Featuring four-player campaign co-op, Dying Light encourages post-apocalyptic adventurers to scavenge for supplies, slaughter undead swarms, and attempt to survive each terrifying evening with at least one buddy by their side. During our recent hands-on session with Techland’s upcoming open-world action game, though, we learned that playing cooperatively can also spawn some friendly competition.
Dropped in the middle of a critical story mission, we were tasked with working alongside a second survivalist to seek out an explosive charge and its detonator, before pairing the items to make a building go boom real good. After a few minutes exploring creepy environments and eviscerating any flesh-hungry freaks that crossed our path, we’d achieved a strategic, team-based rhythm.
That all changed, however, when a challenge suddenly popped onscreen and pitted us against each other. The optional content, which Lead Game Designer Maciej Binkowski playfully referred to as “a way to heat things up when you’re playing co-op”, still saw us reducing undead uglies to pulp; but the act went from high-fiving fun to fiercely competitive, as we were tasked with seeing who could drop the most monsters within a set time limit. Not long after the bragging-rights-fueled killing spree subsided, we were again tempted to shame our partner-in-pulverizing by beating him in a foot race. More than a mere point-to-point run, the mini-marathon saw us simultaneously carving through walking corpses and sprinting to the finish line.
While going for the gold – or, in Dying Light’s case, character-progressing experience points – against a buddy is a blast, it proved a just a warm-up to the game’s dedicated, competitive multiplayer mode. Dubbed an “asymmetric player-versus-player match” by Binkowski, the mode sees a player-controlled Night Hunter infiltrating another team’s game. As with the co-op challenges, this player-versus-player content seamlessly presents itself within the campaign. During our demo, for example, we were just about to take a breather from the preceding adrenaline rush when we learned we’d been targeted by what Binkowski proudly called a “very powerful and agile” threat.
The Night Hunter can be killed, but only temporarily. The determined beast will keep coming back until you and your teammates destroy three hives – cocoon-like pods that breed the game’s uber-zombie Volatiles. Winning the match on the human side requires eliminating all these hives, which is a pretty tall order when you’ve got the Night Hunter constantly nipping at your heels. Thankfully, the survivors (who, by the way, share the same pool of lives) are equipped with an ultraviolet light that can slow and stun the seemingly unstoppable baddie.
Spread across different sections of the map – a market, railway station, and highway – the hives were difficult to destroy. In fact, we were left clinging to a single life when we just barely managed to exterminate all three and get the persistent predator off our backs. As with the co-op challenges, the PvP rewards winners with experience points, as well as rare crafting items and cash. So while both modes are entirely optional (and can be deactivated entirely, so as to not interrupt your game), players are encouraged to participate for the goodies and, of course, the chance to prove they’d be the last one standing when the sun sets on Armageddon.
Dying Light’s agile avatars, deep crafting system, protagonist-personalizing skill tree, and gorgeous open-world already had us anxiously awaiting the end of the world. After getting our mitts on its cooperative challenges and competitive mode, though, we’re now looking forward to playing with friends – and occasional enemies – when the infection spreads on Xbox One and Xbox 360 in 2015.