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First-person zombie brawler Dying Light is full of cars–burnt out, abandoned husks of cars that are perfect for parkouring over but not so great for driving. The Following DLC, on the other hand, weaves customizable dirt buggies into its basic structure, trading dense urban slums for sweeping, open farmland. It’s a pretty unexpected change, but The Following works well, delivering a sizable chunk of story-driven content that feels at once distinct from and in sync with the original experience.
The setup is swift and simple: A short time after the conclusion of the full game, a mysterious outsider shows up in zombie-infested Harran ranting feverishly about a place where everyone’s immune to the outbreak. Gruff protagonist/cardboard cutout Kyle Crane uses the man’s map to find his way out of the city and into a creepy mystery centered on a secretive cult. Crane still lacks depth, but The Following delivers fresh themes that set it apart from…well, every other zombie apocalypse tale out there. Its self-contained story, while slow to start, gradually becomes an engaging conspiracy thriller complete with tension, intrigue, and a few genuinely surprising twists. It’s both more original and more satisfying than the full game’s narrative.
Of course, because no one’s ever willing to divulge information for free, you’re once again stuck doing favors to earn trust, which means more errands and fetch quests. Fortunately, missions are generally less of a grind here not only because of the strong narrative framing but also because you’ve got more gameplay options to work with. The game doesn’t contrive some reason to strip away all your stuff and boot you back to square one, thankfully, so when you walk out of Harran at the start of The Following, all your skills and gear come with you. This means less desperate leveling early on and more confident exploration.
You will end up relying far more on firearms, though, simply because it’s safer in the cover-less countryside. With no vans or rooftops available for a quick, elevated escape, your best bet when faced with a horde is careful spacing and crowd control. To that end, The Following provides some new weapons, including more guns and an exquisite tactical crossbow. This gear, combined with longer lines of sight, allows you to appreciate a side of Dying Light’s generally melee-focused combat that was previously underutilized. It never becomes a straight up shooter, but the core combat definitely assumes a different feel. You’re battling the same zombies, but with new environments come all new tactics.
There’s also an added skill tree to level up, one devoted to your deadly new ride. Well, series of rides. Like Dying Light’s weapons, buggies break down with use and need to be repaired and upgraded, forcing you to scavenge for parts and gas to keep them running. Because it so closely mirrors the established crafting system, though, the process feels like a perfectly natural evolution of an existing mechanic. It taps into the same gear lust that made weapon crafting so enjoyable in the main game. Acquiring the last component you need to complete a brand new build or finding a rare one-time upgrade in a locked case or strategically saving up your best gear to combine into a single super item–it’s an exhilarating feeling that makes the challenge of obsessive scavenging feel totally worthwhile.
In the case of these new dirt buggies, it also creates a strong sense of ownership and reward. As you unlock new skills and gather new upgrades–eventually equipping your ride with things like flamethrowers, UV headlights, and deployable mines–you can see the impact in game and know that your hard work has paid off. As in the main game, early weakness makes later strength feel earned and therefore super gratifying. I almost wish driving off road didn’t damage buggies as much as it does, but Dying Light has always been about managing your limitations, like combat stamina or breakable weapons. It’s all part of the challenge.
More importantly, driving around is just flat out fun, especially once you learn to avoid all the hazards that block your path early on–you know, toxic pools, flaming buses, giant mutants, things like that. The basic driving controls function beautifully, leaving you to focus on plowing through zombies in a number of scenic locales like rocky coastlines and endless grassy fields. The new map is actually larger than the original, though it’s far less crowded with climbable structures. You’ll still have plenty of opportunities to flex your parkour muscles, but again, the clear focus here is Mad Max-style buggy driving. The Following even provides optional races–both time trial events and head-to-head sprints for up to four players online–that provide a welcome diversion from Dying Light’s central gameplay.
The Following isn’t flawless, though. In addition to Cardboard Crane and some mundane quests, I also occasionally encountered enemies who couldn’t figure out how to walk around minor obstacles. More than once, I respawned seemingly in the middle of nowhere, which left me without a buggy on a map built for commuting. And prevalent boss-level zombies made flying solo pretty tough, especially since the big guys were able to absorb basically every bullet I had.
Still, rather than giving players more of the same, The Following evolves Dying Light’s formula by adding substantial new mechanics that compliment or even reframe familiar gameplay elements. The dirt buggies fit right in and provide both rewarding survivor strategy and moment to moment excitement. The amount of content is impressive for an expansion as well, with approximately 10 hours of missions and plenty more for completionists. You can chase airdrops, help random civilians, explore remote areas, or tackle skill-based challenges. However, nothing can top tearing across the plains at night with vicious Volatiles grabbing at you from just outside your roll cage. It’s a thrill I never expected to find in Dying Light, but thanks to The Following, I’m now a true believer.