Popping out for a bite to eat took on a brand-new meaning with 2015’s Dying Light, and now again with its bigger, darker, and even more dystopian sequel. Light and dark plays a big part in this vampiric tale, including ray tracing editions for new-gen consoles and higher-end PCs. So, let’s sample the bits and bytes of Dying Light 2 Stay Human.
Parkouring our way through the console & PC versions, we have a collection of modes and settings to work through. The last-gen versions weren’t ready in time for coverage in this review, so we instead will concentrate on the Xbox Series X, Series S, and PS5 along with our AMD-powered PC with an RX6800 GPU. First up, let’s examine the three modes Techland’s proprietary Chrome engine (or C-engine) offers – on Series X and PS5, at least.
Console Game modes
Two of the three modes are 30fps, with Quality mode boasting ray tracing that adds full-contact hardening sun shadows, enabling soft dithered shadows across both static and dynamic objects. These are a big increase in the quality and accuracy of shadows and can drastically change certain scenes due to the upgrade, but they are expensive. In addition, ambient occlusion of a screen space variety and screen space shadows all combine to create more accurate lighting and darker tones in recessed areas in both indoor and outdoor sections. Reflections also offer better quality than other modes, but are still screen space in nature. All these are identical in quality and coverage on Series X and PS5, but some other minor bugs do crop up.
Next is Resolution mode, which turns these ray traced shadows off and greatly reduces the ambient occlusion. This lack of depth and grounding of objects in the scene does stand out and again highlights some odd differences from Series X to PS5. The benefit is resolution, which is significantly increased over all other modes but it does come at the cost of some beneficial post effects used to improve the image quality.
Then we come to the shared mode across all three consoles: Performance mode. It’s pretty much identical on all platforms, aside from framerates, and the Series S has the better SSR reflections that PS5 and Series X use in the Quality mode but does not have any ray-traced shadows. A nice boost is that the AO is now back to the level – or just one rung lower – that we see in the Quality mode. Aside from the performance boost here and the cascaded shadow maps used across all objects, we do see the shadow filter being dropped on all consoles, with the Series S having the worst shadows of all. But in this mode, they are all quite low.
The benefit of the ray-traced shadows is obvious in many areas but the GI bounce, which appears close or the same as high settings from the PC in Performance mode and Medium in the Quality mode, is mixed. Some indoor or outdoor settings show minimal improvement while others really add radiosity bounce from surface colours and illuminate covered areas with greater light than any direct source would deliver. The PC version improves on this with more refined ray-traced shadows – or at least more of them – but the improved reflections also help. Oddly, though, they are screen space on horizontal planes such as water surfaces but ray traced on vertical surfaces to enhance material reactions, even at the highest settings. Also, the settings menu has good options with fast, low, high, and RT settings or tweaks across key areas such as ambient occlusion, motion blur, particles and those ray tracing additions.
The lower-end Xbox Series S, which only has a single mode. It tops and bottoms out at 1920×1080 with no signs of dynamic resolution scaling or DSR, but it is pushing this little 4 teraflop GPU hard, even at the 30fps Performance level. It does deliver decent image quality on a 1080p screen, but on a 4K screen the relatively low pixel level is apparent – not all due to pixel counts alone, though.
Dying Light 2 Performance Review Images
The Series X & PS5 are surprisingly equal in two of their three modes. Both Quality and Performance deliver 1080p, again fixed, on both machines. The shading and effects do not reconstruct back to 4K here either, even with TAA, and ultimately image quality in this mode is pretty much identical to the Series S on both higher-end consoles. The biggest delta here, specifically, is Performance which doubles framerates from 30 to 60 on Series X and PS5.
The resolution mode does give us a difference, though, with the PS5’s 3264×1836 being 10% lower than the Series X’s 3456×1944. The increase from the 1080p base is instantly visible and, although far from a drastic game changer (largely due to the noisy post-processed image from radial blur on motion that funnels your view with a peripheral blur and then chromatic aberration along with per-object motion blur and even film grain) you can disable that. PC is the best among them at this, as you can adjust motion blur and other settings more. It makes for a fuzzy and hazy image at times, which can be exaggerated by low light, lens flare, and bloom. Also, the sharpening pass on textures is reduced in this mode, which means high-frequency texture details do not differ as much as the pixel counts suggest. Visually, though, even zoomed in the PS5 looks the same as Series X, but pixel counts show it has a minor reduction. That makes sense based on hardware specs of the high CU count and this older DX11-capable engine (it does also support DX12 due to the ray tracing), but it is very much a game and engine focused on the previous generation’s technology.
Series S runs at 30fps, and it does a good job of keeping close to that in action and traversal, but it can present some frame-pacing or skipping into 50 then 16ms issues when running over rooftops, albeit brief and mild. It uses an adaptive V-sync, allowing the screen to tear if the target is missed. Again, it is brief, but it can happen in GPU and bandwidth/fill rate-heavy sections with enemies on screen, and with alpha textures and blood in play you can get into the mid-20s for very minor stints with tearing when it happens. Not great, but certainly never bad, and most of the time it was a solid 30fps with only fleeting issues.
Frame-pacing or skips infrequently also pop up on Series X, again very minor, but when moving between sections it can have these skips, likely memory related. Still, they are brief and much rarer than on the Series S. This is true of both Resolution and Quality modes but in almost 95% or more of the time it is paced at 33ms per frame, and from my tested sections it never tears at all. I suspect all versions run the same way so very odd tearing could crop up, but I never captured any.
Performance mode is commendable but the best mode is the 60fps one. With clearly a large amount of GPU headroom left it never dropped a single frame from my tests, which is brilliant. And although this mode does have a lower resolution it is visually between the other two, offering worse shadows than either but just as good (or close enough) ambient occlusion at twice the framerate. It quickly became my chosen mode, which was not only due to the performance uptick but also the fact that the artistic choices and sacrifices in the Resolution mode do make the differences in more nuanced ways than you would suspect at first.
The PS5 is almost identical: I noted no pacing issues on Sony’s machine in either 30fps mode, and combat was equally as solid with no noted drops, tears, or stutters in my tested sections. Playing a great many hours, I found it to always be solid in both 30fps modes, which means if you want ray-traced shadows or sharper pixels it performs well. The 60fps mode is, like Series X, perfectly locked in all segments, giving us a nice flat frame-time graph at 16ms (which equates to a flat 60fps on the framerate). Again, with clearly plenty of headroom left to spare this may seem like waste, but with a game that clearly has been affected with delays, understandably, this is the right choice. I commend the team at Techland for giving us such a rock-solid 60fps on both new-generation consoles and even a decent 30fps on the little Series S that could.
The vast number of target platforms, the additions to the engine of adding ray tracing, and even further PC features are excellent. But with no Velocity Architecture API currently available in DX12 Ultimate, Techland’s team was unable to use the SSDs in any of the new consoles or PC to full effect, and they have clearly not used the PS5’s API either. The net result is that we see a very “last-gen” loading experience. In my test it took 24 seconds on both Series consoles and 32 seconds on PS5 (32% slower), which shows the team is likely using the GNMX equivalent here to ease such a monstrous development challenge. The PC comes in a second or so slower than the Series consoles, but faster CPUs would likely decrease this time. Of note is that the Series S also has more fades to black into cinematics even though they are real-time, which rarely happens on the other two consoles. But once you’re into your game, loading is very minimal across the open cityscape.
The PC does offer some big boosts in image quality and certainly choices for settings, but the cost and requirements mean my RX6800 is the only choice to max these out. My RTX 2070 was heavily impacted even at 1080 with RT on and no DLSS to ease that further, although upscaling is present in the video menu. (DLSS has now been added to the menu but just missed the date of this review being published) The relatively low RAM allocation on the GPU affects it, alongside DX12U having memory leaks which present as crashes. The more demanding requirements on memory allocation and bandwidth is not a surprise both for the newer API and the ray tracing additions within the bounding volume hierarchy (BVH). This never occurred on my RX6800 but that does have double the RAM, at 16GB.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human Review Screenshots
CPU-wise, Dying Light 2 is excellent, with my 3600 offering 120+fps when running across the city and higher in other sections with accomplished threaded work across all 12 threads. The GPU demands are much higher, with FSR upscaling again being a savior here, meaning FSR balanced at 1440P still offers great image quality at the higher ray-traced settings or 4K FSR Balanced at High settings both close to or above 60fps with ray tracing on, are a necessity on these cards. The level of visual boost you will see will vary, and for me the cost to performance is higher than that benefit, but the choice to pick is best and at times it can offer a welcome visual boost to a game that can be varied with high highs and some low lows visually.
Dying Light 2 does have some minor bugs that can happen, from shadow map disparities on PS5 modes remaining higher across all modes than Series X, errors in menu descriptions, to those memory leaks on DX12U. Be aware that this does not happen in either the DX12 or DX11 renders, which are supported, but you need greater than 8GB video RAM at the moment. If you do have any similar issues then you should use DX11 or DX12 with older cards and, in AMD’s case, remain with DX12 as the AMD driver is still poor.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human feels very European, which I love with an RPG with a character-driven narrative that has some excellent motion capture and facial animation. Art and design are flamboyant but mixed with such a big game, and considering the simply huge delivery schedule it’s not surprising that the level of polish can vary on textures and characters. But the leap up in visual and technical accomplishment over the original Dying Light is impressive, and the PC version does offer greater choice and refinement of these assets. The only issue, I think, is that the cost will be too high for many to reach or want to spend over image quality and performance gains. Console performance, meanwhile, is exceptional and should be applauded for how well it runs in all modes across all tested consoles. The Series S does feel a rung down with no modes to choose from and no 60fps option. Even at 900P and other reduced settings that might’ve still been of benefit to some – maybe something for the team to add later, once they get a break post release. Note that the old-gen version may be another story entirely – we haven’t been able to test it yet – but for current-gen consoles and PC the choice is good and the performance is exceptional. Just be aware of the PC demands on those ray tracing options.