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Dead Island was something of a surprise hit last generation: A zombie game that relied more on melee attacks than gunplay. While the melee combat was solid, the rest of the game fell apart at the seams due to some strange design decisions and a story that ultimately went nowhere. Developer Techland blamed the faults of the game on the publisher, stating that it was pressure to get the game released that led to many of the issues. Now under a new publisher, can Dying Light show the world what Techland can do?

As alluded to in the opening paragraph, Dying Light is, in many aspects, extremely similar to Dead Island. There is an emphasis on melee attacks, and while guns are in the game, you'll be spending 90% of your time bashing zombies with a pipe. The melee attacks all have weight and momentum behind them, with character models showing damage for every strike. In other words, you'll never get tired of bashing a zombie's face in, which is good because there is at least 20 to 30 hours of gameplay here. New moves and skills are quickly unlocked, so elements that are a hindrance in the early stages, such as rapidly degrading weapons, are not an issue after you've spent a few hours with the game. The first time you dropkick a zombie off a roof you'll be in love.

What's different from Dead Island is the maneuverability of the main character, who is a master of parkour. Your character can climb seemingly anything, scaling any building in the game with no problem. Fences, walls, and even zombies are nothing more than mere bumps in the road as you'll hurdle over them with ease. Jumping from rooftop to rooftop makes you feel like some kind of zombie hunting Batman, ready to dispense justice on a zombie at any given time. Couple this with the crafting system, letting you create weaponry such as a baseball bat covered in nails and flames, and you could spend hours just exploring the city and fighting the undead.

Which is a good thing, as the story itself is bland and uninspired. Characters seems to drone on and on in poorly sounding accents, talking about cures and gangs and other boring nonsense. In fact, skipping these cutscenes to get back into the sweet, sweet gameplay will look like a pretty intriguing prospect halfway through the game, and chances are you won't really miss anything. The story exists to justify the gameplay, but frequently gets in the way of it. You'll see twists coming a mile away, and you'll likely roll your eyes so much you may need to see the optometrist after finishing the game.

If 30 hours or so of single player content isn't enough for you, the game does include a player vs. player multiplayer gameplay mode that occurs at night. One player as a zombie will fight against one player who is a human: The human must defeat the zombie nests, while the zombie must deplete the human's stash of lives. The mode is interesting, but the problem is that you'll get constantly bombarded by multiplayer requests when night hits, making it difficult to do any single player content. Most players will eventually just turn this mode off.

As you'd expect from a current generation game, Dying Light looks and sounds amazing. The PC version is the clear winner, with the PlayStation 4 version slightly edging out the Xbox One in terms of graphics.

If you loved Dead Island, are looking for a lengthy single player experience, or just want to punch zombies in the face, definitely pick up Dying Light when it releases on January 27th, 2015. As one of the first major game releases of the year, Dying Light is a great way to start off the new year of gaming.


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