Dying Light: The Following: The Kotaku Review

Dying Light: The Following: The Kotaku Review

I am pleased to report that in Dying Light: The Following, you can still dropkick a zombie off a cliff and into the sea. You also get to drive a car. I liked last year's Dying Light, so I was predisposed to like The Following. And I do like The Following; I like it even more than I was expecting to. It's just what an expansion should be: more of the game I already liked, with a number of refinements and small, interesting tweaks. In one respect it's altogether different: You have an automobile now, and an enormous new explorable area that requires the use of it.

The original Dying Light, released a year ago, was a video game for people who like video game-arse video games. Everything in it was familiar, but the game was no less fun for that. The developers at the Polish studio Techland mixed the first-person melee combat of Shadow Warrior, the sidequest-spattered open map of Far Cry and Assassin's Creed, the persistent autosaving and progress-sapping deaths of Dark Souls, the randomised and colour-coded loot chase of Diablo, the crafting and item degradation of their own Dead Island, the first-person parkour of Mirror's Edge, the special super-zombies and asymmetrical multiplayer of Left 4 Dead and the "great sidequests, forgettable main quest" backbone of so many recent Ubisoft games. Phew.

Those comparisons are all well and good, but at its heart, Dying Light was and remains a game about doing this:

Dying Light: The Following: The Kotaku Review

In The Following, you're still playing as Dying Light protagonist Kyle Crane, a dull slice of clench-cake who might as well be any other boring action game protagonist from the last 10 years. Following the events of Dying Light, Crane has been sent by his friends in the zombie-overrun city of Harran to the nearby countryside to investigate rumours of a zombie cure. He arrives and quickly falls in with a cult-like religious group that seems to have a way to keep themselves from being infected. This is also when he gets the car.

Dying Light: The Following: The Kotaku Review

The story may revolve around discovering a cure for the plague, but the car is the thing, man. Crane's nifty little dune buggy wouldn't look out of place in a Far Cry game and allows The Following to move at a markedly different tempo than Dying Light proper. That's largely because the car-friendly new region is, by Dying Light standards, humongous.

The Harran outback, while never explicitly assigned a geographic location, appears to exist somewhere in western Turkey, just off the Mediterranean. Most missions will send you careening from one side of the map to the other, bouncing through hay fields, ramping over train tracks, skimming across river crossings and ploughing through undead hordes.

Dying Light: The Following: The Kotaku Review

The bigness of the map and the constant availability of vehicular transport remix Dying Light's formula without pushing things too far from the core of what was appealing about the main game. There's still that sense of constant, gnawing peril; every pause to hunt for loot or repair your gear is fraught with the feeling that something has noticed you and is shambling (or in some cases, sprinting) your way. There's still the feeling that you're never fully in control, as the ever-ticking clock and the lack of fast-travel threaten to leave you marooned in the wilderness after dark. And nighttime is still a disaster; black as pitch and full of deadly "volatile" zombies who are unimpressed by your new wheels.

The buggy itself is a hoot. It's fast out of the gate and handles very well, and it only gets tougher and more sprightly as you level up your new driving skill-tree and unlock better upgrades. My buggy can now lay mines and act as a noise-making distraction. It's got a cool blue paint job and a zombie-wrecking plow on the front. Eventually, it will be able to blast UV light from its headlights, electrocute zombies who get near and -- of course -- melt anything in its path with a hood-mounted flamethrower.

Dying Light: The Following: The Kotaku Review

Missions in The Following are fairly spread out, and I'd often finish one and groan as I saw the next one's starting point, kilometres away. However, what grumpiness I might have felt about the lack of a fast-travel option often evaporated soon after I started driving. With its sun-kissed Mediterranean backdrops, strong sense of speed and frequent off-road detours through grassy fields, The Following's driving reminds me of nothing so much as Turn 10's fantastic Forza Horizon 2. With zombies.

The Following accompanies the new "enhanced edition" of Dying Light, which adds a laundry list of small tweaks and additions to the core game. You can quickly load out of The Following and back into Dying Light at any time, carrying your gear, skills and XP between the two. It's an unusually slick integration that helps The Following feel like an organic part of a greater whole.

Because of all those enhanced edition tweaks, I have a hard time reconciling my recent time with the game with the 30-ish hours I spent playing the original last year. Does it control better now, or was it always like this? Is the melee combat a bit tighter, the dodging a bit smoother, or am I misremembering? I suppose it doesn't matter. I had even more fun with Dying Light this time around than I did the first time, and I had a lot of fun that first time.

Dying Light: The Following: The Kotaku Review

As with the base game, the character motivations and overarching plot of The Following are a snooze. The cast consists mostly of sweaty, interchangeable dudes, and I had a hard time caring who wanted what, or what Kyle Crane seemed to think of any of them. The grand finale goes all-in on the loopy B-movie weirdness the game hints at throughout, but things could've stood to get a lot weirder a lot faster.

The moment-to-moment writing remains sturdy and plentiful, however, particularly in more out-of-the-way places like item descriptions, journal entries and sidequest dialogue. Upon investigating the town's abandoned post office, I found a number of long-lost letters that I could deliver to far-flung townspeople. Each time I delivered a letter I got a little story, my favourite being the guy who excitedly opened his letter only to realise I'd given him his old power bill. A great deal of thought and care has gone into some aspects of The Following's script; I only wish the characters were more interesting.

Happily, unlike with the base game, none of the story missions or setpiece battles achieve truly unfortunate badness. It actually helps that there's no proper villain this time; no capering madman at the fringes, challenging Kyle Crane to a duel or whatever. There's just the hunt for the cure and all the bandits, zombies and other assorted hazards that get the way.

The flow faltered whenever I was forced to pull out a gun and fight through an outpost of human enemies, but the majority of the story missions were just more of the same cool climbin', runnin', explorin' and evadin' that I'd already been doing. Several of Crane's most reliable tricks find new application in the more spread-out setting: The empowering grappling hook from the base game serves a different but no less crucial role in wide-open spaces, and the fields and roadways make it much easier to stretch out and explore Crane's array of melee grapples, dodges and tackles.

Dying Light: The Following: The Kotaku Review

While often gorgeous at a cursory glance, The Following feels janky and in need of extra tuning from time to time. Some of that could've been the pre-release PC build I played, though much of it lines up with what I remember from last year's game. Things would pop into view as I'd drive around, the game crashed on me a few times, bladed weapons still outperform other types by too great a margin, enemies clip and behave in improbable ways, optional endgame bosses can be easily cheesed simply by standing at a distance and shooting them until they keel over and human enemies are dumber than a bag of golf balls. None of that was too bothersome, in the end. While Dying Light may be more careless than some of the games it emulates, it is also often more carefree.

That playfulness comes across most strongly in the built-in co-op multiplayer, which lets up to four players tear around in one player's game (and even ride shotgun in one another's buggies). You can team up to complete story missions, sidequests or anything else you'd like. I played a couple of hours of co-op with my colleague Nathan Grayson and we had a hell of a time. The familiar sense of lonesome peril was quickly replaced by goofy one-upsmanship, as we lined up to see who could boot a zombie farther.

Dying Light: The Following: The Kotaku Review

A built-in "competition" detector adds some structure to the mayhem, occasionally letting you set up sanctioned competitions with your teammates at the press of a button. Who can kill the most zombies the fastest? Who can drive faster, and who can reach the supply drop first? All that and I've yet to try out the newly expanded zombies vs humans PvP mode. I certainly plan to once more people are playing.

After more than 20 hours with The Following, I'm impressed by how much I have left to do. There are corners of the map that I've left unexplored, sidequests I've left incomplete, missing persons I've all but abandoned and hidden loot I've left undiscovered. I'm just as impressed that, after so many hours, I still want to go do all that. What do you know: I've grown fonder of a game that I already liked a great deal.


Comments

    do you need the oroginal to get this? was thinking of jumping ship and playing on ps4

      yeah, it's DLC / expansion, not a stand-alone.

      This sorta explains it.

      Last edited 10/02/16 11:35 am

      JB Hifi have the XB1 Season Pass - which includes The Following - for $29.95 online for digital delivery - same price as the expansion download alone on XBL for those interested.

        The new Xbox one and ps4 physical copies include the original game.

        Hey hey,

        Can you double confirm that includes the following? It only says the first three DLC packs and I vaguely remember something about them saying the following would become separate to it because the scope had changed... otherwise that's a great deal.

        Cheers

          Yes it does - I bought it and downloaded them all to the XB1 last night

            Awesome thanks!

            Gave in and bought it, just started playing... Really great fun! Also my first lockpick chest gave me a gold scythe so it all started off on the right foot :)

            Buggy is fantastic, lots of fun to drive. It handles much better than it looks in all the trailers. Also the countryside at night is completely terrifying....

    Yo, I'm gonna be getting this and playing a heap of it post work most days but don't have any friends who play it so if your like me and need a teammate on PS4 (and Diablo 3 on PS4) add me: slobbermanspence

    Dying Light was really a sleeper hit for me in 2015 (like Wolfenstein was in 2014), so I'm actually quite looking forward to this.

    I'm also fully expecting to not see my girlfriend for a month. She's clocked the base game three times and put in 100+ hours. No, I don't know how either.

    (I swear that last paragraph wasn't a humble brag about relationship status. No srsly)

    "a video game for people who like video game-arse video games"

    What the hell does that mean?

    So my little brother bought Dying Light: The Following Enhanced Edition, I borrowed his disc since all the DLC is on there. So I bought a base game copy thinking I'd be able to play the DLC since a copy with all the DLC is already owned and I downloaded the DLC onto my console, kinda like how you could buy Borderlands 2 GOTYE and then lend the DLC disc to friends so they could get it for free. Anyway, it doesn't appear to be working out how I imagined it would, so is the DLC locked behind a paywall or am I missing something?

      Which platform are you on?

      If it's XB1 make sure you have family sharing turned on with your accounts.

      Although thinking about it... if you've got the disk based one it's a bit different as the disk works like a license. So whilst you have the extra content on your console it will still be looking for a license when it tries to run.

      What you want to do is buy the digital version on the main account which can then be shared to family members, although whichever account purchased it will need to play it on the "2nd" xbox whilst the other player uses their main one, unfortunately that probably doesn't help you in this case though :( I'm thinking you'll probably need to buy the season pass.

      I'm not 100% sure about PS4 family sharing though, we've only got the one, but I would imagine it works similarly....?

    Oh man,how did I miss this review! Just googled it to see if it was out on the 12th for us aussies, only to see it came out on the 10th. Just hit the purchase button, boom.
    My bro really only games cooperatively, this was the perfect hangover cure for our Destiny bender.
    You're right about the story and characters though...while playing we both agreed that a darker, more isolated vibe would be kick ass. There'd be no looking for cures, just trying to survive and get around the city, maybe fortifying a good base while having to deal with other human survivors ( not human controlled, more like the other stalkers in that game ).
    Damn that'd be the shit.

    this game, like its orignal is the sh*t.
    Techland have delivered again and im so happy we can go back to this world and explore further, and with added buggys now!
    Next we need it to play this in VR.

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