Be afraid of the dark

By Austin Miller | @AMiller_DE | Daily Egyptian

The zombie genre has become as stale as month-old bread.

The living dead character is the latest monster to be in the forefront of pop culture, then run into the ground a short time later. Any remaining zombies should head for the unemployment office along with vampires, ghosts and werewolves.

A zombie game coming out today must find a way to stand out. Last year’s “Sunset Overdrive” brought color and fun into an always dark and gloomy world.

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“Dying Light” wanted to create a game where the world itself was scary, yet explorable.

It comes from the same studio that created the “Dead Island” franchise. The first “Dead Island” was released with a ton of hype because of its announcement trailer, which is one of the best of all time. But the game itself failed to deliver.

“Dying Light,” on the other hand, doesn’t fail, but just stagnates.

The story is not great, but it’s not bad either, a statement that applies to the game as a whole. You play as an operative for a humanitarian organization that is thrown into a zombie-infested city searching for an important document. The premise is pretty cliché for a game in 2015, but “Dying Light” has even more tired tropes.

The main character starts to feel sympathetic for survivors he should not care about. Think of James Cameron’s “Avatar,” which is really just a rip off of Pocahontas. There is a doctor on the verge of finding a cure, only for something to happen to him. And a milk toast villain that is evil just for evil’s sake. “Dying Light” was supposed to be released a year and a half ago and it shows. The story is so 2013.

None of the survivors have any remarkable qualities, especially the protagonist. He could have been an unnamed person and it would not make any difference. The other people feel like they were copy and pasted and given new clothes. While the story is not good, running around being an errand boy becomes tedious.

What the game does get right is the world. Players are able to master the art of parkour and run across the rooftops and fences of the city. During the daytime, hordes of zombies lumber around being docile and can be defeated rather easily. But when daylight fades the game hits its stride.

Night makes sight nearly impossible, making it harder to run and climb. But that should be the least of your worries. A special breed of zombie, called volatiles, emerges in the dark. Volatiles have protruding bones, are covered in blood and scream like tornado sirens. They are taller, faster and stronger, so flight should be selected over fight. Cones appear on the mini-map showing their line of vision, so the player can avoid being found.

Players receive bonus experience for venturing out at night, but the cost may outweigh the gain.

Experience unlocks new abilities in three separate categories: running, climbing and killing zombies.

The unlocked skills finally pay off toward the second half of the game, when a new part of the city becomes available. The second half is much more enjoyable than the first. Players can now get around faster and dispose of zombies easier. Instead of being a lowly secret agent, the protagonist turns into a zombie-killing machine. Trudging through the story is a little more fun while using a grappling hook to fly around like Spider-Man and running through zombies like a hot knife through butter. Except you will not want the knife back.

If you can get through the first part of the game, an enjoyable experience awaits. Unfortunately, that takes longer than it should. A future installment in the franchise could be great, but the same was said about “Dead Island” and it only got worse.

3.5 stars out of 5

Austin Miller can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AMiller_DE

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