It would be a cold day in Hell before there was an E3 without a zombie game of some description present. And this year is certainly no exception. However, when I got behind closed doors access to the up-coming title from Techland and Warner Bros. Interactive - I was pleasantly surprised by it's novel undead approach.
On the surface, Dying Light fits the whole post-apocalyptic, zombies-are-everywhere template. But after seeing it in action, the game isn't your typical shooter - instead there is a large emphasis on speed and agility to stay alive. Rather than the standard 'stand and shoot' zombie titles, here players will use parkour (or free-running) to quickly leap over walls, climb up power-lines, jump rooftops and traverse ground extremely quickly.
These athletic abilities are vital when being hunted by dozens of the walking dead. The option of 'flight or fight' will constantly weigh on your mind, but for when you are cornered - Dying Light offers plenty of combat as well.
Most of what we saw on screen today at E3 involved melee attacks, such as using steel pipes to take down zombies. But even simple close-quarter strikes are rewarding in Dying Light, with ragdoll physics sending your foes crumpling to the ground. The game goes further still with x-ray visuals to show where the damage is taking place for particularly brutal take-downs. It's a gory extra, but the crowd watching at E3 loved every breaking bone and smashed skull. We'll leave this up to you to comment on what this says about the E3 demographic.
Like other survival-horror games, there is an element of strategy through-out as well. Players can use distractions, such as throwing objects to attract zombies to allow you to quickly sneak past them. Or scavenge for items to craft your own weapons, as was demonstrated on screen with an electrified machete which severed limbs with devastating effect.
The game also incorporates a 24-hour day/night cycle where players will need to adapt their playing style when darkness falls. While leaping between buildings and sprinting down alleyways was possible in the daylight, a much more stealthy and conserved approach is required at nighttime due to the nocturnal zombies who are far more deadly.
Visually, Dying Light looks impressive and it I later learnt that it was being played on a relatively high-end PC that replicates what the new PS4 and Xbox One consoles are capable of. There is no release date yet, but our guess would be around the launch of the new consoles (with possibly a PC release shortly after).
Yes, it is another zombie game, but while it didn't excite me in terms of concept or originality. The execution of Dying Light appears to be top-class and there could be enough here to make it stand apart from your typical zombie-shooter. We'll find out more later down the track (including whether this title will include multiplayer).