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Dying Light Review

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Graphics:

When I have reviewed open world games in the past, I have occasionally stated in the graphics section that there should be some forgiveness for the blemishes, because of how much there is. That is opposed to a more linear game, which will have a consequentially smaller map to be designed. That statement applies to Dying Light as well, but thankfully there is not much to forgive.

The city of Harran is a rather populated and diverse place, with skyscrapers, slums, highways, and even mountains present to fill the horizon. Closer to the ground the diversity still exists, making it possible to recognize where you are just by the objects around you. It does not need to be big to act as a landmark. Unfortunately this brings us to the first blemish to speak of, which is that while you can look around and recognize where you are easily enough, the objects you are looking at are generally copies of objects everywhere. For example, the same vans, cars, and buses are found everywhere, with color being the only real difference. This is pretty common for open-world games though, considering how many unique assets would be required otherwise. Still, it is noticeable.

Similarly, many characters also look alike, and I do not just mean the obnoxious twins you encounter. Zombies too are often lacking in variety, but with the number you encounter that is not too surprising. Plus, consistency helps with identifying the threats you encounter. The NPCs you talk to looking alike is a little harder to forgive today, however.

 

 

 

 

 

Facial animations are also pretty lacking, with lips not really appearing to follow the speech, and emotions not being well conveyed. There is also an odd artifact I noticed when NPCs were talking that almost looked like a shadow spontaneously forming between their chin and bottom lip. Not sure what was causing that, but it was distracting.

Another blemish to mention would be the examples of flat textures being used instead of 3D detail. This is not uncommon in modern games, but I am definitely looking forward to when this is rarer. What has seemed to become rare, but can be found in Dying Light, is 2D sprites being used in place of 3D objects. If you see a chain locking a gate shut, the chain links are just flat textures perpendicular to each other. When I first spotted this I thought to myself that I thought we had moved past graphics like these. Apparently not quite yet. At least examples of this are not common, but I still would have preferred they simply not exist. Vegetation is dense enough and animated enough that I actually never noticed if it also consisted of sprites while playing. Only by going back in and inspecting the plants did I see that they too are sprites. Still, they are so dense and animated that it is harder to see without looking for it.

Before moving too far away from the textures, I want to mention that there were many times that textures looked blurry to me, as though they were being stretched. Naturally this is a little disappointing for a new release. It would be nice if there were a high resolution texture pack to download, like some games have offered.

 

 

One nice graphical touch to see is weapons becoming damaged over time. You can see the wear on the weapons, so it makes sense when they are not going to be useful anymore. Repairing weapons also leaves a mark on them, typically in the form of reinforcing metal bars or strips.

 

 

The lighting of Dying Light is, more often than not, excellent. Sunlight fills the empty, silent streets, reflecting off of the various objects appropriately, and casting accurate shadows. The same applies for your flashlight and even your firecrackers, as I discovered by accident. In a completely dark room, I threw some firecrackers to attract a lone zombie to where I wanted it. The burning fuse and exploding crackers lit up the area, casting shadows, and the light even danced around. Of course that dance is pre-rendered, but it is still a good touch and cool to see. What is not pre-rendered is the shift of shadows as the sun moves across the sky. You may not notice it without standing still and watching, but it happens.

 

One issue I noticed with the shadows was the rather short level of detail distance they could have. In some spots I noticed shadows spontaneously appearing as I approached. What appeared was well detailed, but it would have been nice if even some lower resolution shadows were present, and were then replaced by higher quality ones.

 

Some textures also popped in, but I am not sure why. Unlike the shadows, it seemed like the texture pop-in was actually an error, because every other texture in the area had loaded correctly. Also I only remember this happening with doors.

 

Fluids are generally not that good in Dying Light. At a distance, water seems to be only reflective, which would be fine except that movement can cause some very heavy shimmering across the turbulent surface. It is very unpleasant to see. When nearer, water definitely looks better, but is nothing to be impressed by. It is suitably murky when swimming through, and when you get out of the water, the camera will be distorted as though some drops were still on the lens. The only way for this to go away is to wait for it to do so.

Fire consists of flat, pre-rendered animations, and when a zombie is burning, these animations will appear at various angles, but never enough to give it a living quality. Occasionally oil on the ground will burn as well, but it does not really look any better. This actually can pose a danger to the player, as it is difficult to see the edge of fire, so be careful you are not burned. Explosions look pretty good, but nothing too special.

 

Time to talk performance, so here are my specs:

  • Processor: AMD A10-5800K @ 4.40 GHz (44.0x100)
  • Cooling: Corsair H110
  • Motherboard: ASUS F2A85-M PRO
  • GPU: NVIDIA GTX 980 4 GB
  • PhysX: EVGA GTX 770 2 GB
  • Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 4x8 GB (32 GB total) at 1866 MHz 10-10-10-27
  • PSU: OCZ Fata1ty 750 W
  • OS: Windows 7- Professional 64-bit

Initially I ran with all of the options at their maximum setting, except the View Distance option, which I will discuss later, but eventually I turned off the motion blurring because it was just too distracting to me. I want to mention that the anti-aliasing option is to turn it on. It is a post-processing solution that is being used, but I do not know specifically which one. Whatever it is though, it did a pretty good job, so I have no complaints, except for it not being named in the options.

To monitor the framerate as I played, I had Steam display its FPS counter in the upper right corner, which you can actually see in the videos I recorded. (After I discovered this, I decided to leave the counter on because it is not too intrusive and provides useful information.) More often than not, the game ran at high framerates, and would even stay at 60 FPS, but this varied depending on the area I was in. There were times that the framerate suddenly dropped to the twenties and I do not know why. Obviously at this framerate there was some stuttering, but thankfully this only rarely occurred. Dips to 30 were not uncommon, though.

The reason I wanted to discuss View Distance separately is because it works a little differently in Dying Light than in most games. Instead of getting options like Low, Medium, and High, you actually get a slider with 20 steps on it. You see, the entire city, or at least a very large portion of it, is always being rendered so that the player can always plan out their path. The steps control at what distance details like shadows and low-resolution objects are replaced with the high resolution version you want when up close. Obviously the higher the setting the lower the performance, but the increase in image quality is not always apparent, unless you have a very high resolution display. The default setting is 50% on the slider, and I just let it be at that. The shadow issue I mentioned earlier is not related to this setting. I have tested that. You can read more about the View Distance setting in NVIDIA's graphics and performance guide for the game.

 

I did not really encounter any bugs, except for the one I mentioned before concerning shadows, and occasionally zombies going through geometry, and one time even spawning inside of a car.

Before wrapping up this section I do want to mention something interesting I noticed. The minimum and recommended specs for Dying Light both state that you should have 40 GB of free space. The install on my computer, however, only comes to 16.2 GB. I have no guesses as to why this difference exists. I doubt future DLC would add up to that, and even then they should not be counted in the base-game's recommendations.

Overall the graphics of Dying Light are good, with bright spots here and blemishes there. The performance tended to be good, but also fluctuated quite a bit, and at times dropped precipitously for no apparent reason. Really there is nothing too impressive here, but nothing much to complain about either.




  1. Dying Light Review - Introduction
  2. Dying Light Review - Graphics
  3. Dying Light Review - Story
  4. Dying Light Review - Gameplay
  5. Dying Light Review - Additional Gameplay Media
  6. Dying Light Review - Conclusion
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