Dying Light Review - Fear Of Falling

 I'm probably going to die up here!

I'm probably going to die up here!

Acrophobia is the extreme or irrational fear of heights. Let's be honest though, who wants to fall from off the top of a building? Crazy people, I tell you. I am not a crazy person (debatable), but you might call Kyle Crane a lunatic. Dying Light is a game that is all about running, jumping, and surviving in the zombie-ridden city of Harran, Turkey. If you don't have acrophobia, I think you might miss out on one of the game's biggest features - the ability to tap into your fear every time you jump off of a building or walk across beams. Dying Light literally scared the hell out of me, and I love the game for that. 

Most games in the horror or survival genre try to get you with cheap jump scares and monsters, and while Dying Light has these things at times, it’s not what makes your blood pump. There have only been a few games to really try to tackle parkour in a meaningful way, and only one is really memorable enough (Mirror’s Edge, duh.) Dying Light tackles it in a first-person point of view and truly makes you feel like you’re in the same body as Kyle Crane. This is where I recommend a nice set of surround sound headphones to get yourself immersed. When up high, you hear the wind blowing in your ears as you climb across a thin beam. You fall, you’re dead. There is no doubt. It’s not just the sound, but the strikingly great visuals along with the way the camera follows your movements. All of these things are subtle, but the details make you feel like you’re going to fall and if you fall, the end is certain. That visceral feeling is the core of Dying Light and even for us that have acrophobia, you tend to have to take a big deep breath after you feel safe on solid ground. I did this a lot during my 32 hours with the game and it’s amazing the way this game makes me feel even with that sort of time investment. In fact, the end of the game hit my fear of heights so much that I almost wanted to cry.

Did I mention how good this game looks? Sure, a lot of the building interiors and things like that end up repeating themselves, but when you're on top of a building and you look out at the world - it's picturesque. You just want to take it all in. There were many moments when I just caught myself looking out on the horizon at different times of day. Techland did an amazing job with the lighting and the way it works in the world whether it be day or not. You know when night approaches and you fear it. It's definitely one of the best looking games out there right now.  

Early on, Dying Light makes you feel weak and that works to the game's benefit. Your weapons don't really do much damage, you end up running more than fighting. While the combat is pretty mediocre, the overall gameplay does build a narrative. The early game completely taps into your survival instincts, as you know to flee instead of fight; this is supported by the parkour mechanics. As you become more powerful and get better weapons, you start to get braver and you feel stronger; you feel like you can take on the world and then it makes you humble like the Iron Sheik as it introduces you to a new enemy or situation. It's actually a great way to hide the game's biggest flaw, which is the combat. My biggest issue with the combat is our inability to aim for the "sweet spot" when using a melee weapon. The gunplay works just fine (once you reprogram your brain to zoom with the R3 button), but you'll only use guns in a few scenarios; mostly when trying to storm through Rais's strongholds.   

Dying Light also has a story, did I mention that? The story is pretty standard zombie fare. You're a secret operative for a global relief organization that was sent in to find a file that was stolen by a man known as Rais. Naturally, Rais is a psycho who has no regard for the lives of those who serve under him. He uses and abuses people and is trying to survive on his terms and his terms alone. He is the core of the story and the catalyst for the twists and turns, including some karma that comes his way.  However, even with a pretty standard story, you do start to feel for the characters and you want to know what happens to them. You're in there to complete a job but end up wanting to help those whom you are using to get by. There are some great characters and some heart-breaking moments. The story gives you enough to keep interested and want to keep going. You couple this with your increase in strength and knowledge of the situation. One of the big negatives was the lack of choice. There were many situations where I would have loved the game to give me a choice instead of forcing me into the path. It would have made for a more interesting story and made me more personally invested. I did enjoy the story they gave me though and I went along for the ride.  

Overall, Dying Light is the game I didn't know I wanted to play. It came out very early in the year to little fanfare. The game went out late to critics and reviewers, which is normally seen as a bad sign. These are the same developers of Dead Island; a fun game in its own right but very flawed. I was expecting a less polished experience and I never ran into a single technical issue with the game. The team learned from Dead Island and made a much better game. Dying Light has a good story with mediocre combat but makes up for that with some great parkour elements that build on the experience. You can see the arc of being in over your head to becoming a strong, powerful individual. It also did something that no game has ever done (at least consistently) and tapped into my own personal fear of heights; to the point that I threw off my headphones. I would recommend Dying Light to anyone that is slightly interested, you'll enjoy the ride.

Dying Light was reviewed on the Playstation 4 with review code provided by Techland. This review only covers the single-player portion of the game, therefore no score will be given. 

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