Star Rating:

Dying Light 2

Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series XS, PS4, PS5

Release Date: Friday 4th February 2022

Play Modes: Single Player, Online Co-Operative Play

An impromptu street funeral for a fallen friend takes place on the streets of Villedor.

The body of the deceased is burned while a cleric delivers a sermon.

This moment of reflection is broken up by two zombies charging the service, causing the assembled to flee.

‘Dying Light 2’ is a game where going off the beaten track is encouraged, which makes it a shame when the game railroads players down certain paths.

In the best moments of ‘Dying Light 2’, the game brushes up against what I regard as the highpoint of open-world RPGs, ‘Fallout New Vegas’.

The world of 'Dying Light 2' is a living, breathing world full of interesting characters and creatures, along with some striking visual design.

The initial trailer for 'Dead Island' in 2011 garnered a lot of attention for its emotional, gut-wrenching tone only for the finished game to have the tonal balance of an episode of 'Scooby-Doo'.

Playing 'Dead Island' with 4 players was less 'The Walking Dead' and more 'Zombieland'.

Over 10 years later, Techland has pulled off the vision presented in that haunting trailer.

‘Dying Light 2’ is notable as being one of the first major pandemic-themed pieces of media to be released in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, and its depiction of what people do in extraordinary circumstances carries extra weight.

The Chase is on!

The majority of the game is spent being at the mercy of zombies, but ‘Dying Light 2’ goes through great lengths to make the game world a living, breathing world.

In the course of the free-roam gameplay, players come across little slices of life and mini-dramas.

In one instance, the player comes across a man and a woman on a rooftop where the man is complaining about his mother being overbearing.

The woman questions why does he not leave the house, until he concedes he would miss her cooking too much.

This was an unscripted, organic encounter found in the game world, and it’s moments like these that help elevate the game.

Of course, a game needs a solid gameplay loop to complement the strong story and setting, and this is where ‘Dying Light 2’ falls somewhat short.

The game is billed as a “Zombie RPG” which is a noble and interesting idea, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

There was a significant amount of pre-launch controversy following comments from Techland that the game would take around 500 hours to see every piece of content in the game.

While there are certainly enough interesting and quirky things to find off the beaten path, the game's runtime is padded by its tortoise-paced XP system.

Completing story missions does offer high XP bonuses as does completing side missions, but early on in the game, the pacing is akin to a glacier.

The game doesn't approach the same level of giddy fun that the original 'Dying Light' offered until your character is sufficiently levelled in the parkour abilities.

Depending on how sandbox-happy you are, that could be anywhere north of the 50-hour mark until you can tear across the roofs and streets of the game like Usain Bolt.

'Dying Light 2' becomes great fun once your character builds up the parkour stat

Artificially creating these barriers for players is not conducive to having a good experience.

It should not take the length of my boxset of 'The Wire' to unlock a simple ability like not tiring out when climbing a drain pipe.

Progressing with the character is an inherent part of any RPG, but Techland's lack chops in the RPG sphere really hurts the game and holds it back from fulfilling its true potential.

We feel the game would have been better served if the RPG side of the game was trimmed back and allowed players to pick from just the combat skill tree.

We can take it as read that our hero Aidan knows his way around parkour; the game establishes he's travelled over 2000km prior to the start of the game so we imagine he's quite fit.

While there is a thematic element that could explain Aidan's lack of fitness, it isn't clearly explained in the game and can lead to avoidable moments of frustration.

On more than one occasion, liberating rooftop jaunts were cut short by Aidan running out of fitness just before making a major leap, and there were numerous occasions where Aidan misjudged his jump resulting in the epic zombie slayer being brought down by the malevolent force known as gravity.

Having Aidan with the same fitness level as an out-of-shape person hitting the gym after Christmas detracts from the game, and while we see where Techland are coming from insofar as making the game feel like an RPG, it turns the game into a slog at times.

That isn't to say there isn't a lot to enjoy with 'Dying Light 2' - when the game hits the road it becomes as thrilling and electrifying as gaming gets - but there is a significant barrier to entry that may turn some players off before they get to that point.

There is an inherent RPG appeal in watching your character tire out from fighting one zombie with a broken table leg at the start of the game to taking on super zombies with your bare fists in the late game, but the simple fact of the matter is the game is too bloated.

The game is at its best when it's introducing you to complex characters and gives the players the chance to shape the game world around them, and there is a serene beauty to traipsing around the map and finding little slices of life.

Here we see a woman refusing help from peacekeepers. This kind of unscripted encounter makes 'Dying Light 2' shine

When the sun sets, the game turns into the blood-pumping rollercoaster the first game was.

The day/night cycle has become such a token addition to open-world games that it's up to games like this to reinvigorate the concept.

Having to evade a horde of zombies while the ticking clock tells you to find a spot with UV light is one of the most stressful experiences in gaming and the drama becomes even more fun with friends.

'Dying Light 2' lets you live out all your zombie fantasies, and playing the game with friends is a blast.

Crucially, the combat and tension still feel fraught and weighty when you're playing with friends or strangers, and the game isn't reduced to '28 Days Later' meets 'Jackass' when you're playing online.

The branching narrative also adds weight to the game, and the players choice isn't made clear straight away.

'Dying Light 2' offers a high degree of replayability, but considering the early game slug, we won't be in a rush to repeat the slog any time soon.

Overall, 'Dying Light 2' is a game we can see ourselves returning to many months from now which is a testament to how the game hooks you in, but the extra bit of bloat drags the game down.

With a more streamlined RPG mechanic, 'Dying Light 2' could have been a game for the history books - as it stands, it's a very good game with plenty of strong elements, but it's just missing the icing on the cake.