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Dying Light brings parkour to land of zombies

by Andrew Yoon, shacknews.com, May 23, 2013 6:00AM PDT

Zombies are still in vogue, but it's surprising to see Dead Island developer Techland move onto an entirely different first-person zombie game. While Dead Island could be described as an undead take on The Elder Scrolls, their new game, Dying Light, could be quickly summed as Mirror's Edge with walkers.

Like in DICE's first-person running game, you'll very quickly run through the environment, leaping and vaulting over obstacles, and jumping onto poles, quite easily. However, you'll have a greater repertoire of moves than Faith ever did. While we didn't see any gunplay, we did see quite an impressive array of martial arts moves, with your character able to kick, jump kick, dodge to the side, and even perform a sweeping circular kick--all while remaining in first-person.

Dying Light may be far more acrobatic than Deep Silver's game, but it's clear that some Dead Island DNA remains in Techland's latest zombie adventure. You'll be able to collect thousands of weapon parts to craft new tools in your fight against the undead horde. In the hands-off demo that we saw, a blueprint for an electric machete proved to be quite effective, the weapon stunning any zombies bludgeoned by it.

Zombie games tend to be gross in nature, but Dying Light seems especially gruesome thanks to its "barely zombie" enemies. Some zombies are more than human than others based on when they turned, and bashing them with a stick until their skulls crack open is not a particularly comforting sight. There are also other survivors to deal with. Typically armed and also scavenging for supplies, they add another wrinkle to the gameplay. In the demo we saw, the player avoided confrontation by raising his hands and running away.

Dying Light is aiming for a 2014 release on current and next-gen consoles and PC, and the demo we saw looked quite sharp. The open world looks quite nice--even if the semi-tropical look is reminiscent of something ripped out of Far Cry. It certainly looks far more polished than Dead Island ever did.

The parkour and melee gameplay is enough to make Dying Light stand out in a genre that's quickly becoming stale. But, apparently running and kicking aren't the only things you can do in the game. At night, the gameplay shifts to more stealth, with zombies becoming significantly stronger in the moonlight. In addition, something else comes out to hunt the zombies--and you, of course.

The demo that we saw was so highly scripted that it's hard to know exactly how much of Techland's vision will translate into real gameplay. Still, we've been dying for another Mirror's Edge game, and with or without zombies, this might be the closest thing we'll get.