and admire its buildings and the flailing body of a bandit after being kicked into a table and getting stuck on its geometry.

Dying Light 2 packs the momentum and freedom that might be expected from a freerunning game but much like real-life parkour, when it fails to find its footing the consequences can be dire.

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How we tested

A PS5 copy of Dying Light 2 was provided to us by the game’s publisher. We played the game for 20 hours or so in which we completed one of the story’s multiple endings on normal difficulty. The co-operative mode has been widely publicised for Dying Light 2 but as the servers were not active we weren’t able to access this feature so this review is based on a single-player experience of the game.

‘Dying Light 2: Stay Human'

Buy now £59.99, Game.co.uk

  • Consoles: Xbox One/PS4/Xbox series X and S/PC
  • Developer: Techland
  • Release date: 4 February 2022
  • Price: £59.99 (Standard edition), £74.99 (Deluxe edition)
  • Rating: 8/10

Story

In Dying Light 2, you play as a “pilgrim” named Aiden, so-called for their ability and willingness to trek hundreds of miles between the last few remaining settlements 15 years after a viral outbreak has ravaged the world’s population. His travels take him to the city of Villedor, a fictional settlement located somewhere in central Europe to track down his sister, who has been separated from him since childhood. While trying to enter the city, Aiden becomes infected and must keep the virus in check using immunity boosters and UV exposure in order to preserve his humanity.

While this is Aiden’s driving force to enter the city, Aiden’s personal goals intertwine themselves with the needs of the Villedorians using his unique skill-set to assist different factions, enlist the help of others and balance a fine line in the city’s ruthless power dynamics.

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Aiden will be required to make choices that will affect himself, the city’s denizens and the environment. Each district is controlled by different groups, the authoritarian “Peacekeepers” and the free folk dubbed “Bazaarians” for the makeshift market they occupy as well as a hostile group of bandits known as the “Renegades”.

There is plenty of interaction to be had between the former two occupying forces and balancing this tension plays a key role in the development of Aiden’s quest to track down his family. Fulfilling requests from each group usually amounts to rescuing a group of survivors, finding a rare resource in a long-abandoned facility or clearing out bandits from a fortified location.

Gameplay

In Dying Light 2, the most immediate threat are zombies and like the first game, they become weakened to UV rays. This means they present a lesser threat in the daytime, when it is safer to travel but it also means they congregate in “dark zones”, making some areas impossible to explore until night falls and the zombies spill out into the streets.

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Navigating the city during both times of day is essential for progression and travelling at night presents its own risks. If too many zombies are alerted to your presence, a chase can ensue where a large number of undead will doggedly pursue Aiden across rooftops until he can make it to a UV lamp, safe zone or a place to hide.

Making it through the night unscathed also brings its own rewards with bonuses for combat and freerunning experience. Both skills lead to further opportunities for exploration, increasing Aiden’s range of movement and overcoming encounters with both the living and dead.

The focus on mobility does not just apply to traversal as it also plays a significant role in combat, often using an enemy’s momentum against them for counterattacks and evasion. Bandits and other living threats will be smart enough to recognise repeat forms of attacks and adapt their behaviour in order to counter it, so it pays to invest in a range of skills and weaponry in order to keep encounters from becoming repetitive.

Read more: The latest free games to play on PS Plus February 2022

One of Dying Light 2’s biggest selling points is its branching narrative paths. While nothing new, they do have a tangible impact on the way the city can be used to your benefit. If Aiden chooses to side with the Bazaarians and allocate resources to them, they set up an elaborate system of devices that can lead to quicker traversal such as jumping pads and ziplines.

However, if Aiden decides to allocate the same resources to the Peacekeepers, they implement technology designed to damage large hoards of infected such as proximity mines.

As the story develops, players will often be required to make a binary choice that can have a long-lasting impact on its characters. These choices are clearly telegraphed when they occur and may have an immediate impact on events while others may make for a more subtle change down the line.

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Where Dying Light 2 falters is when it brings its momentum to a grinding halt, through environmental puzzles. Finding the path of least resistance between A and B is satisfying in its own right, without having to worry about making frequent pauses. But after struggling to ascend a nearby windmill or radio tower to activate a beacon a dozen-or-so times, the experience of climbing a yellow ledge, turning around and looking for the next yellow ledge wears itself thin.

Performance

Dying Light 2, also has its fair share of technical issues. Some are completely harmless such as rag-dolling enemies. On a few occasions, Aiden would grab onto a ledge before clipping through the terrain and falling to their death, by no means a game-breaker but certainly frustrating when you are required to respawn at the last checkpoint.

In one instance near the end of a climactic boss fight, the assailant in question fell through a platform and became stuck in a pipe as he continued to berate Aiden. It would have been funny, if the game didn’t require a death-state in order to reset the whole fight from the beginning.

The verdict: Dying Light 2: Stay Human

Dying Light 2 is at its best when it has the freedom to explore its environments. Running through, around and over the city’s inhabitants is the kind of gameplay that would bring players back to visit after the first roll of the credits but when that freedom of movement is taken away is when those cracks start to show. While only occasionally mired by technical issues and stopgaps, Dying Light 2 makes confident attempts to breathe life into a tired genre.

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Want to find out more about Dying Light 2: Stay Human? Read our buying guide for more details

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