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    Dying Light: When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will climb

    You can’t really go wrong with a game built entirely around hitting zombies in the face with a stick. So, it’s good to know that on its third attempt Techland has finally got the hang of it. After the fun but flawed Dead Island 1, and diseased follow-up Riptide, Dying Light’s the best Dead Island so far, even if it has ditched the name.

    With the exception of the new parkour mechanic this is largely the same game you’ve played before a grab bag of fetch quests in a zombie-infested open-world, populated by a two-dimensional cast of dubiously researched ethnicities. (This time the options seem to be generic Middle Eastern and Sean Bean.) Still, this is the most competent game of Techland’s library: it’s less glitchy, the world better designed and more compelling, and the combination of combat and movement creates the most satisfying implementation of zombie action to date.

    That’s due in part to the new parkour mechanic. Now, don’t get your hopes up too much: it’s not as versatile as Mirror’s Edge, your options here are mainly run, jump and climb. But while it’s not exactly a revolution, it still opens up the world in an enjoyable way. Once you start to get a feel for the limitations of the system and how to read the environment for routes, it’s possible to string together some impressive runs.

    Another new twist that helps flesh out the action is the day/night cycle. In short, once the sun goes down more dangerous zombies, called Volatiles, come out. They’re faster predatory creatures that patrol the city and if they see you it’s a chaotic race to reach the nearest safe house, where UV lamps repel your attackers and prevent your hands from becoming, well, finger food (assuming you’ve cleaned them out and activated the lamps on your travels, that is).
    “The core remains the Same fight zombies and collect things for npcs.”
    There’s a nice strategic twist to these chases courtesy of extra traps you can prepare for the route: more UV lamps or spiked holes to slide through at speed, for instance. Although the reality of night sections is that you’ll play them almost exclusively watching the map to avoid the sight cones, and then peg it to the nearest safe place the second something goes wrong and the screaming starts.

    Dead Sprint
    If you’ve played any of the previous Dead Islands then you’ll know exactly how the combat works: an awkward mix of swinging weapons combined with drop kicks and sliding tackles. It never really feels entirely cohesive, relying more on your ability to exploit the systems involved than string together a competent sequence of fighting moves.

    You can craft weapons to add elemental effects (although this time there’s a new twist you can only repair them a set number of times). If much of this sounds familiar then it’s worth noting pre-patch Dying Light contains the exact same item duplication bug from Dead Island. Essentially it’s the same game with bonus production values and a few new ideas.

    I say new. This is a magpie game taking its features from others. Far Cry 4’s radio towers are here, replete with looping coils of rope to mark climbable edges. Fallout’s lockpicking mechanic is in. The night-time zombies look a lot like the vampires from Blade II…

    However, one idea of its own that works really well is the use of sound. Loud noises call in dangerous Virals, faster and more dangerous zombies that can climb after you. It might be falling through a roof, an explosion, or a poorly considered gun shot, but the result is the same hideous screams echo through the streets and you’ve got seconds to get the hell out of Dodge. It’s probably my favourite part of the game, creating reactive fight or flight moments and adding a significant risk/reward mechanic to using some melee-based weapons.

    All this new stuff fleshes out the basic Dead Island template that sort of worked before. The core substance of the game remains the same fight zombies and collect things (almost every mission boils down to ‘get things for reasons’) but, with an abundance of side-missions, random events and more depth to the mechanics, there’s greater texture here, creating a more satisfying game all-round.

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