Back in the ’50s and ’60s, ice cream chain Baskin-Robbins prided itself on having 31 flavors to choose from. A different taste to savor every day of the month if you had the wallet and waistline to accommodate.
Well, in the scores of years since then, there have likely been at least that many different kinds of zombie “flavors” served up to entertainment customers through games, TV shows, books and movies. There’s the shambling zombie, the running zombie, the screamer, the spewer, the melter … and the not-so-smooth-and-creamy list goes on.
So did you ever order up a whole bunch of flavors of ice cream and mix them all together? Do you remember the jumbled super-sweet ugliness that was the result? Well, that’s what we get in Dying Light, as just about every single example of the sordid undead rears its ugly head before getting mashed together in a slowly decaying syrupy mess.
Polish gamemaker Techland—creator of the Dead Island games—brings all its ferocious flesh-munching experience to the fore, trapping gamers in a dark, moldering, walled-in city that’s packed with crowds of virus-infected zombies. These are bedraggled beasties that wander aimlessly by day, then get their monstrous munch on when the sun goes down. The few human survivors have little to keep the hordes at bay, except maybe a stray pipe or chair leg, and their built-in ability to leap and run.
Taking a Bite Out of Crime
For all of that gobble and gook, though, Dying Light isn’t really what you’d call a typical zombie game. Story-wise, it’s more of an undercover espionage game … with a lot of throat-ripping and arm-gnawing on the side. The title starts out with our guy—an undercover operative named Crane—parachuting into the quarantined city of Harran. His objective is to find an entrenched kingpin thug who’s somehow stolen some top-secret documents that focus on the origins of the zombie virus as well as the early-stage vaccine trials. Find him and retrieve those valuable files, and the authorities will wing Crane back out of the hot zone with a fat check in his back pocket.
But he’ll have to earn every single penny. When touching down, Crane is instantly attacked from all sides by a roving group of human thugs and a throng of the undead, leaving him wounded, infected and in need of the mercy of a second group of human survivors: good guys who want to find a pathway to a cure. So to keep this second group happy and get regular shots of a medicine that will allow him to stay upright, Crane must run through scores of quests for them while still seeking out his original objective.
Stay High …
Those 100-plus quests are where the game developers throw in their next complication. Crane can’t use the streets since they belong to the sound-sensitive rambling infected. That means you have to constantly stay in a dead-heat run when you move from one place to another. By necessity you must apply some crazy parkour-inspired skills, climbing and leaping from rooftop to balcony and ladder to pole in an effort to stay up high and away from gnashing teeth and grasping hands.
Of course, battles with shambling corpses are still inevitable. And that’s when things get really nasty. The slavering, chewing—and sometimes even exploding—creatures require quite a few chops, hacks and thumps from whatever flimsy weapon you can scavenge. And even though you can seemingly scale buildings and double flip all day without breaking a sweat, you get pretty winded after only a few swings of a club, so it’s big trouble if more than one zombie is in any given area at a time.
… Or Die
Messy stuff? Oh, yeah. This M-rater really layers on the grit and gore. When you’re not running for your life in a survival horror panic, you use guns and makeshift machetes and clubs to splash around gallons of realistic-looking blood. Enemies are ripped, impaled decapitated and dismembered. And rooms full of the rotting, fly-swarmed slaughtered are common.
Bodies are nailed to walls and ripped in half. Limbs are lopped and then cauterized with a torch. Huge mutant creatures vomit and spew. Some (male and female) zombies wander around with upper torsos splayed open, revealing everything internal from lungs to spleen. Zombie children cry and lie in wait for hapless human passersby. And the steady stream of screams are punctuated with f- and s-words, among other such hideous sounds.
Aren’t you thinking right about now that an evening-time ice cream run sounds way better than a night spent in the Dying Light?
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.