Driving in the wrong direction
HIGH "What the? This is my power bill!"
LOW Superbosses get their life back if I die, but I don't get my resources back.
WTF I'm collecting all this gasoline and I can't make more molotovs?
It's been a long, long time since the act of traveling distances in a game was entertaining to me. Such freedom was stunning when developers jumped the technological gap and started crafting vast, sprawling areas for exploration. After years of discrete spaces, long corridors and 2D platforms, it was a revelation. That novelty is absolutely gone now, and it's the rare project these days that's enriched by enormous stretches of land to cover.
2015's Dying Light first seemed like another game pushing the same tired big-world idea (plus zombies!) but it stood out by changing how the player interacted with its space. Instead of using vehicles to get from one place to another, it asked people to parkour through its alleys, over its roofs, and under its overpasses.
By adding this new means of travel, getting from Point A to Point B took on new life. Moving became a metagame of picking the best path through a ruined city and executing on the running, jumping and grabbing needed to achieve it. This enhanced locomotion gave relevance and excitement to the square footage players were inhabiting, and it was not only amazing gameplay, but an amazing use of the environment.
Dying Light's new DLC, The Following, completely botches this.
Things start promisingly with main character Kyle Crane hearing about a small town where survivors are able to resist the zombie virus, even after being bitten. He follows a map that leads him into this all-new countryside area, and the adventure begins.
In terms of narrative, it's about on-par with the core campaign missions, although one of the things I liked best about Dying Light was that sidequests had unexpectedly humorous elements, and those seem mostly absent here. Basically, players can expect to do errands for the locals, with the ultimate goal of gaining their trust and learning the secret of the zombie cure. It's no great shakes, but it gets the job done.
While the story may be fine, actually playing is not. The Following's hook is that it adds vehicles to the Dying Light formula—a formula which was amazing in large part because it had no vehicles.
Crane gets a dune buggy almost immediately and he's free to drive around the territory, which is apparently twice as big as the main game's map. Unfortunately, the countryside has no fast travel, most of its objectives are separated by huge distances, there's a mountain range in the middle of the map that prevents easy crossing, and the roads are littered with obstacles that make the first-person driving difficult.
It's also quite tough to tell which direction to drive because the mini-map is worthless, and stopping to check the larger map in the menu is an invitation for zombie attack. Also, a buggy can only be spawned at certain locations, so it's common to be separated from Kyle's ride and become stranded a hell of a long way from a vehicle spawn point. Get used to jogging.
As for the car itself, it's a letdown. The buggy is essentially a normal car, but based on the way weapons were so modifiable in the main campaign, I expected the rides to become tricked-out death machines. Sadly, this is just not the case. In reality, there are a number of ‘upgrades' which have negligible effects and the car is in constant need of repair and fuel. I've driven real off-road vehicles, and I can attest that they don't need servicing every four minutes.
Apart from the auto issues, it's worth noting that The Following is quite difficult. As someone who finished every quest in the main game, I felt ill-equipped for success in the countryside and died often. The weapon drops are low-quality, the zombies hit harder, there's too many of them, and being fatally swarmed is common. Driving in the car doesn't offer safety since zombies are able to leap onto the car to deal damage, and exploding zombies constantly spawn in the car's path. And playing at night? It's even harsher than before. With most of the terrain being flat, there's little way to avoid the nocturnal predator zombies, and I quickly learned to avoid being out after sunset, period.
Technically, The Following needs polish. Although the environments are beautiful and the draw distances are still amazing, I found myself constantly getting hung up and caught on things, especially when using the grappling hook—I frequently fell between objects and got trapped in the geometry, and successfully grappling onto something is still infuriatingly hit-or-miss. Good luck getting the insulator off of the electrical tower without smashing a controller.
This review is already a litany of problems, but I can't wrap without sharing disdain for some of the mission design. In addition to the standard fetchquests, The Following adds giant super-zombies which are penned in hyper-gamey arenas, and they're hard as hell to kill. There's no real strategy to them, just tough it out and hope to survive. When they'd best me, I'd come back to see they regained all their health, but my weapons were still degraded from use and my ammo and health packs were still spent. Don't even get me started on the ‘clear out the hive' missions, and constantly driving across the landscape just to turn in a quest is a waste of time. This is not good content; it feels like something made intentionally painful to placate the hardcore contingent who constantly clamor for tougher and tougher challenges.
I desperately wanted more Dying Light after choosing it as one of the year's best in 2015, but now that I've gotten it, I'm bitterly disappointed that the new content fails to build on its strengths. By shifting focus away from what it does best, The Following is a mediocre, frustrating, open-world experience that's nowhere as good as what inspired it.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 8 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the content was not completed. All 8 hours of play were spent in multiplayer cooperative mode.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: All dialogue has subtitles, but environmental sound definitely plays a role. There's often a lot happening on-screen, so hearing zombies is a cue that D/HH players miss out on when things are hectic. Also, there's one quest which requires the player to listen for beeping. There's no visual cue for this, so it's almost impossible to complete without being able to hear the sound.
Remappable Controls: This game's controls are not completely remappable, although there are two presets and it's possible to invert the Y-axis, change the stick sensitivity and the deadzone, and enable auto-aim. Heads up, the controls overall are a bit more complicated than the usual—the shoulder buttons are used for attacking and jumping, and the D-Pad is used for switching items during play.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Currently, he's got about 42 minutes a night to play because adulting is a timesuck, but despite that, he's a happily married guy with two kids who both have better K/D ratios than he does.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody at the office is looking, and his favorite game of all time is the first Mass Effect -- and he thought the trilogy's ending was Just Fine, Thanks.
Follow Brad on Twitter at @BradGallaway or contact him at bradgallaway a t gmail dot com