Dying Light 2: Stay Human (PS5) Review – Night Terrors
Dying Light returns with a sequel that sticks the landing in almost every way. The Finger Guns Review;
The phenomenon of Dying Light is quite the story. Techland’s zombie horror landed way back in 2015(!), ushering in an exciting ‘stay indoors’ at night concept that lead to every single mission and encounter feeling incredibly tense. The clock ticking down until sunfall was always in the back of your mind, allowing the fear factor as you parkoured across your zombie-filled playground to be ramped up pretty spectacularly.
Through this, the fanbase of Dying Light has been served very well, with seven years of content accompanying the game, a truly remarkable feat considering how the casuals may have jumped off the game, the ongoing and seemingly endless DLC was serving nobody but the purest of fans that ever got stuck into it.
And beavering away in the background was Dying Light 2, that takes everything we adored about the first game – reviewed on a website that no longer exists, sadly – and brings it into a bigger, bolder, scarier and altogether more complete city than before. Now we’ve finally received the ‘next-gen’ updates to the game, we thought we’d jump in and share what we though, with myself and our own Miles Thompson contributing to this review.
I mean, let’s not make any bones about it – Dying Light 2 is freakin’ enormous. When rumours began to swirl before release that Techland’s sequel would take at least 250 hours to fully explore, it was laughed off as an exaggeration. Well, I’m 20+ hours deep into this behemoth and I’ve barely touched the edges of this gorgeous, enormously detailed wonder-map full of zombie killing goodness. I could only really compare it to the likes of Far Cry in terms of scale, merely by the sheer amount of things to do before you even set foot anywhere you could consider the ‘open-world’. It’s a gargantuan blockbuster of a map that has surprises around every corner, leaving you ever so slightly breathless at the sheer idea that 100%-ing this beast is going to consume a fair portion of your existence.
And for the hardcore, that’s exactly what they’re after. Another huge slice of terrifying, edge-of-your-seat, masterfully crafted zombie murderings that can seemingly last as long as you could ever want it to. 250 hours might be stretching it a tad, but damn if it doesn’t seem all that far off.
The story carries on slightly from the original, and is very much set in the same world, if not the same location. There are references to the events in Harran throughout, leaving you feeling connected to the first game throughout. These new batch of survivors are spread into settlements around the world, but it’s The City (yeah, we know) where you’ll be parkouring across for the most part as you search for your sister, who you’ve been told is somewhere in the city limits. Of course between you and her there are a fair amount of things that want to rip you to shreds. Alive and (un)dead.
The story tying this together feels enormous, with plenty of friends to make along the way. You’ll feel yourself somewhat underpowered in the first few hours, at least I did, so the sweet sweet calling of side quests, scavenger hunts and events allowed me to boost my health, stamina and weaponry just that little bit more before I was pulled back into the main questline. A good portion of the side quests are again, Far Cry in nature (activating power grids, climbing up aerial towers etc…), but they never feel out of place. You know here that The City is run down and desolate, and hasn’t just been taken over by a mad titan with wonderful hair.
You’ll be backtracking a fair bit too. Whilst the game encourages you to move on, you’ll find yourself heading back and forth as you unlock items which will allow you to access areas you weren’t privy to before. Of course, it’s always best to do this in the daytime, as it’s a fools errand to attempt anything at night, even when you bloody have to.
The day/night cycle of Dying Light is once again the biggest enemy you’ll come up against here. If you’ve a vague idea of the original you’ll know that it’s very much all about ‘high risk, high reward’, and that’s been elevated tenfold in the sequel. The best loot is always hidden away at night, the scariest moments you can take on will reward you in some way or another.
Of course this is where the games parkour brilliance comes into play. If you want to play Dying Light 2 like ‘The Floor is Lava’ you have that option if you continuously build up your stamina gauge. It’s obviously far more beneficial to you at night in order to get around safely(ish), so tearing it around with the left thumbstick and R1 gives you a real superhero vibe. Until of course you lands into a nest of ‘night-time’ zombies that aren’t all that pleased to see you and all you have on you is a crowbar. What? No, that never happened to me. Nope. Not once. Ok all the time. Parkour rocks, but it does require you to ‘git gud’, no matter how seamless and lovely it feels.
Something that’s worth remembering of course is a fair amount of missions can be taken on either during the night or during the day. So if you’ve attempted a certain one at night and found yourself overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasty brain wanters, you can tackle it the following day where there’s far less of them around and if there are, they’re much more underpowered, allowing you to tear through them with little trouble. Playing this way ensures your safe houses (or UV areas, because zombies don’t like raves, apparently) become more essential than normal, as you can sleep to force the daylight if necessary. The action becomes particularly tactical this way, though of course not every mission will offer this option.
And there are significant story beats that will change the way you play through the game depending on your choices made in those moments.
A particular milestone moment worth mentioning is when you’re tasked to side with either the Survivors – a church-sleeping bunch of hipsters from Watch Dogs 2 you meet at the beginning of the game and try to hang you, that’s fun – or the Peacekeeps, a militia group that are stacked to the brim with weapons and armour.
You’ll feel the game change at this moment, as your decision effectively decides where your story is going to end up. You can claim zones with your chosen faction – guide ropes will be added to rooftops to allow freer movement if you side with the Survivors, for example, whilst the Peacekeepers will lay traps on the grounds for your enemies. It really becomes your game and your story at this point, and is a tough decision from the outset, and really depends on how you want to play the game moving forward and how comfortable you’ve felt playing the game up until that point.
I’m very much a parkour player so I opted to side with the Survivors, and suddenly became freakin’ Tarzan in The City. It’s just brilliant.
Perhaps the strongest part of the game for me was the combat. In the lengthy tutorial section you’ll learn some brand new combat moves that will most definitely come in handy in a bind, and damn if it doesn’t feel satisfying when you pull it off correctly. The human-on-human fights feel complex and tactical, as you’ll primarily be taking on enemies that are armoured up to the core, essentially boiling down any confrontation to a fight between a rugby player and an NFL quarterback.
Thankfully you’re taught different levels of hand-to-hand combat throughout. Timing is your best friend and you’ll be blocking, dodging and taking down one enemy whilst kicking another in the face over their shoulder in no time. A vast improvement on the original’s melee sections, it’s without a doubt a game highlight when pulled off correctly.
Dying Light 2 without any shadow of a doubt is a step-up from its predecessor in almost every way, which is no small feat considering just how loved the original is. The parkour and combat feel absolutely fantastic, the entire game is beautiful to look at (especially now with the next-gen only upgrades) and the characters you meet are complex and interesting to talk to. The story is a good 30 hours plus but you’ll be so sidetracked with a massive amount of side-quests to be getting on with that there’s a chance you won’t even see the ending for long after you’ve clocked in 30 hours. Value for money is the order of the day here and Techland have once again very much delivered on this.
And yes, you can absolutely tear it off the top of a building onto any kind of vehicle and be absolutely fine. So make sure you keep an eye on what’s below you before you jump.
Hey, I’m just here to help.
Second Opinion; Additional Thoughts on Dying Light 2: Stay Human
Written by Miles Thompson
As I emerged from the opening title screen from Dying Light 2: Stay Human, I was greeted with the most stunning overlook of a world destroyed. The sun beamed out across a vast expanse, shining off the nature of the world. For a moment, this land seemed positively peaceful. Beautiful even. I took a moment to soak in the atmosphere and appreciate the view, basking in the rays I could almost feel on my own skin. I trotted up and took what would be my first leap of so, so many more jumps. What an opening.
24 hours in, having traversed the complex footholds and rubble of Old Villedor, I was basking in yet another moment of glory. Not quite so beautiful it must be said. Facing down a virtual horde of renegade assholes, I was wounded, outnumbered, desperate and thoroughly up shit creek with no paddle in sight. “Screw it” I thought, belligerently. I charged, launched myself and drop kicked 4 of my assailants straight off a skyscrapper with reckless abandon. My momentum dumped me off the edge too, so I reached for my paraglider, breaking my fall at the last moment. Before getting dump-trucked by a group of zombies gleefully ready to chomp on my flesh.
Dying Light 2 is chock-full of incredible and emergent gameplay moments. What you go into this game with and your expectations for what you hope to gain will have a huge influence on how much entertainment you’ll gain back from it. The story is serviceable at best, boring at worst. Side quests are without doubt filler of the blandest variety. But if you’ve played a Techland game before, you know the drill by now. That ain’t what we’re here for.
No sir. We’re here for the 360 swing of a two-handed hammer of epic pain dealing. We’re here for the gliding across rooftops with the kind of joyful fluidity the actors of The Office exclaimed – “PARKOUR”. We’re here for the fun, which Dying Light 2: Stay Human offers in abundance, a giant mound of rotting zombified corpses abundance.
Story-wise, the tale of Aiden the Pilgrim starts out pretty well. Meeting various factions and personalities is interesting as you gauge their motivations and willingness (or lack of) to aid you in the search for your long-lost sister. If, like me, you were immensely impressed with the potential decision-making showcased in the 2019 showcase, you’ll be sorely disappointed with the final product, unfortunately. Decisions do lead to some consequential outcomes like whether you align with the authoritarian Peacekeepers or more chaotic but free Survivors, a couple of faction specific quests and collectibles, but the narrative ramifications feel superficial. Dialogue and voice acting is hit or miss, and people take forever to say anything, leading me to skipping most dialogue by just reading the subtitles instead. Side quests fare even worse, with one even having me laughing at how poorly a planned emotional tale ended (a death is hardly impactful when you don’t know the character and their body disappears immediately after the cutscene).
Luckily, the gameplay more than makes up for the shortcomings of the narrative. Blitzing around the city on foot feels incredible. It’s not quite Spiderman 2018 kind of satisfying, but it isn’t too far off either. You’ll easily hop over rooftops, clamber up ridiculously high building, swing through construction zones and sprint across vast distances. It can initially take a bit of getting used to knowing how to time your jumps and aiming correctly with the first-person view, but once it clicks it has you fully hooked. An impressive touch is as you gather momentum and successfully parkour, Aiden’s vision narrows, the music amps up and he’ll start breathlessly throwing out pumped up thoughts. It’s an engaging way of the game telling you you’re being awesome.
Upgrades are chunky and have noticeable impacts on how you play. Whether it be a head smash from an elevated position that mashes a zombies nugget into pulp, or the ability speed boost from any parkour move, each increment feels rewarding and offers a new skill to master. They’re split across two trees: combat and parkour, with almost every action you take contributing to gaining XP in both, which is doubled during the night-time.
I really loved the dichotomy of the day-night cycle and how tangibly it changed the perspective of how to play. The peace and safety of the streets during the day, with mellowed and easy to kill zombies milling around completely shifts to nervousness and caution at night, with stronger, faster and nastier undead roaming the alleyways, just waiting to tear you apart. I found myself intently watching the clock to avoid getting caught out during the day, begrudgingly moving time forward to complete night-only quests or activities, usually which contain the best loot and items.
It’s worth noting the world map is, like, ridiculously large. It may not be the biggest landmass by square inch, but it is dense and full of activities to engage with. At 12 hours, I still hadn’t even moved on from the starting zones, such was the wealth of things I couldn’t help but find myself doing. Side-content of activating power stations, windmills, water towers and the like is ripped straight from the Ubisoft formula, but the advantage Dying Light 2 holds in its traversal mechanics which are so satisfying it manages to overcome the inherent repetition of these tasks.
Lastly, I’ll mention the graphics and performance. Dying Light 2: Stay Human is visually phenomenal in a lot of areas. The draw distance is honestly baffling in how well-detailed and stunning the world of the city is. Zombies and bandits burst apart into sprawling fountains of blood and sinew after contact with your weapons and seeing fire envelope a horde in the pitch-black of the underground is a sadistic sight to behold. Some animations, particularly in interactions with NPCs can look laughably awkward, as is standard practice for Techland, but the world itself is gorgeous and just so impressive. It all works faultlessly too – no framerate drops, no crashes, which is quite the achievement for a studio which released the ultimate buggy game in Dead Island. There’s some visual oddities and occasional audio desync, but otherwise this runs superbly given how much strain it must be placing on the console.
On a subjective level, Dying Light 2: Stay Human is already a frontrunner for my Game of the Year list simply from the amount of pure pleasure and entertainment it is to play. I’m finding myself in that addictive mindset of forgetting the main campaign to screw around in the open world, killing bandits, mastering parkour challenges and helping every idiotic survivor I can come across (it’s a miracle any of these “people” can get dressed never mind survive an apocalypse).
It’s bloody, bold, brilliant and epic in equal measure, with a traversal system up there with the best. It’s not as terrifying as Dying Light 1, but it holds just enough subduing tension to keep you on your toes, a good stance for a game about movement and speed.
Dying Light 2 ups the ante from the original in almost every way, offering more satisfying parkour, combat and enough jump scares to make you never want to walk in the darkness ever again. A worthy and essential sequel.
Dying Light 2 is available now on Xbox One / Xbox Series S|X, PS4, PS5 (reviewed on) and PC.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, a copy of the game was purchased. For our full review policy, please go here.
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