2D platforming survival horror title Deadlight first launched back in the summer of 2012 amidst a swell of Xbox Live Arcade titles bombarding players on the Xbox 360. Tequila Games dreary, grizzled tale of one man’s solitary quest to find his lost family throughout the bodies and wreckage of post-apocalyptic Seattle compelled me, Deadlight proved to be a success before its launch onto Steam a couple short months later in 2012.
At the time of its initial release, Deadlight felt like a wonderful combination of fellow Xbox Live Arcade titles Limbo and Mark of the Ninja with its two-dimensional gameplay, stealth moments and constant threat of death. Couple that aspect with a chilling wasteland, a place where humanity has become overrun by a much darker force and you have all the hallmarks of what could be potentially a great title, for the better part it was, but what has changed since 2012?, as Directors Cut makes its way onto the current generation consoles and PC.
Deadlight: Director’s Cut: Xbox One, PlayStation 4 [Reviewed], PC
Developer: Tequila Works/Abstraction Games
Publisher: Deep Silver
Release Date: 10 June 2016
Price: £15.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
In Deadlight players assume the role of Randall Wayne, a burly man separated from his fellow group of survivors, on a mission to find his wife and daughter, whom he believes are alive and lost somewhere in the unforgiving setting of Seattle. The world Randall and anyone else alive knew appears a distant lifetime away. The streets, once alive with the brimming sound of human activity now burn and crumble in the night, buildings that housed so many of Seattle’s residents now lie in ruin, even beneath the streets surface the sewers pose a threat. Zombies or as Wayne refers to them ‘Shadows’ prowl every inch of the streets, tearing away at the flesh of anyone unfortunate enough to be left alive. Throughout his lonesome journey, the game’s protagonist will have to use every bit of street smarts he owns along with various combat techniques to make it through the story and out the other side in one piece.
For those unfamiliar with Deadlight, the game’s story is broken down into three separate Acts with the tension ramping up as players come to terms with the games controls and push further into the belly of the story. With each Act, the games beautifully artistic backdrop drastically changes as Wayne desperately searches Seattle’s streets and buildings for his family, amidst the carnage of a world at breaking point, on its knees and overrun by deadly enemies. The distinction between the game’s various atmospheres help to pull players in, Deadlight has an emotional crutch to it, which echoes throughout. As a character, Randall is likable, willing to assist fellow survivors if he can but always acting with his beloved family forever foremost in his mind.
Being a 2D platformer, it really feels as if the player should be moving forward constantly. A shark would die if it stopped swimming and Randall is of the same mindset, he needs to be doing something, even if he stops to help someone, his family are always on his mind. Deadlight offers the kind of connection between player and protagonist that keeps the former on edge. Throughout the story, Randall encounters pages of his diary, which help to paint a better picture of his backstory as well as other survivors tales. There are also items that can be picked up, which further this compelling story.
With the re-release of Deadlight comes a much-welcomed makeover. Touches of polish have been added to the game’s overall theme and its animations have been enhanced, making the game’s gritty and comic book style cutscenes more enjoyable to watch. Additionally, Deadlight’s controls feel much tighter, which is a real blessing in a game where precision is often key to a players survival. Movement as players transcend the wasteland feels greatly improved, climbing from perilous ledge to perilous ledge before eventually springboarding to reach a far away ladder now feels more comfortable and far less twitchy. The game has also been upgraded to run in 1080p across all platforms allowing for a far sharper feel, in keeping with today’s expectations.
Sadly weapon wielding still feels tired and far too slow for a game of this nature. Too often I found myself bogged down by Shadows due to the speed or lack of when using the games primary weapon fireman’s axe or the slow reloading of the firearms. One swing of the axe left me on the verge of real trouble, stamina is a tricky element to manage. Quickly draining it can leave you facing down a horde of unrelenting zombies, which will more often than not see the player pulled down and struggling to gain control under the sheer weight of a horde. In a game where you have limited health, it can became a running theme to find yourself clinging on for dear life as you desperately search for a first aid kit to heal wounds. I would have liked to have seen new additional weapons thrown into the game to spice up the action, limiting a player to three weapons quickly becomes repetitive, variation is needed.
Visually, Deadlight appeals. Its dark gritty atmosphere, somber soundtrack and characters all make for an eerie yet enjoyable game but its sluggish combat system and puzzles largely weigh it down. Working through puzzles should require time and patience, a certain level of thinking, in order to carefully decipher each one, however, Deadlight’s puzzles are easily mapped out for players and far too simple, removing a vital element of enjoyment. White arrows highlight areas Randall will need to access in order to escape an area and that is far too much hand holding for my liking, removing these hints after the game’s introduction would have sufficed, additionally, an option to switch them off in-game would have made it more a challenging experience.
Along with its visual enhancements, Deadlight: Directors Cut on the consoles also comes with Nightmare Mode, unlocked after completing the main story. Previously a PC exclusive mode, Nightmare offers players an alternative ending to the games main storyline which is well worth pursuing. The difference between the single player story and Nightmare Mode is the steep challenge it possesses. With save points throughout each Act turned off, the only checkpoint appears after completion of a single Act. Nightmare Mode requires a lot of patience, skill and the ability to not smash your console into a million tiny little fragments after every little failing but is a nice addition.
Survival Mode, on the other hand, takes place inside an abandoned Hospital and sees Randall take on a timed challenge similar to that of the Resident Evil series where the objective is to fend off enemies for as long as humanly possible with the use of weapons and various boxes to block off an enemies path. The Hospital is a large area with a variety of different routes to climb to and take but sadly there is only one map available and while an arcade styled addition gives players something extra to enjoy, ultimately Survival Mode flatters to deceive and won’t take up too much of players time.
Deadlight: Directors Cut is a two-dimensional platformer based on one man’s compelling tale of survival in Seattle set against an artistically gritty post-apocalyptic backdrop. Despite its largely enjoyable elements and very likeable protagonist the game is hampered by a sluggish combat system that leaves a lot to be desired with puzzles that quite frankly wouldn’t trouble a small child. Deadlight’s animations have been vastly improved with the game now also running a resolution of 1080p across all platforms, its controls also feel smoother. The addition of Nightmare and Survival Mode offer players different routes away from the main game. While Nightmare Mode offers players a real challenge Survival Mode won’t keep players attentions for too long despite its initial addictive nature.
In 2012 Deadlight offered players a fresh alternate spin on the world of zombies and for what its worth Director’s Cut will no doubt draw players back who enjoyed the original title on the Xbox 360 as well as new ones, however, for all its promise Deadlight is still a game flawed by its mechanics.