Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5 (reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: February 4, 2022
Dying Light 2 Stay Human has been a long time coming. The original Dying Light launched way back in 2015, and received plenty of praise for its thrilling mix of brutal melee combat and free-flowing first-person parkour.
This hotly anticipated sequel has endured a fairly protracted development cycle, but after more than seven years of waiting, Dying Light 2 is finally in our hands. Remarkably, despite the clear bumps along the way, this follow-up retains and expands upon just about everything that made the first game such a sleeper hit.
Like its predecessor, Dying Light 2 offers a gigantic open-world playground, populated with thousands upon thousands of the undead. But Dying Light 2 has more to offer than just cheap thrills. Alongside the pulpy carnage, you’ll find plenty of surprisingly well-written quests that often require you to make morally complex decisions.
Dying Light 2 draws you in with the promise of being able to dropkick a zombie in the face, but holds your attention thanks to its expansive map, excellent parkour mechanics and solid writing. Read on for our full Dying Light 2 review.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human review: Gameplay
The gameplay fundamentals of Dying Light 2 Stay Human are pretty routine. The game is in a first-person perspective, and you’ll spend the majority of your time swinging all manner of bats, shovels, clubs and oversized knives at various types of zombies.
It’s hardly a unique selling point, but brutally decapitating a zombie with a sharp blade remains satisfying, even if it’s an experience you’ve likely had in plenty of other games. Unfortunately, repetition does start to set in pretty fast. There’s a wide variety of combat moves to unlock, but the basics are more than enough to sail through most encounters.
Special types of zombies (here called "infected") don’t encourage you to switch up your tactics, either. While some foes appear fearsome upon introduction, you’ll still employ the same methods to bring them down. You also face off against plenty of human enemies, but again, the basic combo of a well-timed block followed by a couple of quick strikes is perfectly adequate for taking on bandits.
Conversely, Dying Light 2’s parkour mechanics really shine. Moving through the sizable open world at speed is a constant joy. Your character can leap unrealistic distances, but Dying Light 2 never lets realism get in the way of the fun. When you manage to string together a series of advanced parkour moves in quick succession, it feels far more rewarding than taking on even the largest pack of zombies.
Traversal only gets more exciting as you progress further in the game and unlock new equipment, including a paraglider and a grappling hook. Once you have all the available tools, you can move through the world of Dying Light 2 with a superhuman level of speed and agility.
The game also features a persistent day and night cycle. In the daytime, zombies are more of a nuisance than a genuine threat. But when night falls, more powerful infected roam the streets, and your own immunity to the zombie virus starts to wane.
During the hours of darkness, a constantly visible clock ticks down to when you’ll succumb to the infection yourself. In order to reset the timer, you need to either locate a source of UV light, or take a precious consumable booster. This adds serious tension to nighttime excursions. However, the fear factor lessens as you upgrade your character and are able to survive in the darkness for longer.
While the first Dying Light made going out at night a mostly unnecessary risk, Dying Light 2 does a fantastic job of incentivizing you to venture out. At night, you can explore abandoned research labs and military installations that are otherwise filled with hibernating zombies during the day. Here, you’ll find the best crafting materials, as well as health and stamina upgrade components.
Dying Light 2 review: Exploration and upgrades
After a short prologue, Dying Light 2 drops you straight into a densely packed open world, infested with nightmarish foes. It’s certainly not the biggest sandbox in gaming, but it’s a considerable step up over its predecessor, and there’s more than enough to keep you busy for dozens of hours.
From bandit camps to mutated zombie boss fights, if you take off in any direction, you’re sure to stumble upon something worthwhile. The GRE quarantined facilities are a particular highlight. These labyrinth-style locations encourage a stealthier approach, and regularly lead to heart-pounding moments as you desperately attempt to pick a lock with a maundering zombie breathing down your neck.
However you spend your time in Dying Light 2, you’ll constantly unlock new upgrades for your combat and parkour abilities. You'll also find new gear that boosts your stats, as well as new blueprints for crafting weapon modifications or useful consumables.
Speaking of weapons, the tools at your disposal are initially pretty ineffective. You’ll spend much of your first few hours essentially poking at zombies with a rusty spade. But before long, you’ll be wielding electrified machetes that shoot fireballs.
With so much to unlock and upgrade, it’s definitely worth taking your time to search every container, chest and corpse you stumble upon. You’ll want all the loot you can carry in order to craft and trade for the game’s best items.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human review: Story
Easily the most surprising aspect of Dying Light 2 Stay Human is its narrative. It has more of a B-movie quality than perhaps the writers intended, and the main villain feels too elusive to be a genuine threat. But the game's story does a marvelous job of making you care about the fate of the main cast.
In Dying Light 2, you play Aiden, a post-apocalyptic courier who has come to The City in hopes of finding his missing sister and uncovering the truth about his dark past. The central yarn takes a while to get going, but it's the intriguing survivors that Aiden meets along the way who will really compel you to press on.
During key story moments, you must make decisions that can have sizable impacts on how the rest of the game plays out. Some of these choices are genuinely difficult to make. I paused to consider my options on more than one occasion.
What makes these branching story moments so refreshing is that you’re not facing a binary good/evil decision. The narrative frequently sits in a moral grey zone, and you often have to make tricky choices without immediately apparent consequences.
Many of the game’s numerous side quests offer similar levels of player choice and narrative depth. Some of these quests feel so vital to the overall plot, I had to double-check they weren’t actually mandatory. However, there are still a host of side objectives that boil down to little more than tedious fetch quests.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human review: Visuals and technical issues
In terms of visuals, Dying Light 2 is a mixed bag. The game can look gorgeous sometimes. The moments when you stand on top of a towering skyscraper and watch the sun slowly set, while scores of zombies emerge from their hiding spots below, are a real highlight.
Unfortunately, in other spots, the game can look rough. Some cutscenes showcase character animations that look straight out of a PS3 game. There’s also no denying that the enemy design is pretty uninventive on the whole.
Frustratingly, Dying Light 2 comes perilously close to ruining everything it has going for it due to persistent technical issues. In my 30 hours with the game, I experienced everything from half-a-dozen hard crashes, to a recurring audio glitch that muted NPC dialogue. Restarting the whole game was the only fix.
There are an overwhelming number of bugs and glitches in Dying Light 2. Some, such as NPCs sitting on thin air, had me chuckling. Others, such as the final boss clipping through the floor and forcing a restart when I’d almost defeated them, had me audibly irritated.
Update: I've been informed that Techland is planning to release a day one patch designed to address many of the technical issues I experienced during my time with Dying Light 2. We haven't been able to play the game post-patch yet, so can't definitively comment on how many of the issues it fixes.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human review: Verdict
Dying Light 2 Stay Human is a frequently enjoyable open-world experience. It may suffer from a lack of new ideas, but when the gameplay becomes repetitive, the well-written narrative will keep you hooked.
If you aim to squeeze as much playtime as possible from your games, then Dying Light 2 won’t disappoint. Developer Techland’s recent claims about 500 hours of content are perhaps a little exaggerated, but there are easily 100+ hours of play here for the most dedicated adventurers.
It’s a shame that Dying Light 2's combat system quickly stagnates, and its persistent technical flaws only get worse the more you play. If Techland had addressed these blemishes, the game could have been something special. As it stands, Dying Light 2 Stay Human is a highly enjoyable way to kill tens of hours so long, as you can overlook some frustratingly avoidable flaws.