The city of Harran, where the events of the first part of Dying Light took place, has fallen, no one survived, according to official data, but the scientists of WHM (World Humanitarian Mission) still managed to invent a vaccine against the zombie virus and save humanity. At least, it seemed so at first glance, as the scientists secretly continued to experiment with the virus until a leak in 2021 gave rise to a new global pandemic.

Game Dying Light 2 Stay Human
Genre action/RPG, survival horror
Platforms Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Developer Techland
Editor Techland Publishing, Square Enix, Deep Silver
Link Official website, Steam, Epic Store

Fifteen years later, almost nothing remains of human civilization. They promptly hanged the scientists on lampposts, thus avenging the disaster and at the same time throwing away the chances of obtaining a new vaccine. The small settlements where the survivors took refuge are disappearing one by one, and of the cities only Villedor remains, just because it got lucky. Once it was surrounded by a wall and even bombed with chemical weapons, as the people tried to isolate the focus of infection, which in fact became a salvation for the townspeople. Now there are significantly fewer infected within the walls of the city than outside, and people have adapted to life on the rooftops. They have acquired ultraviolet lamps, as light stops the process of turning into zombies, and began to fight not only with the infected, but also among themselves.

Aiden, the protagonist of Dying Light 2, is a pilgrim; he is one of the few brave men who travel between settlements. His search for his long-disappeared sister leads him to Villedor, but, of course, simply asking if anyone has seen a girl fitting the description wouldn’t work, because of the Obstacles, the Mysteries of the Past and the Mysterious Villain. And since there cannot be too many clichés, let’s add here a powerful artifact in the form of an electronic key of WHM, which opens the secret doors and boxes with rare loot. The key, which, of course, exists in a single copy, falls into Aiden’s hands by accident. Everyone knows its value, but no one, except the Mysterious Villain, tries to get it.

You’d ask why pick on story clichés in a game where all the fun is in the ability to run on the rooftops, throwing all kinds of bad guys off the rooftops, and beating zombies with anything you can find? It’s very simple. The thing is that for the first ten hours the above-mentioned fun activities are available in a very limited form and quickly tire you out, but the player faces an insane amount of plot clichés and conventions traditional for the setting.

And no, I’m not exaggerating. Dying Light 2 Stay Human is trying so hard to stick to the zombie apocalypse canon that it becomes somewhat secondary not only to the first part, but to any game from the same setting. Here’s an enclave of ragged survivors: vegetable beds, goats in the yards, diesel generators, workshops, at least some attempts to preserve civilization, although not without the skeletons in the closet. There is even a Tinder in a form of a board, where profiles with hand-drawn portraits are placed. Here’s a military base that “protects” civilians from zombies by taking away resources as payment for protection. Here are the crazy savage outlaws, of course wearing the masks and giving impassioned speeches. Between the bases there are “dark zones,” with infected nests to visit at night when most zombies are out on the streets, windmills to activate to create safe zones, abandoned WHM posts with strong monsters to fight for a nice loot. Aiden rummages through trash and suitcases looking for useful junk, chooses which of the warring fractions to support, and completes standard tasks. Well, very standard tasks. Of course, there will be water problems, of course, someone will go on a suicide mission to the zombie-infested building and have to rescue him, the camp will definitely be attacked, you will have to visit the subway and shrink from the infected in the carriages. Treason? Sure. The lab? Well, you can’t do without it. Rescuing residents from a zombie/gangster/zombie bandit attack? Give me two… twenty.

Again, the secondary nature of the game activities wouldn’t cause so much negativity if it weren’t for the fact that playing old Villedor, which is almost half the game, is simply boring, because Aiden cannot do anything. The Pilgrim, who has spent his entire adult life traveling between settlements, delivering information and resources, can’t do more than two pull-ups or jump properly and is exhausted after waving a table leg more than five times. In addition, on the road to Villedor, Aiden becomes infected and now, like everyone else here, cannot get around in the dark without ultraviolet light for more than a few minutes. As a result, daytime and outdoor play turns into a monotonous beating of enemies and boring and rather uncomfortable parkour, meanwhile the hero constantly hits corners and reacts unpredictably to commands. Sometimes all Aiden needs is held button R1 to climb the wall on the roof, and other times he just hangs on the ledge, waiting for an extra press of the button, and falls down from exhaustion as a result. Free roam from Assassin’s Creed, forgive me all previous complaints, you are perfect. At night and indoors, you either have to wander in circles, periodically returning to the lamps, or constantly munch on fluorescent mushrooms, increasing your resistance to contagion. This is probably intended by the developers to add dynamics and increase tension levels. I don’t know what about the dynamics, but it’s annoying as hell.

It is unclear why Chris Avellone and the writers of Witcher III were invited to work on the game. It is probably only to create characters and write secondary quests, because many of them are really good, but the main storyline is not only predictable, but also full of “forks” leading to the same point, only sometimes showing the same events from a slightly different perspective, and from time to time publishing unique, but rather short missions. There is no reputation system; you can literally provoke the death of practically the entire leadership of the Peacekeepers in Old Villedor, then come to the center, accept the task of running the power plant from them, and immediately after powering it up, hand it over to another faction without anyone even resenting it.

But closer to the second half of the game Dying Light 2 suddenly changes. You should increase your stamina, resistance to infection, get useful gadgets and learn a few new tricks, as it gets interesting. Here Aiden gets to the roof of the neighboring house in one leap, jumps over the bandit and immediately makes the second one to meet the asphalt, a throwing knife knocks out an attack of the archer who has just drawn the bowstring, another one gets neutralized by a spear throw, a timely block makes the enemy who’s come up close lose balance, then you knock him down and crush his skull, while the rascal can’t move. Wow, he’s not even out of breath, so you can, without an interruption, roll the newly stretched slings into the neighboring house, the yard which has a crowd of ordinary zombies and a few big guys with hammers. Set the mines, use a bow, or throw Molotov cocktails and grenades at a bunch of creeps? And what to pick up – a machete that sets your enemies on fire, or a poisoned axe that also gives you electric shock? Hmm… And no, it’s not that after leveling Aiden that the fights become easier, they just become more diverse and fun.

After moving from the old city to the central part of the city, the game becomes even more vertical due to the large number of skyscrapers: you come down to the streets, full of zombies, only when the task requires it. The main means of transportation are the parachute at first, and then the grapple. Here is where the main question arises. Why could not it be so from the start? Great, dynamic, fun, with the space for imagination, different tactics, again. But why was it necessary to turn the start of the game into such an unbearable monotony? I do not understand.

If you want you can deal with the zombies in the cooperative. This refers to both secondary and main quests, with the progress being saved for both the host, and for those players who joined, and the loot is personal, so you do not have to share with partners. The very possibility is interesting, but it seems to me that it will be more relevant in the second passage of the game, because you might lose the atmosphere of the game.

Technically, all is not well with the game either. On current consoles (except Series S) there are three standard graphics modes – Resolution, Quality and Performance. And none of them, frankly, is satisfying, despite the fact that Dying Light 2 looks like a game of the last generation. In Resolution mode, the game runs at about 4K (3264×1836 for PlayStation 5 and 3456×1944 for Series X) and 30 FPS. The Quality includes ray tracing, but only for shadows. Unfortunately, it does not include the reflections. The soft smooth shadows of both static and dynamic objects look beautiful, as well as the woods and dark mazes of the abandoned buildings, and the meadows covered with grass, but you’ll have to pay for the improved image quality by reducing to 1080p resolution and the same 30 FPS, which is quite painful for the game which main feature is parkour. Switch to Performance and we get 60 FPS, but again in 1080p: fast, smooth, comfortable and not very beautiful on a 4K screen. In a nutshell, in terms of graphics, Dying Light 2 on consoles is a solid compromise. I would advise playing it on PC, provided you have a modern video card.

Dying Light 2 is basically a compromise. It’s fun to punch the enemies and run around on rooftops, if you are ready to suffer a boring beginning and sacrifice the quality of the picture, there are good side quests and really interesting characters, but the plot is too predictable. Definitely play it if you liked the first part. Stay Human has all the same things, only better. And if you’re expecting something new from the game in the zombie apocalypse setting, you should pass by, there’s nothing fundamentally new here.