It's been clear from the start that developers Techland are keen to differentiate Dying Light from their previous first-person zombie action title Dead Island. Parkour elements and special abilities gained from your own infection contribute to these efforts — as is the intriguing 'Be the Zombie' mode first teased last year.
Available as a special pre-order bonus, the mode will allow players to take control of the dreaded 'Night Hunter' and invade the games of other players. This extremely powerful zombie mutation has a selection of unique attacks and traversal options that will add to the challenge of surviving the night.
Producer Tymon Smetkala had the following to say of the mode:
"The game is absolutely huge as it is, but to provide the ultimate zombie survival experience, we added an extra element of unpredictability to our nighttime gameplay. Online players can face the threat of a possible invasion of their game by the Night Hunter, an extremely powerful, human-controlled zombie mutation. These invasions are an inherent part of Dying Light, available on all platforms for all online players from day one. However for our hardcore fans who pre-order, we’re offering them a bonus –Be the Zombie – which lets you actually take control of the Night Hunter and invade online games of other players."
Dying Light debuted its first trailer at E3 2013, and early reaction to what was shown of the game that year was very strong across the board, including our own coverage. However, the game's showing at this year's E3 was less enthralling, lacking some of the gameplay features that made it such an appealing prospect.
This mode is certainly a step in the right direction, offering a fresh wrinkle on the game by putting the player on the other end of the hunter-hunted relationship. It's a new experience that serves to further differentiate this title from the pack of zombie action games, particularly Dead Island.
However, the fact that it's a pre-order bonus is troubling. These sort of incentives are rampant throughout the industry, but for a game that has seemed to recede in terms of innovative gameplay experiences since it was unveiled, barricading this extra mode behind the pre-order wall could well turn out to be a mis-step.
There's still potential for Dying Light to be a great success when it releases early next year. For the horde that enjoyed Dead Island, there will certainly be a lot to enjoy here — it's simply a question of how much the finished product will do to evolve that experience into something truly new.
Dying Light is set to release on January 27, 2015 for PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. 'Be the Zombie' mode will be available as a pre-order bonus for customers who purchase the game via its official website, select retailers and Steam.