Dying Light 2 handles surprisingly well on PlayStation 4. The early build I played toward the end of last year wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it is perfectly playable – perhaps that's all we can ask for at this stage of the game. As we push deeper into a new generation, still standing in the aftermath of Cyberpunk 2077's corrosive console release, the time for studios to begin phasing out almost decade-old hardware is surely nigh.
In its own little way, Dying Light 2 seems to show that there is power to be squeezed out of the last-gen systems yet. And at the same time, the mind can only wonder at what would be possible were Techland able to focus all of its efforts into the PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X build of the game – using the improved technology to better support its rising ambitions in the open-world space, rather that splitting its attention across a multitude of platforms.
No player left behind
Game Dying Light 2
Platforms PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Release February 28, 2022
It's undoubtedly a difficult decision for developers to make. The PS4 has an install base of at least 116 million, while the Xbox One is estimated to be over 50 million; that's a lot of potential players to leave behind. Particularly as new-gen consoles are so difficult to come by, with the global semiconductor shortage impacting production of PS5, Xbox Series X, and S with no end in sight; Sony has shipped no fewer than 13.4 million new-gen systems, and Microsoft is believed to have north of eight million consoles out there in the wild. Are rising ambitions worth cutting millions of would-be consumers out of the fold?
I asked Tymon Smektała, lead designer of Dying Light 2, whether Techland wished it had held off on the 2018 announcement a little longer and cut last-gen platforms out of the equation entirely – allowing the studio to scope the game for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X. As Smektała tells me, "it's a very, very difficult question to answer."
"Of course, we can do even more on the new consoles, and especially on PC. But there's also the business considerations, and you want your game to reach as many people as possible – not only because of the business stuff, but because it really feels good. Like, we have created something nice, and so we want the whole world to see it. If we just waited for the next-gen, that would have seriously limited the number of possible gamers. So I don't know."
From Smektała's perspective, if I were to play the PS4 build after spending four hours with Dying Light 2 on a high-end PC and can come away feeling "that it's the same game, that we didn't sacrifice anything important, then I think it was worth it." He adds: "Because the game that you are playing right now is the game we wanted to make. So if it's still the same game on PS4, then no, there are no extra considerations here… maybe we'll wait for the next game to use the power of the next-gen consoles to the full."
So, did Techland "sacrifice anything important" for Dying Light 2 on PS4? I tooled around in the open world for around 30 minutes and, I have to say, I was relatively impressed by how well Stay Human scaled down. Graphically, it's a step beyond what the studio was able to deliver with Dying Light in 2015. Less vibrant, although that's perhaps a reflection of the decision to shift play into a denser, more metropolitan environment in The City versus what existed in Harran.
The larger question marks are on the density of the infected and the performance of play. In terms of sheer numbers, I was honestly having too much fun bludgeoning zombies with an array of absurd melee weaponry to get a specific head-count everytime my boots went from rooftop to street level, but they were crowding in the tens. As for the stability, that could waver. I have to say, I was pretty impressed by how well Dying Light 2 was able to sustain its sense of momentum at what appeared to be an unlocked 30 frames-per second, although it did have a tendency to stutter when pushing into different areas of The City at speed – presumably as the world streaming tried to catch up with my movement.
Less impressive was what I saw on the ground. As fun as it is to whack people in their faces with electrified metal rods, there was some definite slowdown in combat. More egregious were the random encounters I stumbled across with Peacekeeper NPCs fighting hordes of infected, only for character models to pop in and out of existence and teleport around the playable space. It's immersion breaking, but I suppose it is to be expected at this juncture.
Now, given I played this a number of weeks out from release, Techland has no doubt worked to sure-up the stability and performance as we inch closer to the Feb 22 release date. Still, Dying Light 2 on PS4 still seems like it's going to be a solid experience, but it does indicate that the time for developers to leave the last generation in the past could be fast approaching. Let's just hope the platform holders are able to get a handle on stock shortages before they do.
With Big in 2022, GamesRadar+ is exploring the biggest games of the new year. Throughout January we'll be dropping exclusive interviews, hands-on impressions, and in-depth editorials. To catch up with our coverage so far, visit the Big in 2022 coverage hub.