It would be easy to say that Dying Light is just Dead Island meets Mirror's Edge, especially since this Zombie-infested open-world adventure title developed by Techland empowers the player with the skills of an experienced parkour, but in-game elements of survival horror, strategy and stealth adds up to an experience that might just be more than just the sum of two impressive parts.
The hands-on experience at the 2013 Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle was split, with day and night experienced separately, but ultimately showed off the gameplay at each time, including the disturbing darkness when the infected-style Zombies become more aggressive.
In both sections, you start off in a little playground area where you can get used to the transversal mechanic, basically a bumper button for jump/up movies (contextually depending on what your first person camera is looking at) and a face button for duck/slide.
Once you are done getting the hang of the basics of movement, a mission giver sends you out of the safe zone. During the day demo, the mission is to meet up with an ally on a highway overpass that splits the sky over the favela-like unnamed tropical city sparsely populated with Zombies. As you progress you can help other survivors who appear randomly and offer rewards for your help, or chase down military supply drops, attempting to get to them before other, AI controlled survivors, reach them.
As you move though the area your safety is governed by three meters: An attack stamina meter that governs how strong your melee attacks are (when asked, a developer confirms firearms and a melee item upgrade system will be implemented), a general stamina meter that powers your parkour and finally an awareness meter that comes into play when the real game begins: getting caught outside when darkness falls.
When the situation demands you take on a mission that will keep you out until the sun goes down, the game turns up the heat as it turns down the lights. In the nighttime mission you are charged with resetting some vital traps protecting your safe area. Armed with a couple of axes, some throwing knives and firecrackers laced with pheromones that can be used to draw hoards of Zombies away, you move though the city choosing when to fight and when to run away. As the mission goes down and complications ensue you can visible see the sun start to go down and the world grow darker than any typical game's nighttime ever gets.
At night the Zombies are more aggressive and if you are not careful and stealthy that aforementioned awareness meter fills up and the chase is on. The hoard starts charging at you and the only way to survive is to transverse the area back to the safe area as quickly as possible.
In first-person these events are hectic and legitimately heart pounding as you can hear the growls and footsteps of the flesh-eaters behind you, and if you are brave – or if you just have to know – a button press will cinematically let you look behind you (via a bullet-time like slow motion head turn) to see what's after you. But you are better off using that time to plan your route second by second while reading your environment to find your way back in the near pitch-black of night.
Dying Light is faster than Dead Island and more open than Mirror's Edge, and will be out for PC and this and the next generation consoles next year.