Dying Light 2 Stay Human Review

Richard Walker

Forget Harran. Wave goodbye to Kyle Crane. Dying Light 2 Stay Human (to give it its full title) is set 15 years after 'the Fall' and 20 years after the events of the first game, in a new city known as Villedor. A decrepit place slowly being reclaimed by nature, every inch of Old Villedor and its neighbouring territories in the urban jungle of the 'Central Loop' is caked in post-apocalyptic grime and overgrowth – stopping to look out from the rooftops reveals a swirling vortex of litter and other debris; leftover mess from the near-demise of mankind. It's the end of the world, then, but that doesn't mean you can't still have fun, liberating the limbs and heads of the Infected (and roving human gangs) from their bodies with the help of a slashing or bludgeoning tool. Also, there's more parkour. Loads more parkour.


Heads up!

As new protagonist and outsider Aiden Caldwell (who sounds an awful lot like the previous one), you're faced with a simple objective – to locate your sister Mia and uncover the truth behind the human experiments that you were both subjected to. During your search for elusive, monologuing villain Waltz, you'll be faced with the myriad problems of rival factions, as well as hordes of Infected. Along the way, several significant choices also arise, and who you align with will ultimately determine your standing in Dying Light 2's world, and, in some cases, the direction of the narrative. Choices seem to carry an awful lot of weight, especially towards the end of the game.

From humble beginnings as a Pilgrim in ragged clothing, you'll soon fall in with the slightly dubious Hakon as your guide, choosing to work for either PK commander Aitor or Survivor faction leaders Carl, Sophie, and her abrasive ne'er-do-well brother, Barney. You can attempt to walk the line between both, but eventually, you'll need to make your choice, reactivating Water Towers and Electrical Substations, then subsequently assigning them to one of the two factions, in exchange for a useful tool or gadget installed in strategic places across the city.

Initially, Aiden's only concern is getting to the city centre and locating the 'Fish Eye' bar in the Central Loop, but before long, you'll be stuck in the middle of a feud between the 'Peacekeepers' (AKA the 'PKs'), the city's self-appointed “righteous protectors”; and the ragtag Survivors, pockets of self-sufficient folk, simply trying to make ends meet. At the centre, universally hated by all, are the Renegades, masked miscreants intent on causing anarchy, led by a man who's earned himself the moniker of 'The Butcher'. Fortunately, Aiden (like Kyle Crane before him) is a bit handy, able to swing a baseball bat, machete, or other cobbled-together weapon with the best of 'em, dismembering enemies like a human threshing machine. And, since guns have now been outlawed and destroyed, it's all you've got, save for the odd crossbow or bow and arrow.


Combat is but half of the game, of course – much of your time will be spent leaping between rooftops or clambering up the side of vertiginous skyscrapers, or scampering through buildings scrounging for valuables and resources. Across the city of Villedor, you'll find more than ample opportunity to explore, with Dark Hollows, Forsaken Stores, GRE Quarantine facilities, GRE Anomalies, Metro Stations, and other zombie-infested areas home to crates, cupboards, and drawers brimming with crafting items, weapons, and other useful gear. There's an awful lot of scavenging to be done.

Inhibitor needles are to be found all over the city, offering an upgrade to health or stamina for every three you find tucked away in certain places. With Aiden constantly fighting his infection, initiating a timer when night falls and you're away from the safety of a UV light, Inhibitors are also essential for enhancing your level of immunity, increasing the amount of time you can spend in Dark Zones or running your way through the night. And some activities can only be tackled at night, so nabbing Inhibitors – there are 126 of 'em – proves to be a going concern. As you engage in combat and parkour, you'll gain XP (doubled during the dangerous nighttime), which in turn enables you to unlock new skills, expanding your options considerably.

Dying Light's parkour mechanics have been drastically improved for the sequel, although it's not without its minor niggles, whether it's getting snagged on scenery now and again, or a long, arduous climb being ruined by an inexplicable lapse in grip. These instances are remarkably rare, however, and, overall, the climbing and parkour systems are far more fluid and competent than they were in the original game. Once you've unlocked the paraglider and the rope hook, Villedor is your oyster, with fast travel available between faction HQs and Metro Stations, and the paraglider enabling you to float long distances (for as long as your stamina gauge will allow), high above the chaos on the streets below.


I don't think this guy is going to make it.

Dying Light 2's combat and parkour combine to make for an enormously enjoyable experience, albeit one that could have easily run the risk of feeling far too repetitive. But, coupled with the branching narrative – a feature, which is more than mere lip service – and an immersive, varied world to explore, developer Techland's long-awaited sequel manages to hit the right notes. While there are some parts of the story that don't quite gel, you can't fault the Polish studio for being overly ambitious – ultimately, it succeeds in delivering a solid follow-up that's tighter and more technically accomplished than its predecessor.

You may not want to spend the 500 hours that Techland suggested is possible playing Dying Light 2, completing every little thing, but there's easily a good 60 hours or so of story and side activities to partake in. Some fall under the category of busywork, like climbing and activating windmills, scaling massive skyscrapers to find airdrops, or engaging in far too many tiresome parkour challenges, but, generally, the quality of side quests is such that you'll want to pursue and complete as many of them as you can, prior to, and after the epilogue has concluded the core narrative. How that transpires will be wildly different, based on the choices you've made, and if you're fond of a good water-cooler moment, then Dying Light 2 Stay Human will have you covered. It's pretty infectious.

Disclaimer: Co-op play was unavailable at the time of writing, but we'll update this review once we've tested it.

Dying Light 2 Stay Human

A more than competent sequel, Dying Light 2 Stay Human conjures some memorable narrative beats in an open world that's never anything but a joy to traverse. Granted, it has one or two niggling issues, but they pale into insignificance when you're knocking off a zombie's head with a massive axe.

Form widget
86%
Audio
80%

Streets of Rage 4 and A Plague Tale composer Olivier Deriviere's score brings the ominous synth in a big way, and lithely adapts to the action as it happens. Voice work is strong, too, with Jonah Scott giving a spirited performance as Aiden and Rosario Dawson providing rock solid support as strong-willed Nightrunner, Lawan.

Visuals
75%

Whichever graphics mode you opt for, Dying Light 2 looks good, although during my playthrough, I ran into minor screen tearing, some pop-in, and a wee bit of slowdown during some of the busier moments. Perch atop a towering building and take in the scenery, meanwhile, and you'll be treated to a fine view stretching to the horizon.

Playability
85%

It takes a while to unlock the requisite parkour upgrades to really start having a good time, but, when you do, Villedor is a playground you'll want to spend hours exploring. Controls are straightforward and intuitive, ensuring combat and traversal is consistently enjoyable – as an evolution of the first game and its mechanics, DL2 delivers.

Delivery
85%

Techland's most assured and technically accomplished game, Dying Light 2's colossal open-world sandbox is teeming with enjoyable activities (except for the irritating checkpoint-based Nightrunner Challenges), but is not without the odd nit to pick. One instance of disappearing audio, occasional pop-in, and a lack of manual save states are the only real quibbles.

Achievements
60%

Not as creative as the first game's selection of objectives, Dying Light 2's list is mostly centred upon completion, whether it's ascending and assigning every Water Tower, Electrical Substation, Windmill, and whatnot, beating every Nightrunner Challenge (sigh), gathering every collectible, and so on. Pretty yawnsome stuff.

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