It’s better to think about Dying Light 2, Techland’s latest, as a parkour game that also has zombies in it. Zombie games, if we’re being honest, feel a little bit past it.
At first, it was quite cool to run around a shopping mall filled with zombies, attacking them with showerheads, sledgehammers, and… I dunno, other stuff from the malls. Likewise, it’s hard not to crack a smile when you and three friends are charging through tunnels, fighting zombies as they fall on you from all sides, desperate to get to safety.
But after years and years of getting mauled to death by tall, dark, and undead strangers they’ve lost their shine a bit and there’s only so much you can do with them. A truly great zombie game now has to be excellent in spite of the zombies, not because of them.
Dying Light was an excellent game. Dying Light 2 then, has to work just as hard as its remarkable predecessor to win us over. Dying Light dropped us into a zombie-infested wasteland where the zombies were ever-present and managed to deliver a cracking game, largely off the back of its first-person mix of brutal melee combat, lightning-fast parkour, and genuine horror, as you spent the nighttimes being stalked by everything that has ever gone bump in the night.
Dying Light 2 largely does the same again: the parkour is good, the melee combat remains gory. The sequel takes a swing at beefing up the narrative of their post-apocalyptic world too, which is sometimes successful, sometimes not. Dying Light 2 is a difficult game to write about largely because it’s a perfectly serviceable game that – despite its bold claims – is largely just an iterative improvement to the original game that fans will snaffle up and average players will probably have a decent time with, too.
During NME’s hands-on time with the game, we were given access to two fairly slight chunks of the game and nothing showed anything truly wow, but it all points towards a game you’re going to enjoy, even if it won’t set the world on fire. This isn’t a negative, though, and a pulpy B-movie splatterfest that feels good to control is still an achievement, to my mind.
The biggest improvements within Dying Light 2 come to both the combat and parkour systems. When it comes to combat, the game is much better for ditching firearms, with the in-game lore suggesting that humanity has switched to bows, crossbows, and other medieval-era killing implements to get the job done on the undead (and each other). There’s something satisfying about belting a zombie with a mace, or putting down an attacker with a quick arrow to the face to preserve stealth.
Stealth is a bigger proposition in Dying Light 2, and (as with every piece of zombie media ever), the bad guys here aren’t the shambling undead, but the dickheads that have taken advantage of the dead walking the earth to commit a few real party fouls, including stealing supplies, torturing other humans in their huge fortresses, and even cannibalism. Based on the preview, it seems you’ll spend a lot of time skulking around and taking people out to clear bandits away from landmarks and turn the fortresses into friendly locales, slowly unlocking the map like we’re playing Far Cry. Hell, there are even water towers for you to scale if you’re that way inclined.
The combat still lacks a bit of impact for my liking, but this isn’t really a game about impact. It’s about speed. One of the first unlocks you’ll get in the game integrates parkour into the combat system, and as you level up you’ll find plenty of options for both fight or flight. Traversal is easy thanks to clever world design: the city of Villedor is very parkour-friendly, and marks the routes up buildings and across rooftops clearly. A skill system that gives you access to several powerful techniques helps matters, too; whether that’s taking less fall damage or just straight up letting you run up or across walls like you’re in a PS2-era platformer.
You also gain the ability to play off of fallen or stunned enemies for either devastating follow-up attacks or just extra mobility, both of which are invaluable as tight stamina limits mean that you’ll be getting involved in a lot of bruising close-combat fights. Using the environment can mitigate this, but it also means that the most devastating brawls were the ones where I was forced into a tight space, forced to fight in an underground car park or litter-filled offices, wings clipped by the surroundings.
Dying Light 2 isn’t going to change the world, but it’s going to be a gory fun time – especially if you like your undead action fast, furious and frantic.