Monthly Archives: May 2017

Opinions on… Abzu

Upon first impressions, everything about Abzu is curious. From its peculiar sounding name to the endless screenshots and videos showing vast ocean vistas and teeming hordes of marine wildlife,there’s very little that actually gives away what to expect when you plunge into the depths. As it turns out, there’s a lot going on beneath the waves; and most of it does a fine job at making somewhat of a splash.

Probably the first thing that truly strikes you about Abzu is how peaceful everything is. While it has some slight moments of peril, this is very much a game that’s about slow and steady exploration, and taking the time to absorb all the sights and sounds around you. It desperately wants you to take everything in; the schools of fish lazily swimming around the reef, the giant predators floating ominously around, and all the creatures and coral in between. If you’re not already bought to a stop by the sheer level of detail on offer, the many statues dotted around for your player character to sit and ‘meditate’ on only provide further incentive, with the camera whooshing around the different species at your command. In a sense, it’s the world’s most intricate fish tank, willing you to while away the hours with your face pressed against the glass. In many ways, it succeeds in doing just that.

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This overall sense of serenity is not alone in this world, however, as it couples pleasingly together with a bunch of satisfying little moments and interactions that you can look forward to. Whether it is zooming through a jet stream, breaching the surface of the water on the back of a dolphin, or something else besides, there’s a lot to make you gaze with wonder and bring a smile to your face. Toss in a few bigger set pieces, none of which I’ll spoil but some of which made me exclaim softly to myself, and you’ve got a great mix of gameplay brewing up.

A sweeping orchestral soundtrack, matching the nature and events of the game perfectly, then add another layer to the whole experience. Everything gels so well together, becoming much more of a sum of its parts; only a few control issues, mainly involving trying to get your diver to actually point in the right direction, ever seems to really put a dent in the display that’s on show here. With all things considered, Abzu should have shaped up to be an instant classic.

Note I say “should”, however, because there’s a problem here that’s both massive and rather odd; for all the means by which Abzu is expertly designed and crafted, the end result it one that still fails to make any real lasting impression. You see, even with this detailed world, there’s not enough explanation or care given here to make anything actually feel important; events just seem to happen, and you’re given very little reason to care how or why. There’s also very little you can take away from the experience on show… You can speculate a little on the world on display, sure, but beyond that there’s nothing to really keep your mind occupied after turning the game off. It’s a damn shame.

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This issue is only made ten times worse when you consider the length of the game; I completed it in an hour and a half, and I considered myself to be going at a fairly leisurely pace at that. Heck, I’ve spent longer writing this review than I did actually playing through the game. Even slowing progress to a crawl and hunting out every collectable on offer would only likely drag the play time out by another hour or so.

Similar ‘artistic’ games that I’ve played have had short play times of their own, I concede – but with those I felt that I was left with a lot of things to ponder long after the game’s actual conclusion. The Stanley Parable, for instance, incited thoughts about the idea of free will and the nature of the player themselves. Another example in the shape of Firewatch only lasted an hour or so longer than what’s on offer here, but spent enough time to make me really care about its characters and what happened to them. Some of the developers for Abzu also had a hand in games like Journey and Flower, which I personally haven’t played (Much to my own shame), but had a deep impact on those that played them – as even the most casual of internet searches will attest to. Abzu, in comparison, has none of this – For all it takes place in the deep ocean, this is a game that’s remarkably shallow.

Taking into account the fairly lofty price point therefore makes it disappointingly difficult to outright recommend this game. It’s technically sound and does a lot of things right, but when the emotions it stirs up are so vapid and fleeting in comparison to similar titles, it all ends up meaning so much less. I still think it’s worth playing, but waiting for a sale is the best option here by a considerable margin; with that, you won’t end up feeling too disappointed. Anything else, and you’ll just be left with waves of disappointment.

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Opinions on… Psychonauts

Ugh. Let us be clear here; I want it noted on the record that I desperately tried to like Psychonauts. I’d seen the praise critics and gamers heap upon it, seen the funding campaign for the sequel that many passionately gave their money to, and came back again and again to the game trying to pick apart what makes it entertaining. Despite all this, however, I only ever came to the singular conclusion which may cause people to label me as mad as the characters in the game itself; it’s just really not very fun.

What makes this an especially bitter pill to swallow is the fact that, hidden deep down underneath its faults, there is the heart of something truly excellent slowly beating away, desperately trying to break free. For one, the Psychonauts universe is excellently realised; one where a great deal of love and effort has been put into it. Even with all the oddball ideas on show here, each of them is nicely fleshed out, everything linking in nicely with everything else with a remarkable consistency. Not only does this create a believable world, but this also allows the story to shine though; an oddball tale of a summer camp for children to be bred into psychic warriors under attack by mysterious forces.

It’s oddly compelling and excellently done, but the game’s real strength comes with the sense of humour that is so excellently fed into both the story and the world beyond. Both carefully crafted jokes and throwaway one-liners by passing characters honestly made me laugh on multiple occasions, and even the most stoic of people will struggle to not crack a smile at what’s on offer here.

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It’s lucky these laughs are present, however; because it’s with them that I found any sense of joy I had with the game ended – there’s just too much here that isn’t that fun for the positive side of things to truly shine through. A lot of this boils down to the gameplay that’s on offer. Whatever it is you’re doing, being it platforming or something else entirely, there always seems to be a part of it that’s incredibly irritating or disappointing… Some sections outstay their welcome for far longer they were actually interesting, others are confusing or fiddly to complete, and then there’s some frustrating occasions where you’re thrown into situations where the idea is amazing – yet fall flat on their face when put into practice

To take an example of this last point in action -– one level sees you the size of Godzilla, tasked with stomping around a city and smashing everything in your path. Yet the actual smashing isn’t that satisfying, and your progress throughout is slow and cumbersome. Oh, and do you need to climb a building for something? Have fun crawling up at a snail’s pace, only for a single enemy shot to send you crashing down to earth the second you reach the top. There’s many a moment like that, and each is as disheartening as the last.

Additionally, and somewhat ironically for a game that’s based around the mind, it feels like the gameplay of Psychonauts is incredibly schizophrenic. It’s trying out as many ideas as it can possibly cram in, but -as with the case above – many of them really don’t feel that well implemented. For instance, there’s a level where you’re suddenly thrown in a weird race section with absolutely no prior warning; where if you make a single mistake you’re likely to get trapped behind an obstacle and have to start the whole thing all over again. Another level takes the form of a puzzle, tasking you with collecting the right items in order to proceed; which starts off well enough and has some of the funniest moments I found. But even that soon descends into endless wandering and confusion, as you’re provided with no hints, and the solution to getting some of the items or simply making progress feels unnecessarily convoluted. And so on it goes, Psychonauts trying to be a jack of all trades, but not coming even remotely close to being a master of any of them.

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Another thing that doesn’t help the situation are the visuals themselves. Not with the graphics, because even I’m not stupid enough to start critiquing how good they are in a game that’s ten years old, but just in the way that everything’s just so bland looking. So many of the areas you’ll explore are a turgid mess of browns and blacks – or, if you’re lucky, some other combination of uninspiring colours. It’s something that starts in the very first level, a dreary and dull looking warzone where it’s often difficult to tell where the heck you’re meant to be going, and then just continues on from there. To add insult to injury, and at the risk of sounding incredibly contrarian, the single colourful level I played actually ended up being too much of an assault on the senses, again leading to a situation where it was hard to know where to do. It’s a shame really, because even with the possibility to create worlds limited only by the imagination, we’re left with something that’s remarkably dull and uninspired.

Throw in a few other small issues, like struggling with the controls and a few tiny porting issues, and Psychonauts became to me what I can only describe as an exercise in frustration – one where I’m honestly struggling to see how it’s loved and admired by so many. Play it yourself and you may find something that I’m missing, but in my personal opinion, the whole thing is just enough to drive you crazy.

Opinions on… Doom

At the announcement of a new Doom, there were a fair few people out there who perhaps let out a slow yet weary sigh, their heads perhaps making a soft thud as they hit the nearest hard surface. It was easy to see how the end result could have manifested itself as a mere cash in, one that could rake in the money without putting any heart or soul into the actual finished product. With hope in their hearts, fans turned to the unexpected success of Wolfenstein: The New Order a couple years prior, and prayed for the best. And their prayers were answered. Because this is really damn good.

The reason for this, you see, is simple; strip away the impressive looking graphics and electronic rock soundtrack that forms the outer layer of the game, and the heart of classic Doom and what made it so good can still be seen to be vividly beating away. The trappings of the modern FPS are non-existent here; regenerating health is replaced with health and armour pickups, the normal slow drip feed of better weapons replaced with obtaining a rocket launcher in about the third level. Heck, even the whole concept of reloading simply doesn’t exist in this world. It’s also incredibly fast – standing still merely offers an open invitation for the hordes of hell to poke a few extra holes in your face. Movement is life, so you’ll be gleefully zipping around the screen, laying waste to anything that moves. It’s refreshingly good fun.

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It’s also brutally violent, in an oh-so-satisfying way. There’s a ‘glory kill’ system in place here, where getting up close and personal to finish your enemies is rewarded with extra health and ammo. Each of the many glory kills on offer are brutal to watch, often involving the forceful removal of limbs to aid in the application of even more pain, but they’re all so quick to execute they never get boring or impede the flow of things in any real way. If that’s not enough for you, there’s also the option to chainsaw your foes clean in two, or later on just blow them up into a thousand pieces using the series most infamous weapon… Yes, you know the one. Oh, and there’s also a pickup that lets you rip opponents clean in half. Vertically.

The game’s over-the-top nature is reflected in the character of the Doom Marine, who literally does not give a damn about anything. Things in his way get smashed without care and reason, and even other characters drily note he only seems to care about killing everything in his way. This attitude even extends to the plot – there’s actually a story of some depth and detail hidden away here, but when the Doom Marine casually throws away the first monitor that dares to try and explain any of it to you, you immediately know the score. It’s gleeful self-parody, and it works so well.

Put everything together, and it’s a glorious exercise in pure chaos simply existing for the sake of pure fun, every component slotting together in a way that just goads you into blowing more stuff up. The main campaign is a satisfying length, and coupling this with the task of uncovering the game’s many secrets and challenges (the completion of each giving you the ability to upgrade your weapons to more brutal levels) means there’s a perfect excuse to keep feasting on the carnage.

When it comes to problems, there’s a bunch of minor irritations that did catch my attention, even if most only dulled my enjoyment by a minute amount. For one, while I understand that working your way through a labyrinthine structure seeking the exit has always been part of what makes Doom what it is, it doesn’t stop getting lost here being a somewhat frustrating affair. Each time it occurs it brings the pace to a sudden and jarring halt, and even though there’s a map screen, it’s so confusing to try and navigate I found myself desperately trying not to use it.

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Weapon strength seems a bit odd as well; I found an upgraded shotgun more beneficial in most situations that an upgraded super shotgun, despite the latter having the word “super” in its name. To add to this, once you get a rocket launcher with homing missiles, it’s only a lack of ammo that stops it being the solution to practically every problem. Snapmaps – user created levels – also seem like a good idea in theory, but all the ones highlighted as the best the community still lack the soul of what makes the campaign so great. The feature, while ambitious, becomes a brief side attraction at the very best.

On a final side note, if you’re here for multiplayer action, don’t bother – the servers are so sparsely populated it’s honestly difficult to actually get into a match. That’s not really a fault of the developer’s own doing, however, and shouldn’t be taken as any real indication of how fun the multiplayer might actually be to play; it’s just the natural passage of time seeing the community moving on to the next big thing.

None of these problems hardly matter, however. Doom is the perfect blast to the past, one that perfectly pokes at that primal urge just to let loose and smash stuff. It’s an FPS game that breaks all the rules that most FPS games of today follow, and it does so in such an over-the-top way that it’s simply all the better for it. Rip and tear!

Opinions on… Game Dev Tycoon

When you first start Game Dev Tycoon, eager to create masterpieces of software design that blow anything in the actual real world out of the water, you’ll rapidly realise that there’s a big problem ticking away under the surface of the game’s mechanics. That problem is quite simply this; it’s impossible to actually truly gauge whether your decisions are leading towards any sort of positive outcome. Any addition of an untested design element in the creation of each of your games immediately throws everything into obscurity… There’s nothing discernible shown to you from one attempt to the next that lets you know if you are making the right decision in any regard – which, considering information is key to success, is pretty rubbish.

I suppose that’s how it works to an extent in the real world, but of course, that doesn’t really make it into a good mechanic to use here. It IS possible to learn what works and what doesn’t after the fact, but this feels a little pointless and hollow when you’ll potentially be haemorrhaging money by the time you learn your mistake. It’s also annoying when you take the time to read more on how the game works, and learn that there actually is a bunch of complicated and clever algorithms working away under the surface to determine your level of success. It’d be fun if these were presented to you, for you to then try and pick apart and make work to your advantage, but they’re all hidden away never to be seen.

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In a sense, this makes everything feel too simple for its own good. A situation rapidly occurs where there’s nothing in the game with any real depth for you to sink your teeth into; Even when you hit the endgame and start bigger projects such as developing your own consoles and research, I found the strategy for this doesn’t really evolve beyond ‘pump money into it’. In fact, that’s an approach that pretty much works across the board – last game didn’t make massive profits? Pump cash into a killer title next time. Need better staff? Pump more cash into your recruitment process and training.

This might all sound overtly cynical, but I don’t really mean it to be that way; in many ways you could see this basic nature as a blessing, rather than a curse. It’s a break away from the endless complexion and confusion that can stem from playing other simulation games – a no frills, easy way to whittle away time. As long as you go into it accepting that, or at least take my approach and enjoy it for what it is, it’s not really an issue – more just something you need to be aware of.

I also haven’t got around to highlighting Game Dev Tycoon’s main strength yet – it’s a master of non-stop, instant gratification. Start development, and bubbles showing your progress fly all over the screen at a relentless rate; all adding to a grand total highlighting your game’s quality that just keeps shooting up and up as you with each new title. Publish your game, and you’re immediately met with review scores, which (with luck) will shower you with praise that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Immediately after THAT, large chunks of cash from sales roll into your account, and by the time that starts to wane you’ve already started the whole cycle again. Nothing takes long to complete in the slightest, and you’re always moving. Think of it as the simulation genre’s version of fast food – you know there’s more complex and fulfilling meals out there, but sometimes you just want an instant hit of pure satisfaction.

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The developer’s love for games in general shines through as well. There’s a nice little (and hilariously copyright avoiding) trip through video game history that – while slightly biased towards certain formats at points – will raise a smile, and there’s a number of similarly themed easter eggs to be spotted both around your development office and elsewhere. I also feel the developer’s comments about piracy, and their approach to preventing it (which, hilariously, sees games made in pirated versions being pirated themselves) are worth noting; again showing a fondness for games in general that should be encouraged in a time where a lot of things feel like soulless attempts to suck as much money out of us as possible.

The key thing to remember with Game Dev Tycoon, then, is to know exactly what you’re getting. This isn’t a game of precise micromanagement and intricate challenges, and if you’re looking for that you’ll be best off going elsewhere. This is a piece of well executed and light-hearted fun, and there isn’t anything wrong with that at all.

Opinions on… Firewatch

Nearing the end of my time with Firewatch, something strange crept over me; the dawning realisation that instead of exploring it’s rendition of the great outdoors, I could actually… Well, go and explore the great outdoors. I was playing a form of escapism whereupon I could easily experience the real deal, if only I could bother to get up and make an effort to actually reach it. It was a weird little moment, to say the least.

There’s a good reason for sticking with Firewatch instead of heading out my own front door, however, with that being that it’s hard to draw yourself away from the striking world that’s on offer here. The art style is the first thing you notice, with its minimalist design style and simple colour palettes creating something that looks pretty unique. Yet then you also notice how good the map design is, taking in all the wonders of the American national parks that form the game’s setting – from shady forests and great lagoons, to narrow mountain valleys and wide open vistas. It’s a world that you want to keep exploring just to see what new sights might be around the next corner, and one where it’s hard not to keep yourself from tapping your screenshot key every few minutes.

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The way you explore and traverse the area is also interesting. There’s no arrow pointing your way, no big on-screen hints pointing out the right direction for you. Instead, you’ve literally got to whip out a map and compass, and carefully plot your route towards your next objective. Then, as you go, you have to keep checking and adjusting your direction, paying close attention to the distinct possibility you might wander off course and get hopelessly lost. It feels as if you are actually hiking, that every endeavour and successful journey is a result of your hard work. It’s an incredibly satisfying experience.

Firewatch’s world isn’t perfect, however. For one, it isn’t the biggest out there. From about the halfway point onward you’ll be stomping through a lot of old ground, the charm on exploring the unknown being lost, and your relatively slow travel speed making things feel a little bit of a chore. Additionally (and just like real life) getting lost isn’t exactly fun, and having to consult your map constantly to make tiny course adjustments in such situations can get tedious at points. Still, for the most part the game’s approach to navigation works, and praise has to be given for it being brave enough to actually try something new in the first place.

The world itself is only half of what’s on offer, however, with the other half coming in the form of the story itself. It’s one that grabs you from the very start – before things even begin proper you’re greeted with a text-based tale that tells the story of the main character’s life in miniature. It’s poignant, it’s well written, and it’s honestly one of the parts of the game that stick in the mind the most. Beyond that, things pans out in what is essentially a two-person plot – your character, and a woman whose only presence throughout comes in the form of a voice coming from the other end of a radio. As time passes, you slowly uncover mysterious going on, and struggle to get to the bottom of the mystery – with only that lone voice to help you on.

It’s an interesting premise, and it works, mainly because both characters are so well written and voiced they feel distinctly… Well, human. They bond slowly over time, learning more about each other, cracking jokes and telling stories about their lives. Then, when thrown into an intense situation, they panic – not always making the best decisions, freaking out over what might happen to them, and so on. It’s so expertly crafted, it’s hard not to become invested in what’s going on; you’ll want to keep on going just to find out what the eventual outcome will be.

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Shame, then, that the actual closure to the story falls so damn flat. This is incredibly frustrating on two counts; firstly, many of the plot points get written away with remarkable quickness and ease, negating a lot of the impact that they may have had previously. I’m obviously not going to spoil anything, but there’s a particular thread to the story that honestly feels like it’s a big part of everything that’s going on – and then it suddenly gets brushed away via a few throwaway lines. Secondly, the game does a remarkably good job of building up a lot of suspense and tension, only to whittle it away on a simple resolution that never even gets close to justifying all the gravitas that had gone on beforehand. The end result is that you’ll probably walk away from Firewatch feeling a little let down; a distinctly disappointing note to finish upon, especially after the rest of the game was crafting things so expertly.

On a final note, it’s also worth noting that Firewatch is a very short experience as well – it took me just over three hours to complete, and I don’t particularly think I was rushing through it. Yet don’t let this necessarily put you off, because there’s certainly enough done right here to at least mostly negate the game’s faults and short playtime; indeed, exploring the game’s world is almost worth the entrance fee alone. In the end, Firewatch is a unique little title that sticks in the memory – and one that makes hiding indoors on your computer infinitely more justifiable.

Opinions on… The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

It was only recently, as I stumbled late into work with a distinct lack of sleep that caused me to curse my own existence, that a single thought kept re-occurring in my head; This is all The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth’s fault. It had proven so addictive, and so compelling, that I’d completely lost sight of what time it was – realising too late the error of my ways. Never mind the fact I should have been a responsible adult and paid attention to my schedule, the truth shone through – this game was too damn good to be considered healthy.

TBOI: Rebirth is a rogue-like title where you play a child fleeing from his psychotic, murderous mother. During his escape he is forced to battle his many demons via firing his own tears at them, all the while picking up things which make him stronger but which mutate his body into grotesque forms. If that sounds pretty weird to you – well, you’d be right. Yet despite it being a bizarre tone for a game to take, it still works, with everything that occupies this strange world adding to its atmosphere in both bleak and darkly comedic ways.

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When it comes to actual gameplay, it’s very much in the same vein as most twin-stick shooters; make you way through room after room, avoiding traps and killing enemies, until you reach the boss. Kill that, descend to the next floor, rise and repeat. You’ll be grabbing keys and bombs to help you along the way, but it’s one of the many unique items that can be found on each floor that you really want to get your hands on. Some are boring but practical, such as merely providing health, while some are much more exciting… Blood lasers? Fear shots? The ability to produce an army of attack flies? They’re all here, and they’re all pretty crazy.

With rooms, enemies and items being randomly generated each time you play, it creates a situation where when I say each run is different, I sincerely mean it. The bulk of the enjoyment that comes from this comes from the fact that items can work with each other to create synergies that take things into really absurd territories. For instance; there’s an item that lets your tears bounce off walls, and another that lets them split into multiple shots once fired. Pick up both, and suddenly there’s a thousand different shots rapidly bouncing off the walls in every direction. That’s just the start of it as well; even after all my time with the game, I’m still finding combinations that make me laugh, or simply leave me in awe at the fact they’re so powerful I’m wiping out rooms in the blink of an eye. Your luck can easily swing the other way, however; not all item drop or combinations work in your favour, and if you’re unfortunate you can find yourself in a desperate fight to survive with what little damage you can dish out. Manage to pull a victory of what seems like a crushing defeat, however, and it just makes that victory that much sweeter. There’s never a dull moment.

One of the main key points that make TBOI:R so genius, however, is in the way that more items and features will unlock as you keep playing and defeat its many challenges. Wind your way down to any of the (multiple) final bosses and succeed in vanquishing it, for instance, and the unlock you receive as a result has the potential to pop up in any of your future runs. This means there’s more scope for diverse runs, more room for crazy item synergies, and more of a chance for you to end up with a big grin on your face. It’s a great mechanic, and one that makes you keep coming back in the hope and desire of unlocking even more stuff to play around with. With so many bosses to beat, and so many characters to beat them with… Well, trust me when I say it’s going to take a nigh-on herculean effort to unlock everything the game has to offer.

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That’s because this game is a pretty serious challenge. Everything’s out to kill you, and managing to keep your cool as a plethora of enemies and obstacles appear in the tiny room you’ve just wandered into is a key skill you have to learn pretty quickly if you want to stand a chance of getting anywhere fast. Sometimes this difficulty gets cranked up to even more brutal levels where you need to be really on the ball to even cope, and sometimes (and in one of my few criticisms I have) it just gets plain unfair. There are some scenarios where damage simply feels inevitable, and some enemies and bosses (You will hate the word “Bloat”, trust me) are notably harder to the point you feel the developers where just being mean-spirited. This runs even truer if you purchase the DLC, which provides challenges so incredibly frustrating you’ll wonder where the fun is meant to be at times. Most damage is fair, don’t get me wrong, but you will likely feel your rage levels rising at points.

The other issue that runs in sync with this is that things feel a little overtly reliant on luck at times. Luck always plays a role in rogue-likes, of course, but in most rogue-likes good play and a healthy dose of effort can pull you through in anything but the direst of situations. Here, if you keep getting items that basically serve little to no practical purpose (of which there are a few), you’re going to have to be some supreme guru of skill and patience to triumph. When the same situation reoccurs over multiple runs… Well, the fun levels drop a little. I admit I’m not the grandest player at the game, and that a lot of attempts I’ve failed may have succeeded in more capable hands. It doesn’t change the fact, however, that I think those runs could hardly be regarded as that “fun” in the first place.

Overall, though, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is one of the most compulsive games that I’ve played in a long time, and is one of a mere handful of games where its gameplay has grabbed on to me stupidly tight and simply refused to let go. Give it a shot. Just… Make sure you get a decent night’s sleep, ok?

Opinions on… Dying Light

Zombies, quite clearly, are monsters that get no shortage of love in the video game world. After all, take a brief glance through the Steam store, and you’ll find it only takes a matter of moments to find a title that pits you against the shambling undead in some way or another. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you consider the fact that there’s always some degree of satisfaction to be taken in turning a zombie’s brain into mush, but it does mean it’s hard to find something out there that keep things fresh and exciting. Enter Dying Light, and it’s rather novel solution to the problem; a healthy dose of… Parkour?

Yes, one of Dying Light’s main selling points comes in gracing you with the ability to jump and vault around its world like some sort of demented acrobat Dying Light’s main selling point is perhaps the ability to jump and vault around its map like a lunatic, using all the advantages that provides to swing the zombie apocalypse in your favour as you start to bash some skulls in. It’s a strange mix; the comparison that is always drawn is that’s it’s a hybrid of Dead Island’s violence and the free running from Mirror’s Edge, and in reality that’s pretty damn close to what you should expect.

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It actually creates an interesting hybrid of gameplay styles, and in an odd way the gameplay shifts and mutates the more time you put into playing it. In the beginning, you’re a pathetic weakling – the game only just stops short of blatantly telling you to stay away from zombie encounters, and even taking one or two on at this point can lead to a quick and untimely death. Instead, your focus moves to scrambling from roof to roof in a desperate bid to stay away from confrontation, any daring attempts at attack generally taking the form of desperate hit and runs.

Yet as you progress and grow stronger, levelling up your character’s strength and agility whilst finding stronger weapons and supplies, you’ll find yourself hitting the streets and tackling things head on more and more. From the cowardly kitten, you become a slicing and dicing killing machine, and it’s really satisfying to do so. Yet you’re not done; the gameplay shifts again once gun-toting mercenaries come into play, becoming a war of attrition as you slowly creep through buildings taking pot-shots at your foes in what can best be described as a really odd version of Rainbow Six. It’s another piece that gets thrown into the survival stew, and you’d better get good at it fast lest you starve to death.

The clever thing with all this, however, comes in the way that the game can manipulate you into having to switch your approach at a moment’s notice. You might be majestically soaring between rooftops, only for an impromptu missed jump or loud noise to suddenly have the zombies bring the fight to you. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you might be happily slaughtering away, only for night to rapidly fall and make the really nasty stuff crawl out from the woodwork, causing a hasty retreat to the skies. It’s a really good way of keeping things fresh and not letting you remain complacent; you always need to be on your toes, lest you die. Not knowing what’s coming next is the main catalyst that will keep you playing; you don’t know what’s coming around the next corner, but you certainly want to find out.

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Looking elsewhere, Dying Light’s story is a fairly cookie-cutter affair; you’re dropped in to recover a government file, but slowly and surely you find out the truth about what has occurred while battling fellow humans – the TRUE monsters, you see? It’s a story that comprises a sheer storm of clichés, and while the use of such clichés is executed reasonably well, this isn’t a narrative that’s going to stick in the memory for any extended period of time. It’s a healthily long campaign that’ll certainly keep you busy for many an hour, though. This is bolstered by many a side mission and challenge, and while many of them are a bit on the repetitive side (basically boiling down to glorified fetch quests), they all culminate into providing the game with a healthy lifespan.

Anything else? Well, the game looks pretty good graphically. I can’t say there’s much which astounded me visually, but it does manage to pull off some good looking vistas when it feels in the mood to do so. The default controls also felt a little cumbersome to me, but with the ability to remap things to your heart’s content (Or just grab a controller, which was my personal approach) it feels a bit unfair to moan about that. Finally, multiplayer is fun enough (if a little confusing at first), but I’d suggest turning the invasions off to begin with. Not doing so results in rival players having an irritating knack of appearing when you are in the middle of doing something important – cutting you off from your objective in the process.

Dying Light, therefore, is a commendable mash up of styles, which on paper perhaps looks like it shouldn’t work, but when put into practice provides a refreshing take on the zombie survival genre. The game’s ambition and scale manages to reach the lofty heights that you’ll often be climbing to, while its gameplay, just like the zombies, certainly has some bite to it.