Zombie games are not in short supply at E3. Deep Silver has partnered with developer Yager for Dead Island 2, but the studio behind the original Dead Island is working on a different first-person zombie apocalypse game. Techland and publisher Warner Bros. are joining forces to make Dying Light, a next-gen game that combines the visceral combat and open-world structure of Dead Island while injecting slick new traversal options and a day/night cycle. I played through a section that highlights player progression like crafted weapons, learning new abilities, and getting faster.
I played Dying Light at Gamescom last year, but this build felt even more polished and playable. The Mirror's Edge-esque mantling and sliding feels slick and fun. It's as simple as looking in the direction of the ledge you want to mantle and holding down a shoulder button. Timing jumps across gaps rooftop gaps, hopping up onto balconies, and aiming soft landings on to piles of garbage bags feels great. I felt liberated by the mobility options and actually looked forward to long treks across the area. Better yet, players only become more agile and speedy as they gain more experience.
Combat is in line with Dead Island's roots, but it's more brutal than ever. One swing of the electrified axe chops a zombie in half. Blood splatters everywhere and gore smears across the ground. I also tested out a flaming machete and spiked baseball bat, which offer other satisfyingly devastating means for destruction. Firearms like handguns and machine guns are also available for long-ranged destruction. Aside from straight-on gunplay, firearms offer more creative methods for dispatching human enemies. For example, I shot an explosive barrel near some unsavory human survivors, which attracted nearby zombies and took them out.
I also took another look at the important day/night cycle of Dying Light. One objective tasked me with securing a safe house. But when I arrived at the location it was overrun with enemy thug survivors. The human menace was too much for me to handle alone (four-player co-op is also supported), so I headed back to another safe house for a nap. The sun set and I wandered about again under the cover of night. Zombies become more powerful and observant in the nighttime, but I successfully sneaked past them to the aforementioned safe house. With the enemies gone at night I was free to clear out a couple zombies and turn on the lights to repel further invasions.
Dead Island showed a lot of promise when it released years ago, and Dying Light appears to be Techland's next innovative step in the right direction. We can't fully sound off until the character classes are revealed, but things are looking promising leading up the early 2015 release date for PS4, Xbox One, , PS3, 360, and PC.