I should have been listening to him.
With my back pressed against the cold steel of the abandoned shipping container, wildly swinging away a rusted old wrench in a feign attempt to try and keep the mob of bloodthirsty zombies at bay, I realized I should have been listening to him. It was far too late.
If you don’t keep your wits about you while playing Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Techland’s upcoming first-person parkour-packed action horror title Dying Light, you too will suffer the same fate as I.
Having experienced expansive FPS titles like Borderlands 2 and Far Cry 3 this past year and spending far too much time with Left 4 Dead 2 in the past, I was hard pressed to think that this single demo could swing my opinion of what I ignorantly thought to be just another zombie shooter in a shambling sea of zombie shooters. It took all of a few minutes and my first failed zombie encounter for my opinion to change.
The nighttime media demo for Dying Light began in a small dirt yard surrounded by barbed wire, rotting plywood obstacles, and sheet-metal shacks. Techland’s International PR & Marketing Director Pawel Kopinski patiently called out the intuitive control scheme to me as I fumbled about the yard performing dropkicks that would make Randy Orton’s look amateur in comparison. After a few minutes of freerunning over obstacles in the yard like an aspiring Westminster Kennel Club champion, I met my first NPC contact and got into the action.
My objective, as Pawel confidently informed me, was simply to set traps around the map at designated points- and survive. My ego got the best of me as I internally scoffed at the seemingly simple task. Rather than admiring the rippling palm fronds being kicked about by the wind or the light refracting off of pools of oil on the ground, I should have heeded his words. I should have been listening to him.
There was no time to fully enjoy the environment as my sense of wonderment instantly turned to panic. “GO GO, GO! MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!” urged Pawel. I darted down a hill and jumped onto the roof of a shanty shack, then another, and one more still as I made my way to the blinking objective beacon on my mini-map. The photosensitive zombies turned from George A. Romero shamblers into Danny Boyle sprinters as night fell, clawing at my feet as I jumped over mobs like Faith during her worst fever dream.
Reaching what I thought to be merely environmental renderings of torn-down steel doors, I stopped short at the sight of a set of jumper cables attached to the bars on the ground that was foreshadowing what was to come. Flipping the switches on a nearby circuit breaker box, the all-too familiar buzzing sound of live electricity began competing with the snarls of zombies that were about to overwhelm me. “HIT IT! GO!” shouted Pawel as the trap came to life, turning the wet steel bars on the ground into an electrified trap that stopped the zombies cold like mosquitoes in a bug zapper. I ran past the mob towards my next objective on the map, listening to the skin of the zombies crackle as they blindly stepped on the electrified trap and content that I had made it thus far.
If you really know what you’re doing, skilled players can go from objective to objective in Dying Light with minimal zombie contact, but I wanted a taste of what the game had to offer. Rather than continuing across to the rooftop ahead I jumped down into alley and tried to run through a zombie mob. I tossed out a few chaff grenades to distract the mob, but was met with even more zombies as I turned the corner around a few shipping containers stacked together. I fought off the first, and snapped the neck of the second one that lunged for my throat, but had no fighting stamina left to successfully fend of the third- or thirteenth- that I spotted not too far behind it.
I spun around and entered the first protected area I could find, a fortified steel shipping container conveniently left open. Little did I know that this was itself a trap set for players in Dying Light, as there was no escape.
The first few zombies that entered the container were handled steadily as I swung with my fireman’s axe in a whirlwind of steel and blood. Still, they kept coming.
In a panic I switched my weapon to the wrench in my inventory as the lighter one-handed item required less stamina to swing and fight the zombies. Still, they kept coming.
One more zombie entered as I ran to the opposite end of the container. Then two, then five. I fought them off as best I could. Still, they kept coming.
There was no way out. As the horde started rendering the flesh from my bones and my vision was marred with the sight of my own blood, I tried recalling everything that Pawel had taught me that morning. I should have listened, I should have continued to run across the rooftops, climbing past the waves of undead, but instead I tried playing the role of the hero. We can’t all be Leon Kennedy though.
With my back pressed against the cold steel of the abandoned shipping container, wildly swinging away a rusted old wrench in a feign attempt to keep the mob of bloodthirsty zombies at bay, I realized I should have been listening to him. It was far too late.
Dying Light is the culmination of years of hard work from the dedicated and extremely passionate team at Techland, and it shows. The devs themselves were extremely eager to play the game still- an excellent sign of a high quality and engrossing game- and even more excited about seeing what players could come up with in this open-world environment once this beast is released into the wild next year. I’ll be ready, and won’t make the same mistake again.
Dying Light is scheduled to be released in 2014 for PC, Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One, and PS4.