Hands on at PAX: Dying Light Demo

Over the past couple of years, zombies have shot into the spotlight, and they don’t seem to be leaving anytime soon. Every studio has come out with either a new zombie game or a zombie mod. With the game industry saturated with undead titles, does Dying Light bring something new to the table? My answer so far – yes!


Dying Light presents an open world where you navigate by running on rooftops and parkoring all over the city. (Like Mirror’s Edge without the vomit-inducing camera angles.) You can scale fences, cars, trees, apartments – basically, anything to get out of the zombies’ way.


The premise is simple: zombies have taken over, and you must survive. During the daylight, the zombies are slow, clunky, and almost unaware of your presence. But by the night, they turn into super zombies; they’re much faster, smarter, and can even climb up after and hunt you down.


Dying Light has an interesting gameplay mechanic. The game requires you to slow down and think about how to approach a certain situation. Running to a group of zombies almost always gets you killed, even during the daytime gameplay. In most cases, it’s better to just avoid a fight all together. This doesn’t make the game any less action-packed. In fact, it just intensifies the situations where you encounter zombies. One misstep and you could easily run into a pack of twenty zombies.


During the nighttime gameplay, you’re on edge all the time. It’s difficult to see without a flashlight, and if one little zombie sees you, all the zombies go into alert mode and chase. Like going into alert mode in Metal Gear, except it doesn’t go away!

The demo I played was a nighttime scenario, and it was incredibly intense! The goal was to set up traps and get the hell back to the safe house.

I started in a little area just to get the feel of the controls. The weapons you get are a wrench, a small fast axe, and a two-handed axe, which is really powerful but has a slow start up. You also get small sizzlers that you throw, like a grenade, to distract zombies. Once I got the hang of them, I started the mission and set out to turn on the traps.


If I were to give one criticism, it would be about the controls. The game basically requires that you run constantly, whether it’s to escape zombies or to run and climb up walls. But in order to run, you have to press down and up on the left joystick. It’s really annoying to hold in while jumping or fighting off enemies, and running doesn’t even drain your stamina. It should have a pressure system where if the player lightly presses up, they walk, and if the player fully presses up, they run.

So far, Dying Light is shaping up to be pretty fun. It definitely doesn’t feel like just another zombie game.

Dying Light is set for release in 2014 and will be available for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and the PC.

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