Dying Light review impressions: Fresh zombies, coming in hot

Dying Light

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Like every other game reviewer, we just got our hands on Dying Light review code yesterday. Seeing as how it's a massive open-world game I assume lasts somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-30 hours, we're understandably not finished with the game yet. Not even close, really.

But I've put in several hours with the game and I've got some initial opinions to share so you're not buying it completely blind.

Opinions like...

1. It's coming in hot

Well, it seems from my limited time with the game that there's a reason we didn't get review code until the day before launch: This game is coming in hot, which is a polite way of saying "I think Dying Light could've used some more polish."

I've heard that the console versions are okay, but the PC version has some curious issues. I'll be looking around the Internet today to see if others report the same, but I've been experiencing a lot of frame stuttering and some outright freezing.

Dying Light

Ninety-five percent of the time, the game runs as expected. Some slowdown here and there, but nothing too major.

Six or seven times now I've hit a full-on halt, though. Here's how it goes: Visuals freeze, but audio keeps playing for a few seconds. Audio freezes. Visuals slowly (one frame per second) ratchet back in sync with the audio over the course of a few seconds. Game continues like normal.

I've tried dipping all sorts of settings, but so far no luck. It seems to happen completely at random, and I don't know what to do to fix it. Let me know if you're also playing on the PC and experiencing issues. I'm not willing to say "This game is broken." This isn't AC: Unity—PCs are fickle, and performance issues even more fickle. But I also wanted to let everyone know of the issues on my own, personal rig, which is currently sporting an overclocked EVGA 970.

Dying Light

There's also semi-pervasive stuttering as I run through environments, especially when a ton of zombies are on screen. I'm regularly seeing fluctuations from 60 frames per second all the way down to 30 and back up again. Still, the game rarely dips below 30 frames per second, although when it does it's noticeable. This is a fast game, and thanks to the game's focus on parkour even a second of screen-tearing and stuttering can completely throw off your groove as you run across the city.

2. It's gorgeous

That being said, hot damn does the city look nice. Especially at sunset. Look:

Dying Light

3. Just call me David Belle

And it's a shame the parkour is giving me issues because it's a stand-out feature of the game. I loved it in the previews and I still love it now. It takes a bit of getting used to, mainly because you have to hold down the Spacebar every time you want to pull yourself up on a ledge, but I'm loving the new focus developers are giving to mobility and alternative movement in games. It's got a way of making boring, retreaded environments (brown shacks as far as the eye can see) fun again.

4. The protagonist is sort of boring

I'm only a few hours in, but I can't really get into the main character. He's the blandest protagonist I've played since Far Cry 3. He says some vaguely military things, he tries to "prove himself" to people, and his voice actor sounds kind of...bored? Like, these crazy things are happening, people are dying everywhere, and the voice actor sounds like he doesn't really care at all.

I mean, I don't even know the guy's name. I can't remember it. I wanted to say his name was Jason Brody, but then I remembered that actually is the name of the guy in Far Cry 3.

5. More games should steal from Elder Scrolls

You know what system doesn't get used enough in RPGs? The "If you use it, you get better at it" skill progression system. Why don't more games use this? If I stab things, I should get better at stabbing things. If I run a lot, I should get better at running.

Dying Light

This guy is Danny Glover, right? I'm not crazy?

You don't have to take it to the same extremes as Elder Scrolls and have two-dozen skills for me to level up in separately, but I'm loving Dying Light's three-pool system. There's the "Survivor" pool, which is just general experience gained from doing missions, and then separate trees for agility and strength. Running a lot raises your agility and gives you more agility-specific abilities. Same with combat/strength.

It's so simple! And it lets me feel like I can concentrate on the things I care about. Which is running. Always running.

6. Pipes are fragile

I've never had the good fortune to bash someone over the head with a pipe, but what Dying Light has taught me is that were I to do so, I'd only get about ten or fifteen hits in before that pipe would be utterly useless as a weapon.

Good to know.

7. Crowds are dangerous

One zombie? Easy. Two zombies? Okay, I've got this. Three zombies? "What? I couldn't hear you over the sound of the skin getting ripped from my skull and eaten."

8. People like when you do them favors

Seriously. A dude says that.

Dying Light

Wow. If I do favors, people will like me. Thanks, video game guy. (Click to expand)

Bottom line

We'll have a full review of Dying Light up as soon as we can, hopefully by the weekend. I'm hitting the aforementioned framerate issues fairly regularly, but I've been persevering through them because I really enjoy the core of the game—it's like a more ambitious, less goofy Dead Island, which is a-okay with me.

As for the performance issues, I'll be keeping an eye on Steam and various forums today to see whether the same problems keep cropping up across the board. It's hard to know, when my current effective sample size is one person (me). Updates as soon as I have them.

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