Game review: Dying Light 2: Stay Human (PC)

Techland’s long-awaited sequel to their 2015 zombie-slaying parkour role-playing game, Dying Light 2: Stay Human, is now available.

Set 22 years after the first game, Dying Light 2: Stay Human invites players to take on the role of Aiden Caldwell, a Pilgrim, one of the only survivors of a deadly zombie plague crazed enough to travel between settlements.

The game begins as Aiden seeks to enter the walled city of Villedor, one of the last cities on Earth, in search of his sister.

Aiden and his sister, Mia, were experimented on as children at the start of the zombie outbreak. The results of this experiment may explain why Aiden was able to survive so long on his own.

The town of Villedor is incredibly detailed and full of characters to interact with. There’s a lot more foliage than in the first game, as nature has started to take over the city. Survivors have turned to farming and more sustainable lifestyles, rather than just scavenging.

The game is played entirely in first person, without ever breaking with this view. Jumping, falling, swinging and fighting remain from the perspective of the protagonist. This gives players an immersive, sometimes exhilarating and quite brutal perspective.

Visually, it’s an amazing game. Environmental effects during thunderstorms give the game a photo-real feel (which it doesn’t quite get when the sun is up). The characters are expertly modeled with very realistic facial animation. The cream, however, is the camera animation of Aiden’s POV which brings an unprecedented level of realism to the game.

Dying Light 2 on PC features ray-traced lighting and shadows, enough to challenge your GPU. Maxed out at 4K HDR running the game with an RTX 3090, I was looking at 30fps. By enabling Nvidia’s Deep Learning Supersampling (DLSS), the game jumps to a more acceptable 60fps. Dropping the resolution to 2560 x 1440 and the frame rate begins to break through the 100fps barrier.
The developer, Techland, has made no secret of the specs required to play this game, but the above puts things into perspective. It also highlights the huge advantage that Nvidia’s DLSS brings to the table, even with high-end GPUs. DLSS 2.0 enables crisp graphics even on the performance setting. While the quality setting still gives the game a decent performance boost. The balanced setting gives the best of both worlds.

The PC version of the game has plenty of graphics options to fine-tune performance. While ray tracing is most definitely in the nice-to-have category, a bit of time to tweak settings can boost performance without hurting visuals for lesser quality machines.

Along with the incredible visual fidelity comes equally great gameplay that presents itself at a thoughtful, if not sometimes sluggish, pace. At the start of the game, Aiden’s abilities are quite poor, making traversing the city and battling opponents difficult and a bit of a chore. He can’t jump far, can’t climb without quickly losing stamina. or hit opponents with fancy moves.

It wasn’t until after I ditched the main mission thread and just messed around in town that I started unlocking Aiden’s abilities, which keeps things interesting. While you can run it through the main missions, it’s all about completing side missions and random encounters that will give you abilities that will make things much easier. By spending quite a bit of time completing side missions and exploring, I’ve managed to build Aiden’s abilities to such an extent that he’s become a formidable expert in combat and parkour.

Techland has further perfected parkour since the first game, making it smooth and great fun. Running on rooftops mostly avoids zombies on the streets below during the day.
At night, zombies tend to be everywhere, including the fliers – impossible to kill zombies that will chase you until you can get to safety. I found the night was not as dangerous as in the first game, with some safer places to explore during the dark.

As the game opens up, the city center is full of high-rise buildings to explore and pass through. Traction systems allow players to climb to the top of buildings, and the parachute received later in the game allows for fun while sliding through the city. Strategically positioned fires can be used as an updraft, propelling players high into the sky. Unlocking the grappling hook gives Aiden some serious Spider-Man vibes, allowing him to swing off buildings (and fall from great heights). Impressive climbs and jumps to the top of skyscrapers are not for the faint-hearted.

The game has two skill trees for Aiden’s abilities, combat and parkour. Feats involving these disciplines award experience points for either or both, rewarding leveling points. In addition to these two skill trees, finding special crates, left behind by the underground GRE organization from the first game, contain GRE Inhibitors. The benefits of GRE Inhibitors can be attributed to health or stamina, to reduce damage taken when falling or fighting, or to increase Aiden’s ability to climb and fight without falling. tired.

Over time, these upgrades will allow Aiden to run, jump, climb and fight like a superhero. This is when the game really takes off and begins to shine, rewarding players for their patience as they learned the ropes. Jumping through rooftops and pirouetting around opponents is an absolute delight.

In addition to attribute upgrades, there is an arsenal of weapons, accessories, and clothing that can be purchased or scavenged. Weapons can be modified using materials collected from the field to create brutal gear, while clothing provides armor and attribute perks.

The city is populated by competing factions. At times, the game requires players to make faction choices that affect the missions offered. Players can side with the Peacekeepers (PK) or the Survivors. The renegades are at war with the other two factions and attack on sight. The streets, of course, are also littered with zombies.

There are strategic locations thought out in the city, one per neighborhood. Liberating these locations allows the player to choose which faction takes control of the district. PKs arm cars with rides in districts they control, while Survivors tend to place infrastructure that facilitates parkour, such as zip lines and bounce mats. There are also windmills scattered across the city which, when activated, unlock new settlements and trading centers.
The game seems much more structured than its predecessor. Although it’s a massive game with lots of side missions and things to do, I never got that overwhelming feeling that you sometimes get when facing vast open-world environments.

As with the first game, the game can be played online with up to four other players. Along with a server browser for finding multiplayer games, there’s also a pretty cool casual multiplayer mode.
Dying Light 2: Stay Human is a great game. It’s a game that plays its cards close to its chest at first and makes you work for your enjoyment, but once you’ve unlocked a few perks it really comes into its own. The setting is fantastic and fun to explore, the plot is engaging, and the side missions are engaging.

Crossing the city, especially with the parachute and grappling hook, is exhilarating. I found it to be an extremely difficult game to put down. If you are a fan of the first game or like zombie games in general or even parkour games like Mirror’s Edge, you are going to have a lot of fun with Dying Light 2: Stay Human.

Dying Light 2: Stay Human is available now on Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5. A PC copy of the game has been provided by the publisher for review.

Verdict: 9/10