In Techland's Dying Light, you won't have time to breathe; as one of the infected, the clock ticking on your own demise, you have to run for what remains of your life in order to assist those who still have one.
The game's open world is populated with survivors living in the safe zones of a quarantine area. Relief comes in the form of scheduled supply drops each morning and evening. Players must find these supply drops while fending off zombies, and god forbid you are caught outside in the dark.
In Techland's first-person free runner, you can move anywhere with no restrictions. Up walls and poles, down alleyways, across rooftops — the world is your parkouring ground. Players can slide under walls, around corners, and sprint, jump, climb, shimmy along every piece of scenery you can get your in-game hands on.
Frequently you will encounter flesh-hungry zombies on your adventures; taking them out with an axe or baseball bat sends bright splashes of blood in all directions. Those weapons can be upgraded and combined with other objects to form formidable tools, such as a machete that electrocutes, and throwing darts that explode.
"Dying Light does not use traditional zombies."
Hitting a zombie will cause them to briefly flash for a moment, offering a glimpse of their skeleton. The game will show players what part of the zombie's body broke as a result of your attack and what it can no longer hit or kick with. Once they're down, players can loot them for cash and crafting parts for building better weapons.
But whatever you do, don't use a gun. The zombies will flock to you in droves at the sound.
"I think the zombie genre is evolving," Techland's international brand manager Blazej Krakowiak told Polygon. "It's getting a little more sophisticated. Dying Light does not use traditional zombies — they're not resurrected, it's more an infection or virus in a modern-high tech world.
"The free-running mechanics are something we found was missing from the genre," he added. "You're a human, you are more agile and you are smarter, you should be able to have that advantage. Zombies can't do that. That's why we worked so hard to have the running, climbing and jumping — it feels natural and smooth."
"We wanted to set it up so players had fun, but that it wasn't a goofy game," added senior producer Adrian Ciszewski. "We wanted to make — well, we won't say a realistic game about zombies because that would be weird — but we can show something more like 'Hollywood realism,' and kind of like a real life.
"You're a human, you are more agile and you are smarter, you should be able to have that advantage."
"Running is the best way to get away from a zombie," he added. "In [George] Romero's [Dawn of the Dead] they really want to grab you, and we wanted to preserve that."
Sidequests will pop up at random. Players can choose to follow through with them or keep ahead on their main missions. These sidequests won't stick around forever, but you will have the option to complete them as they crop up.
In a demo shown at E3, I was running through an alley when I heard a scream. I walked our character — a man infected by the zombie-creating virus but not yet affected — into a house and dropped through a hole to another room, where I found a little girl in a closet. I radioed our home base to say I were going to take care of the girl, but our partner over the radio, Jade, told us to leave her be. I will come and get her later, she said. I had to focus on finding supplies.
Completely these side missions will earn you a rapport within the quarantined city. The game follows a reputation system: the more people you help, the more widely you are known and the more helpful people will be. As you help more people, objects in shops will become cheaper.
There are soldiers in the world as well. If they catch you they'll draw their weapons and demand you leave the area. You can attack them, but not with promising results — they're a tough fight.
As I ran along, I encountered a Viral, a person who is infected with the zombie sickness and is not yet fully turned. These half-alive, half-dead creatures will call for help and scream if you attack them, but they will not put up a fight. As the sun sets, the zombies will wake up and many that are dormant will come out of hiding. They will congregate, and any sort of movement will attract them to you.
Sometimes, it's better just to run.
The toughest enemies in the game are the Volatile, super muscular zombies that you never want to be seen by, let alone attacked. They're strong and run very fast, and will follow you once you are seen. They will even parkour along behind you on the their quest for your delicious flesh. You can tell a Volatile has seen you because it will let our a red pulsing light for a brief second — and your character will also swear loudly.
At night the Volatile, as well as regular zombies, are out in full-force. During a hands-on demo I was caught outside alone, and then they found me. A horde of them spotted me as I jumped off a roof and came after me, rentless, screeching. I jammed down on the buttons and ran. I didn't have time to draw my weapon and didn't dare turn around or attempt to attack. I just kept running. It's a harrowing experience, hearing them come after you and knowing that if you stop moving for one second, if you sweaty fingers slip off the controller, you're dead.
Dying Light will also have four player online co-op modes as well as its single-player campaign. The game is coming to PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Windows PC next year.