Discerning gamers often view downloadable content (DLC) with suspicion: they believe that too often, it exists solely to give games publishers a means of making an extra buck on the back of once-popular games. However, there are signs of a recent shift in attitudes, resulting in slabs of DLC which conform to what gamers actually want – rather than what publishers want to sell them. The Following, a substantial piece of DLC for last year’s excellent open-world zombie game Dying Light, is a case in point.
For a start, it’s huge – its map, developer Techland reckons, is twice as big as that of the original game, and that feels like a plausible claim. The action begins with protagonist Kyle Crane outside the city of Harran, in a mountainous region, from which he descends to find farmlands. Most of those are overrun with either zombies or bandits, but Crane comes across pockets of survivors, who apparently owe their continued existence to a shadowy cult run by the mysterious Mother. Intrigued, he sets out to find their secret. But first, he must gain the locals’ trust, which he achieves by performing story and side-missions.
Gameplay-wise, there’s a big twist on top of the original game: because The Following is set in a rural area, rather than a city, Crane gets to drive around in a buggy – which can be upgraded (for which you must scavenge parts and fuel from abandoned vehicles) and has its own skill-tree. The buggy is great, and since you gain experience points for mowing down zombies in it, it adds a welcome whiff of Carmageddon to proceedings. Localised driving challenges also often crop up, and as in the original game, you often come across random location-based missions, and – after dark – nests of Volatiles you can clear out.
The story missions are, if anything, better-written and more imaginative than those of the original game, and the same can be said of the side-missions. There are points at which the story comes to a halt and you’re forced into side-missions, in order to build up your local respect, but that never feels like an imposition. You come across new weapons – such as an excellent crossbow – and enemies, such as Freaks, which are essentially bosses which you must approach in highly strategic ways. Often, it’s worthwhile finding a co-operative partner in order to take them down.
On the PlayStation 4, at least, The Following also looks notably better than the original, which itself was by no means a bad-looking game. Overall, it’s a prime example of how DLC should be done: it returns you to a thoroughly enjoyable and beautifully fettled game-world, with plenty of welcome additions and nearly as much substance as the original game. If you played Dying Light but have recently neglected it, The Following is pretty much a must-buy. And if you didn’t, you might want to check out the just-released Enhanced Edition of the game, which includes The Following and other items of DLC such as The Bozak Horde. A rare treat for those who love to slice and dice the undead.