Reviewed on: PS5
Also available on: PS4, Xbox Series X&S, Xbox One, Windows PC
Release: 3rd February 2022
Dying Light was easily one of my favourite games of the last 10 years, so when Dying Light 2 was announced I was understandably excited. Does Dying Light 2 live up to the hype? Keep reading to find out.
Dying Light wasn't known for its epic story line and Dying Light 2 is much the same, yet manages to be somewhat less engaging. In the original game, while the story wasn't really a main focus, I found myself very much connected to Kyle Crane (the main protagonist) as well as pretty much all of the other main cast, but in Dying Light 2 I have remained very indifferent to both Aiden Caldwell (main protagonist) and almost all the side characters you come across. This makes the story, the missions and the interactions with people all feel pretty meh. That is until the second half of the game once you reach the centre. Rosario Dawson's character Lawan is easily the best, most engaging character in the entire game for me and adds a little life back into the story side of the game.
In the original game you assume the role of Kyle Crane, a secret agent dropped into a middle eastern city called Haran. Your mission is to gather intel on the virus plaguing humanity and infiltrate the group of a rogue political figure known as Rais who could potentially hold the key to a cure. While it wasn’t story driven as such, it was unique and definitely had some real character and relationship building moments. Dying Light 2 however is a little more flat. In this one you play the role of Aiden Caldwell, and your mission, much less unique and much less interesting, is to track down someone specific, someone from your past. I won’t say more, to avoid any spoilers, but I’m sure you can agree, there's a lot less substance this time round. This combined with Aiden being a bit of a non-starter leaves the whole thing feeling very flat, specifically in the early stages.
That being said, the thing that took the first game from good to great was its genre defining gameplay, It somewhat reinvented the wheel in terms of your usual zombie hack and slash. You can have the best story in the world but if your gameplay isn't up to scratch then you're setting up to fail. It's no surprise then that the gameplay in Dying Light 2 is as fun and as freeing as the first with even a few improvements over the previous game and just a couple of slight steps backwards. The game focuses heavily on parkour much like the first, only this time you get to utilize the environments much, much more. Things like paragliding and using rooftop fans to bypass enemies and travel from building to building is a nice new addition to the already exhilarating gameplay. Probably the main stand out of the first game was its night time gameplay, this was some of the most spine tingling, panic inducing gameplay I’ve ever experienced in a zombie game and was absolutely unique to dying light. It's a little disappointing that they would try and change that a little this time. Some of these changes are good and some not so much in my opinion. This time round, there are certain shops and other buildings that contain plenty of valuable loot, however during the day these shops are swarming with sleeping “biters” but due to their vast numbers they are extremely difficult to manoeuvre past. That is of course unless you tackle these places at night. At night, most of these biters will be out roaming the streets leaving this valuable loot a much easier target to attempt to retrieve. The downside of night time now though is that the world seems to be overflowing with a new enemy type called “howlers” these howlers will take one look at you and will “howl” into the air alerting surrounding enemies of your presence and initiating a chase. This means that the only real way to get around the city is via the rooftops which can become a little tiresome and somewhat lonely as you navigate this huge city full of “fun to kill” zombies from a safe distance. In my opinion this really allows the game to lose some of the grittiness and atmosphere that the first one did so well to manufacture.
One other new feature of Dying light 2 is that you are in fact infected and on the brink of turning, this both makes the gameplay a little more challenging and a little more frustrating. Basically, to stop yourself from turning you must remain in UV light, whether it be from the sun or from UV lamps set up around the map. This limits exploration a little especially during the night. At the start you only get 5 minutes from when you leave the light to when you turn, meaning anywhere you want to go must be within 5 minutes of where you are, while fun at first, it becomes quite old quite quickly as your actions have to be very deliberate and very precise. When you're playing an open world RPG, this really limits what you can and can't do especially early on. Personally, one of my favorite things about the original game was just how terrifying the night time was, you only went out when it was important and every moment was living on the edge, this time round, that is sort of lost. The combination of limiting exploration due to the infection and the howlers keeping you confined to the rooftops most of the time takes all that excitement away.
This time around Techland have introduced factions into the mix. These factions include renegades, survivors and peacekeepers these factions all have very different opinions and your decision to help one over the other gives you a slightly different experience. Another benefit of helping one or the other is the ability to strengthen the particular one you choose, for example, if you choose to give water supply to the survivors they will become more powerful and start adding more parkour helpers throughout the city, if you give it to the peacekeepers however, the peacekeepers will start adding more combat traps suck as car bombs etc around the place. So depending on your play style it’s very important who you side with. That being said, while there are definitely minor differences in the story along the way the outcome seems inevitable whatever you choose to do. Just early in the game I regularly kept betraying one particular faction, but still somehow ended up working together a little while later. These choices feel a little more like an illusion and really for mine, only change a few lines of dialogue rather than the game’s outcome. I would like to point out however, I am yet to replay through the game to see if picking a different side does in fact give you a whole different set of missions and/or endings.
The world is extremely well designed, just like the first, you can really tell a lot of work has gone into designing these different environments full of parkour obstacles, open windows to vault through and plenty of buildings to explore. The world itself looks amazing, that overgrowth of the Flora really gives a post-apocalyptic feel. While the landscape looks great, graphically I felt like the game generally could have looked a little better. Considering how well the first game still holds up today despite being over 7 years old this one doesn't really seem to build on that too much in terms of graphics especially given that we are now a whole generation ahead of where we were when the original game came out.
Early review copies of Dying Light 2 clearly had their issues, the game was reportedly riddled with bugs, both minor and game breaking, however I ran into very little in the way of bugs, sure there was the odd enemy that was unaware of my presence from time to time, or random pop-in of objects etc, none of which ruined the experience for me and were in fact sometimes quite comical.
I would definitely recommend playing, as I definitely still had fun with it, but I have a predisposition to liking games of this Ilk. So if zombie hack and slash is your style, then definitely play it. I know there are lot of comparisons to the original game in this review, which is possibly a little unfair as Dying light came out of nowhere and instantly became a hit, whereas Dying Light 2 was hyped up quite a but so was always going to struggle to outlive those lofty expectation. All in all the amazing gameplay is let down by a pretty average story, unlikeable characters and a few tweaks that I don't think needed to be made, Dying light 2 in fact sort of just made me want to play the first one again. That could be more of a statement of how good the original game was and how Dying Light 2 was never going to live up to the expectations I had for it given how much I absolutely loved the first one.