Dying Light 2 Preview – Seven Big Takeaways After Playing For Four Hours

Dying Light 2 has been one of my most anticipated games of the year for, well, three years now. It all started in 2019 when I saw a beyond-impressive gameplay demo at E3. The game, then scheduled for a 2020 release, blew away my already-high expectations. I enjoyed the original Dying Light, but felt that with a little bit of iteration and polish, the series could evolve into something truly special. Those hopes were delivered upon during that E3 2019 demo, and Dying Light 2 skyrocketed up my list of the most anticipated games of 2020.

Sadly, in the early stages of last year, Techland announced a delay to 2021. Then, after announcing a December 2021 release date, the developer delayed the game one (hopefully) final time, with the title now scheduled to release on February 4, 2022. It’s been a long time coming, but more than two years after that initial gameplay demo impressed me, I finally got my hands on Dying Light 2 Stay Human. 

The demo I played at a small in-person event in San Francisco gave me nearly four hours of story and side content to experience on a modern, high-end gaming PC, as well as some extra time on an earlier build running on a PlayStation 4 Pro. While you can check out my general impressions and some of my captured footage from the PC version on today’s episode of New Gameplay Today, I’ve distilled some of my key takeaways below.

Dying Light 2's Story and Characters Are More Memorable

In 2015’s Dying Light, you explored the city of Harran as Kyle Crane. Throughout the narrative, you encounter several important characters and help them accomplish their goals, but even after multiple playthroughs, many of those characters and plot points escape me. That’s because, while Dying Light was an exciting and fun adventure, the characters felt more like props in the world rather than living, breathing people.

Based on my time in Dying Light 2, the story and characters therein are yet another area of improvement. My favorite character I encountered was Sophie, the daughter of the former leader of the Survivors. She’s hard-nosed and battle-worn, but her plight is relatable, and she has a soft spot for those she cares about, even if they’re dangerously flawed. Her storyline focuses on her coming to terms with her responsibilities and her past in order to ascend to a leadership role within her people.

With relatable characters, all of whom are convinced their way is the way to do things, navigating the decisions and aligning with the characters of Dying Light 2 can feel all the more gut-wrenching. However, the most striking part of the narrative is how much more personal protagonist Aiden Caldwell’s story is in Dying Light 2. 

“The central question of the whole game is about who Aiden really is,” narrative director Piotr Szymanek says. “That’s the question that he asked himself: Why is he so skilled? Why is he stronger than other people? Why can he do what no one else can? He thinks that the answer to this question is his sister, whom he remembers from the past. During the past years, he was looking for her and suddenly he finds the trace of her in this village in The City where Dying Light 2 Stay Human takes place.”

Of course, it can’t be that easy, so Aiden must work with factions within The City to gain additional access and eventually reach the Central Loop district so he can learn more.

As with the first game, special zombie variants lurk in the shadows, and when the sun goes down, they spill into the streets. Players can expect many of the special variants from the first game to return to the hunt in Dying Light 2, but Techland has also added new special types. Smektała’s favorite addition to the bestiary is the Banshee, which is a very quick character that jumps from one rooftop to another, making her difficult to track, then when she jumps to the ground, she’ll run at you with her claws dragging behind her with sparks flying.

However, even beyond the special zombie types, you need to be even more careful when going into the darkness, as Aiden can succumb to an illness if he’s out of the light for too long. He can eat a special kind of mushroom to prolong waning immunity or upgrade the length of his immunity through character progression, but even if there are no zombies around, you don’t want to waste time.

“We wanted this to be a metaphor for diving into the sea to get treasures from the bottom,” Smektała says. “We kind of treated the dark places like this: You have a specific amount of immunity, which is kind of like your oxygen, and you dive into the dark place and try to get as much out of it as possible until your oxygen – your immunity – depletes.”

If this sounds stressful, that’s because that’s how it’s designed. Thankfully, you can approach many of the missions whenever you want to, but some missions require you to brave the darkness, so don’t breathe too big of a relieved sigh just yet.

It Runs Well On PS4 Pro

In 2020, it’s hard to argue against the notion that Cyberpunk 2077 was the most anticipated release of the year. Unfortunately, the launch of CD Projekt Red’s massively hyped game was marred by glitches and poor performance, particularly on last-gen consoles. While Techland isn’t making any kind of comparison or contrast to its Polish compatriots at CD Projekt, it seems as though the Dying Light 2 Stay Human team wants to reassure players that even though the game is coming to current-gen consoles, it still runs well on last-gen systems.

As I mentioned earlier, the bulk of my time with Dying Light 2 was spent on a modern, high-end PC. However, following the conclusion of my main gameplay session, I was able to experience Dying Light 2’s PlayStation 4 version, running on a PlayStation 4 Pro console. The PS4 build I played did not have missions or characters to interact with; instead, I was given a big area of Old Villedor to explore, parkour, and fight my way through. 

The biggest difference between the PS4 version I played and the PC version is the frame rate. The PC version reached 60 frames-per-second performance, while the PS4 Pro was delivering 30 FPS. The textures also looked slightly muddier compared to the PC, and I noticed a tiny bit more pop-in within the environment. Unfortunately, I was unable to experience the game on a base PS4 or Xbox One, so I can’t speak to how well the game runs on the standard versions of the last-gen consoles. Still, despite being an older build than what I played on PC, the smaller slice of gameplay I experienced on PS4 Pro made me feel more confident in how Dying Light 2 will perform on older systems. 

For more on Dying Light 2 Stay Human, check out our episode of New Gameplay Today, as well as our coverage hub for the game. Dying Light 2 Stay Human launches on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch (via the cloud), and PC on February 4.

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