One of last year's biggest surprises was Dying Light, a game that took the parkour mechanics from Mirror's Edge to a new level, and at the same time threw thousands of zombies in the mix. In the expansion, The Following, the big city is switched out in favour of rural areas. As you step out of the initial cave you're greeted by a sight that can be likened to Pelennor Fields in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, it's a great moment for Dying Light and the variation in scenery is superb.
To look out over the vast, seemingly endless landscape that lies before us, reminiscent of the most epic movies, we suddenly become extremely eager to explore this new world. There is a reason that the landscape is so flat in The Following, and that is your new wheels. It doesn't take more than two seconds before we know that the driving mechanics are just as good as the parkour ones. In addition to the three upgrade trees Survivor, Agility and Power (that Kyle Crane took advantage of in Harran and now carries over to the expansion) two additional skillsets have appeared in The Following - Legendary and Driver. The first one gives Crane extra powers after maxing out some of the original trees, while Driver is the most important. By running over zombies, maintaining maximum speed and performing stunt jumps, the Driver-meter moves upwards until the next level is reached. This allows for upgrades to the buggy, and soon nitro, faster speeds, better grip and more durable parts have been added.
The vehicle actually breaks down with heavy use, but it's never a problem to find screws and other items to put together the parts and eventually build a completely new ride from the ground up. Abandoned cars are scattered everywhere on the roads and a quick push of a button gives you enough scrap to keep the buggy in great condition. Even the petrol caps of the cars must be looted, because Dying Light's own Magnum Opus guzzles gas like there's no tomorrow. Fortunately, there are upgrade options that allows your buggy to be more environmentally friendly, and after making the buggy more fuel-efficient it never feels like there's any real risk of running dry in the midst of a massive zombie attack.
Speaking of Magnum Opus, the buggy in Dying Light is the most beautiful vehicle we've driven since Mad Max last year. Forget about the Far Cry series and GTA V; first-person works much better here and the cockpit view is amazing. It's clear that the developer put a lot of effort into the driving experience and it really delivers. After a dozen hours the buggy is almost fully upgraded and it never felt like a chore. Every five minutes or so the next level is reached and you can choose from new, meaningful upgrades to install.
Something else that works very well is the story. Without spoiling too much, Kyle Crane is on the lookout for a potential cure for the zombie epidemic in Harran. Antizin simply isn't cutting it any more... Out in the rural areas there are heavier, more psychedelic drugs and soon we encounter a cult-like group, where all members appear to have found a out there way to become immune to the infection. To find out more about their secret remedies, we must first help the people on the farm in order to slowly gain their trust.
A new and easy to understand rating system shows how the inhabitants begin to accept us into the group as we help them, and we are soon rewarded with a crossbow for all our good work (read: zombie slaughter), there is renewed motivation to continue performing both the main story quests and side missions for the locals. It feels good and fun to assist the various characters with pest control, especially as you're rewarded with cool gadgets, but perhaps mainly because there is more of a sense of community here with the farmers compared to the more individualistic city dwellers.
The environment is both flatter and larger in The Following compared to the original game, and while that's mostly a positive thing, there are downsides. There is no fast travel here and if you happen to die at the hands of a group of undead, it might mean a long journey to get back without being able parkour jump. Sure, we usually get to start in the hunting tower closest to the place of death, but given the huge size of the map it can still be quite a distance to trek in order to recover the buggy.
Best of all is the co-operative mode. It's possible to play through the whole adventure in the company of up to three friends, making driving and zombie slaying an even more enjoyable pastime. Together you can drive around and explore the open areas, help residents with their issues, scavenge for scrap and petrol. Co-op in Dying Light is superb, there's no other way of putting it. New weapons, new environments, new missions, and above all the new buggy makes sure that this is an expansion that we'll continue to enjoy with our friends for dozens of hours as this content slides in almost perfectly next to the content of the original game.