The lights are on
Today, Dead Island developer Techland and publisher Warner Bros. Interactive announced they’re delivering a new next-gen IP called Dying Light. At a glance this first-person zombie-slaying title looks a lot like Dead Island, but Techland is changing things up with Mirror’s Edge-like maneuverability and a persistent day/night cycle. Game Informer got an early peek at the game during a pre-E3 event last week in Santa Monica, California.
Techland demoed the next- and current-gen game with a hands-off presentation. Players scavenge for supplies in the day time to prepare for the night. The time of day shifts without load times. Techland says daylight will last about 30 minutes and nighttime will be slightly shorter. It supports four-player co-op and a variety of characters. Melee appears to be the main focus for combat. Work benches are also scattered across the world to craft items like electric machetes. The shared elements between Dying Light and Dead Island are impossible to ignore, so we spoke about that with Techland brand manager Blazej Krakowiak.
The demo begins with survivors holed up in a concrete safehouse. A helicopter soars overhead and drops off two care packages somewhere in the seaside shantytown. This tropical city is just one area of several for players to explore. The player must hurry to these supplies before the competing survivors get there. The dev at the controls sprints through narrow back alleys, deftly mantles obstacles, and strings melee kills without breaking stride. Movement through the environment looks seamless and beautiful. This preview build was running on what Techland described as a high-end PC with power comparable to next-gen consoles.
On the way, the protagonist passes by a two-story dwelling and hears a child crying from above. The ground-level doors are locked. Players must examine the environment to uncover unconventional routes through the disheveled town. The dev finds a telephone pole, climbs it, and leaps onto a balcony. In what appears to be a scripted event a zombie grabs our hero’s leg and takes a bite. Krakowiak tells us this bite is of less consequence because this character is already infected. After patching himself up, the dev rescues a little girl from a closet. A voice chimes in over the protagonist’s earpiece, telling him someone will pick up the rescued girl and that he should hurry to the care package. Techland says side-missions like this will emerge organically throughout the game.
Colored smoke billows on the horizon, indicating the position of the closest supply drop. The hero leaps a barricade to cross the highway. A row of wrecked cars holds back what looks like dozens of zombies. It was difficult to determine from the presentation if you could interact with these zombies or if they were blocked off behind an invisible wall. The throng of undead looked to rival the amount of onscreen enemies seen in the Dead Rising series.
By the time he reaches the first care package it’s too late. A group of heavily armed soldiers, under orders of a man named Rais, pull their guns on him. He automatically raises his hands in a nonthreatening display, backing away from their crate. We’re not sure, but our guess is they would’ve opened fire if the player had pressed his luck.
The sun is sagging towards the horizon so he hightails it towards the second supply drop. The dev at the controls is bee-lining it at this point, only stopping to kill crucial enemies on his way. A recently turned zombie bursts out of an alleyway. He appears more human than previous foes, and screams in agony as he grasps at his remaining humanity. A threat is a threat, and the player kicks the unfortunate soul into a spiked wall behind him.
During the sprint we see a full demonstration of the character’s free-running style. He slides under low obstacles, leaps across rooftops, and decapitates zombies while sprinting by. At one point he performs a running kick on a zombie, sending himself and the zombie flying off a building through the roof below. Once on the ground he pulls out a giant hammer as a group of zombies encroach. The player taps into a special ability which activates a powerful, 360-degree attack with the sledgehammer. Bodies go flying in every direction. When the player nails zombies with critical hits like these, the action slows down and an x-ray effect shows bones shattering.
Night has fallen as our hero finally reaches the care package. He clicks on his flashlight, opens the crate, and removes something that looks like a big vial. Techland wouldn’t elaborate on the significance of this prize. When the sun sets, Dying Light shifts from a Dead Island-esque zombie slaying adventure to a tense horror experience. More powerful undead roam the streets, so stealth is key. The player uses a special sonar ability to locate this unique breed – a benefit of having infected blood. Eventually his cover is blown and the quiet sneak back to the safe house breaks out into an intense chase. The extra- nimble enemies close in on the hero quickly, apparently capable of all his parkour abilities. It looks like players will be able to slow down time and peak over their shoulders to see how close their stalkers are. The demo concludes with the player getting tackled to the ground, fending off the snapping jaws one of the swift zombies.
Techland isn’t talking about much else at this point. We know that items found during the day will used in a crafting system that seems similar to Dead Island. The day/night cycle’s promise of nightly hold-the-line scenarios makes us think players may also be crafting defenses. Folks who didn’t enjoy Techland’s unpolished Dead Island offerings may be understandably skeptical about Dying Light, but the project makes a promising first impression. We’ll know more when we get our hands on it during E3. The game is destined for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 this year.
Be sure to check out the impressive next-gen screenshots in the media gallery below.
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