A battle royale game with only 12 players? How is that going to work? We recently had the opportunity to go hands-on with Dying Light: Bad Blood - Techland's answer to that very question, and came away really impressed. While the sheer size and scope of the concept is miniaturised somewhat, the action is no less thrilling - in fact, the close-quarters intimacy of the encounters, paired with Dying Light's parkour traversal system makes for a unique take on the battle royale concept.
As it's based on an existing game, a lot of Dying Light's fixtures and fittings are transplanted over into Bad Blood. While the player count is limited, that's not to say that the world is lacking in occupants - the Infected are back from the main game, giving you more to worry about than your PvP opponents alone. But the basic aim remains the same: to be the last (human) player standing, and the sole survivor that makes it out on the helicopter at the climax of each session.
Looking closer at the core mechanics, it's fascinating to see how Dying Light transplants so many of its game systems so well into the battle royale concept. Encounters in the likes of PUBG are often over in a flash, while Bad Blood revels in extended encounters. It starts with the bone-crunching melee combat, where getting a kill is a longer, more protracted, bloodier affair. And then there's the parkour system and the sheer verticality of the environments - opponents close to death can run off in an attempt to regroup, scaling buildings using the existing parkour mechanic. It's a whole lot of fun and adds a new dimension to the PvP action.
From a technical perspective, it's fascinating to see how Techland has adapted Dying Light and the fast performance we enjoyed in the game. First of all, genuine thought has gone into adapting the existing game for the new concept - and it starts with the 'readability' of the terrain. Environments are less dense, traversal points are easier to identify, indirect lighting isn't quite so oppressive and the tone and colour scheme has been totally revamped. Bad Blood is brighter and more vibrant than the yellow/beige aesthetic of the original game, which again, I suspect is all about ensuring that the scene is easier to read.
We played the game at Techland's booth at Gamescom and while high-end hardware was in use, Bad Blood ran pretty much locked at 1080p resolution at 144 frames per second. Based on the configuration we experienced, it looks as though Techland has made changes designed to streamline the game for smooth performance. Post-processing is dialled back compared to the original release, most notably in motion blur. Screen-space reflections are also removed - which isn't missed that much since the early implementation in the first Dying Light was somewhat weird. Elsewhere, level of detail isn't on the same level as the original Dying Light and the placement of the Infected is somewhat reduced in number.
None of these changes were really required as such, it's simply in service of higher performance and a PvP experience that works better for the player. And maybe - just maybe - there are implications here for the mooted console releases. Back in the day, it was Dying Light's density in terms of graphical effects, LODs and Infected that put this firmly in 30fps territory on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Perhaps it's asking too much for Bad Blood to double its frame-rate to 60fps on the base machines, but with the kind of changes made in the PC version we've seen, aiming for full frame-rate on the enhanced consoles would be majorly beneficial to this title. It's difficult to say what's possible here as unfortunately, Techland never got around to adding extra features for PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X to the original Dying Light. As a new standalone game, we should see that support added.
In the shorter term though, hopefully we'll see Bad Blood emerge on PC fairly soon off the back of a beta test that ran this weekend. Across our sessions, we had plenty of fun with the game. Yes, it's another battle royale, but with Dying Light's mechanics, it feels fresh and compelling - and well worth checking out.