Can you stay human?
Something that struck me early on in the game was that humanity is gone. As I mentioned in my early impressions piece/video, there was something a little tender about Dying Light 2 as it opened with our hero, Aiden, stumbling upon a house full of dead partygoers who poisoned themselves to death in an “End of the World” party.
And then there was Aiden’s motivation: his little sister, missing for years after he and her were experimented on at a GRE hospital. And then Dylan, the selfless informant who willingly sacrificed himself so Aiden could escape the clutches of the big bad guy, Waltz.
Release Date: February 4th, 2022
Availability: Microsoft Store, PSN, Steam, Retail (Amazon US/Amazon UK)
These human touches in the first couple of hours had me hooked, and I quickly dismissed my fear of playing zombie games at night on my own. I ploughed through and… a couple dozen hours later, I’m a touch disappointed. Not with the gameplay, but the bait and switch with the game’s narrative. It’s not that the story being told is poor – it’s just that it suffers as all open-world RPGs do: there’s just so much to do.
It became easy for me to forget that Aiden had crossed thousands of miles of wastelands in his search for his sister when I was hopping from rooftops doing odd jobs for characters I can’t remember. Every now and then, it felt like the story pulled me by the scruff of my neck and pushed me back onto Aiden’s path. Helpful, but jarring.
Choice is a big part of Dying Light 2, and your choices direct the story. Or at least that’s what I think is supposed to happen. Being the massive time-sink of a game that it is, I haven’t gotten around to going back through it a second time and making different choices to see how they play out. But I can imagine how certain scenarios would change, and ultimately, I’m happy with the decisions I made. Mostly. Some dickheads deserved to die but I let them live. Some promises were broken when I probably should have kept them. I actually ended up feeling quite bad at times, but on the other hand, I often got a small sense of pride – a little “go me, I’m still a good human!”
And that’s what the choices are there for; are you retaining your humanity? Aiden has his own struggles with staying human – in fact, everybody does. Everybody is infected, but it’s managed and so long as you’re dosed up on meds or within the reach of a UV lamp, you won’t turn into a grisly monster. But your actions may make you a monster in the eyes of others. The “Stay Human” tagline is two-fold, in that sense.
If you played the original Dying Light, you should know what to expect. Lots of running, jumping, parkouring, and zombie-killing. Oh, and human killing. In fact, I probably spent a lot more time kicking bandits and Renegades off of buildings than I did decapitating the crackhead-looking rotters wandering the city streets.
Weapon mods are back, though for me at least, I kind of forgot about them for the most part. It was never forced upon me and I never felt underpowered by not having my bit of wood tarted up with electricity and flames, but it’s nice to have and if you delve deep into the game’s RPG systems and work with what the developers have provided, you can really get your damage numbers up.
For me, the leaping double kick was all I really needed. I’ve never felt so stupidly overpowered in a game. An upgrade to Aiden’s abilities (Parkour and Combat) gives him the power to jump and double kick an enemy. The first time I did this, I laughed like an idiot and then ran around the streets, jump kicking all the monsters I could see. Seeing them go flying a ridiculous distance never got old, and it saved me in a few pinches, especially with rooftop encounters. Is it considered cheap to boot the baddies off the roof instead of taking the time to master the slow, brutal dodge-block-attack melee that game offers? Maybe, but I had fun, and that’s what matters most. Plus, I played on easy difficulty, so you’ll mock me anyway. It’s OK. I can take it.
Dying Light 2’s world is fairly large without being too much. If that seems like a vague statement, go and play Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. You’ll see what I mean.
There’s plenty to do and if you want to level up and keep on top of the increasingly difficult villains and zombies, you’ll do well to partake in a few of the Parkour challenges to get some experience point boosts. And don’t let the side missions slide you by, either. I know I said they pull you away from the main story, but in fairness, many of them are decent little side stories in their own right, and they pay well, allowing you to give Aiden a decent leg up with his skill set.
On the technical side, I played on Xbox Series X, so I had some choices with how I wanted the game to play. There are three performance profiles, one of which offers 60FPS at 1080p, so naturally, I stuck to that because I’ve been spoiled and I’m now a bit of a frame rate snob. But if you favour high resolutions for the crispiest image around, there’s an option for that. But if you prefer your game to look glossy with all the trimmings, there’s another option for that, too.
I can’t say that Dying Light 2 looked bad – I did give the other modes a quick play and they looked really good – but in the 60FPS mode, it didn’t stand out as a “wow, this is next-gen,” which I suppose is fair – it was also built to run on PS4 and Xbox One, consoles that are getting on in their years. It looked good enough, is what I’m saying, but if you favour high refresh rates, know that you’ll be sacrificing some of the prettier features to get there. It’s a worthy sacrifice, I reckon.
Outside of a few difficulty spikes and some inconsistencies with the game’s rules – for instance, some dark areas don’t trigger Aiden’s immunity countdown, others do – I’m really into Dying Light 2. There’s far more to do once the story hits its crescendo, and by the time you get there you’ll have seen the best and the worst of humanity, and depending on your choices, you’ll sit on one side or the other.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: Xbox Series X|S
Summary - FantasticSummary - Fantastic
- The story has some really, really good moments that touch on the tagline of "Stay Human" and make you think about the "what if..." scenarios that a zombie outbreak would bring about
- Combat and parkour are really well done and fun to utilise in exploration and encounters
- Flying jump kick is OP AF and I live and breathe for my morning sessions of kicking bad guys off of rooftops
- Easy to get lost within the story and its many sub-plots, side-missions, and open-world filler
- A little inconsistent at times with its world rules