Review: Dying Light: The Following

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I loved Dying Light. It took the light-RPG slashfest that was Dead Island, stripped out most of the bad bits, and added a really fun parkour system to make easily one of the finest zombie games we’ve had in the last few years. It’s one of the few games where I’ve completed every single side-quest and loved every second of it.

Sadly its first major expansion, The Following, feels like a hell of a step back.


Dying Light: The Following – Enhanced Edition (PC [reviewed], PS4, Xbox One)

Developer: Techland

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Released: February 9, 2016

MSRP: £15.99/$19.99

The Following takes place in the countryside bordering the city of Harran. Mr. Kyle ‘Generic as Hell’ Crane goes to investigate rumours of people who are somehow immune to the zombie virus plaguing the city, and in doing so he gets caught up in a story of cults, bandits, and lots and lots of cars.

The vast majority of the gameplay is just as it was in Dying Light, and your character and all his abilities can carry over from it. The parkour is still great, the grappling hook still adds a whole new layer of movement, and the combat still feels adequately brutal.

The Following feels a lot like the core game’s fantastic side-missions expanded out into a full campaign. You’re treated to a mystery revolving around a cult: why are they immune? Who is the Mother? What are the Faceless? It’s all really exciting stuff, and it’s certainly a step up from the generic military guff we had in Dying Light’s main campaign.

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If that was all The Following was – a few more missions in a new map – I would’ve been incredibly happy with it! Unfortunately, there is one major thing that returns from Dead Island that drags down The Following in a major way: driving.

I don’t like driving in games at the best of times – usually they control poorly, and not very many games actually do interesting things with them (car chase missions need to just stop forever, please). It often feels like vehicles are just placed in a game because it’s what is expected instead of being a fun and worthwhile feature, and nowhere is that more painfully obvious than The Following.

The few pockets of built-up areas where the already excellent parkour mechanics can shine are separated by miles and miles and miles of absolutely nothing. When there is stuff to explore, it’s great: power plants, watchtowers, water pumping stations, and farms are all enticing and detailed enough to make worth checking out. But if you want to actually get to any of them, you’re going to have to drive to it in your rickety, unresponsive buggy that slows to a crawl if you so much as graze a zombie.

Most of the missions seem built around it too: drive to the needlessly faraway place, do X, then drive all the way back again to turn the quest in. Things do get switched up a bit with forced racing segments, but thanks to the awful driving controls they still feel like an unnecessary slog. Nothing seems new or interesting here – if you’ve played a driving mission in Grand Theft Auto, Saint’s Row, or Sleeping Dogs, chances are you’ll experience the exact same things in The Following.

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That on its own wouldn’t be particularly egregious, but then in stumbles the poorly planned out vehicle degradation system. Crash into a tree: vehicle damage. Crash into a car: vehicle damage. Crash into a zombie: vehicle damage. Don’t even think about driving through those big, tempting pockets of squishy undead found scattered on the roads, because there’s a chance the buggy will break or run out of petrol before you come out the other side.

Once the buggy does give up the ghost, having to scavenge around for car parts on foot in that big, empty map feels like more hassle than the buggy’s actually worth. It’s nothing more than irritating padding that actively prohibits the player from having fun, and it doesn’t thematically make sense when elsewhere in-game you can stick a battery onto a machete and then drop-kick a zombie to its death.

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When it’s good, The Following feels just as good as the core game. Its characters and missions are consistently more engaging than any of the main game’s nonsense, and the urban areas are perfectly designed to make the parkour as fun as ever. If that was all The Following was, it would be great!

And then that buggy comes along and ruins everything. The world is made huge and empty just to fit it in at the cost of the already great set of mechanics Dying Light has. That problem’s made worse when even the slightest bit of fun that could’ve been had from it is let down by an arbitrary vehicle degradation systems that punishes the player for daring to have fun with it.

Sometimes ‘just more of the same’ is a good thing.

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Review: Steam Controller

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My Xbox 360 controller and I have been through a hell of a lot in the seven years since I got it.

It survived a whole summer-long binge of Left 4 Dead, came with me on my move to PC gaming, been thrown against walls because of Dark Souls, had its handles lovingly taped back on after said incidents. It’s weird placing emotional fondness onto an inanimate object, but I think I can safely say my 360 controller has been there for me in my darkest of days.

It’s now been unceremoniously dumped into a box under my desk, because I got a Steam Controller and damn is it amazing.

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Steam Controller

Manufacturer: Valve

Input: 1x USB Bluetooth dongle (included)

MSRP: £39.99/$49.99

The Steam Controller is unlike any controller I’ve used before. It gets rid of the twin analogue stick design that’s been so common ever since the PlayStation 1 days, and instead opts for a single, small stick and two huge trackpads. At first, I wasn’t convinced this would be a very good way of playing games, seeing as playing anything on a laptop’s trackpad is about as useful as controlling the game from fifty foot with a joined up collection of bendy straws.

Despite that, the trackpads on the Steam Controller work really damn well, mostly due to the advanced haptic feedback system under the right pad that allows it to feel more like a second analogue stick than a laptop. I’ve discovered I can quite comfortably play Team Fortress 2 (and get kills!) using the controller, which is something I never liked doing on my 360 pad.

The rest of the buttons also work really well, too. I love the triggers, which are really chunky and have both haptics-driven soft activation and physical switch hard activation points, which just feels so comfortable to use. The soft and hard points can also be bound to different functions too, which I found is pretty good for stuff like aiming down ironsights or sniper scopes.

I’m a big fan of the back paddles, which are in just the right position for my hands to not require too much effort to activate, but give off a really satisfying *click* noise whenever they’re pressed. Most games I play on it have now been rebound to use the paddles to jump and crouch just because of how accessible they are.

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Speaking of rebinding controls, every button is entirely customisable for every individual game you launch through Steam, including non-Steam games. At first, the amount of options and settings Steam gave me to configure was totally overwhelming, but as I started using it more and more, I got to know my mouse joystick from my mouse region and was soon able to set up almost any game to control just how I wanted it to. There are also configurations made by members of the community, which is a great way of quickly finding optimal settings.

I’m still struggling to get some games to work, Left 4 Dead has weird sensitivity no matter what I do for example, but overall the sheer reconfigurability of the controller is a massive plus.

The biggest appeal of the Steam Controller is its ability to easily play genres not usually suitable for controllers: city sims, point-and-clicks, RTS, that sort of thing. I’ve not delved into these too much, as they’re not generally types of games I like to play anyway, but I did give Cities: Skylines a try and found that with a bit of tinkering and reconfiguring, it is an entirely viable (if someone tiring) way to play. The right pad works really well as a mouse control, and there are enough extra buttons on the controller to allow for more finely-tuned control. Even Crusader Kings 2 is playable on it!

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Ergonomically, the Steam Controller is by far the most comfortable controller I’ve ever held. The face of the controller is concave, rather than convex, which means your thumbs don’t have to stretch out to hit the farther out buttons, but instead just rotate how they would naturally. It feels strange to hold at first, but it definitely helps reduce fatigue with longer gaming sessions, especially for people like me who may have gammy hands to start with.

There are only two complaints about the physical design I’m able to make. Firstly, I think the small thumbstick on the left side of the controller is raised a bit too high and placed too close to the centre. I do feel some strain on my left thumb after a while, especially when swapping between it and the left trackpad, which is actually placed lower than the base of the stick.

Secondly, the haptics are incredibly loud. Using the right pad and its haptic-driven virtual joystick produces a constant, audible buzzing noise. While it is drowned out by the sound of the game, people who stream or record videos may need to learn to play with them disabled just to reduce audio interference.

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Other than those two problems, the Steam Controller is easily my favourite gamepad ever. I am a bit of a unique case because of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome meaning I have specific ergonomic requirements, but even then I think anybody will be able to benefit from the comfortable design and versatile controls the Steam Controller supplies.

Sorry, Xbox 360 pad. I’ve met someone new, and it’s over between us.

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