Less than four years ago, Tequila Works brought Deadlight — its bleak tale of human survival — to the Xbox 360 and Windows platforms, and received mixed reviews in the process. Now, a new generation of consoles is in full swing, and that very same game has made a somewhat surprising return as Deadlight: Director’s Cut.
In both versions of this experience, players control one Randall Wayne, who’s separated from his pack of allied survivors. Alone and outnumbered by shadows (his name for zombies), he’s left to his devices and must use everything at his disposal in order to survive. This means finding axes, revolvers, shotguns and health expanders, all of which will aid his cause.
Hyperrealism and overexposed lighting are both used to give Deadlight: Director’s Cut its look, while a camera that looks in on the action from afar makes the characters (and their enemies) look small. It’s all quite similar to some of the Metroidvania games we’ve played over the years, with typical gameplay to boot. That said, there’s less backtracking and puzzle solving in Deadlight, which plays out as more of a side-scroller.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t secrets to discover, as looking off the beaten path will allow you to find the majority of the game’s hidden ID badges, diary pages, newspaper clippings and character buffs. Furthermore, specifically placed weapons — like axes, revolvers and shotguns — are not limited or meant for one time use, and also play a vital role in Randall’s survival. For example, the axe is required to break wooden planks that block progress through specific doors, while the pistol is used to shoot and break locks.
The base gameplay is slow and sometimes methodical, as Mr. Wayne must be wary of his surroundings, making sure to avoid man made spike traps and enemies of the undead variety. Dealing with those beasts one on one isn’t a death sentence, but jumping into a group of them can be, unless you’re able to spam the B button and swing your axe like a madman. Even then, it’s can be tough to clear a given area, because each zombie takes a couple of hits to down, then one more to kill as it lays motionless on the ground. My best advice is to swing for the fences, then run like your life depends on it, because it kind of does.
Like its predecessor, Deadlight: Director’s Cut is broken up into three different chapters. The first involves finding a way out after being separated, plus getting one’s bearings in the game’s overrun version of mid-80s Seattle, while the second is mostly about meeting and aiding a strange new friend. I bring this up, because the first part of the second act can be a pain in the ass, thanks to that character’s tests. You see, he takes your weapons away, then forces you to make your way through multiple boring puzzles, in a way to prove that you’re an intelligent human who’s worthy of his time. It’s frustrating, bland and can be annoying to get through, because the camera makes it difficult to see exactly what lays in your way and the game’s controls can also be problematic from time to time.
Outside of the Rat Man’s maze, though, this is a pretty decent game. It’s a bit clunky, yes, but it manages to succeed in its somewhat minimalistic approach, and exists as a relatively interesting way to spend three to four hours. That said, I question the need for this re-release, given the middling reviews at launch and how little this thing has been talked about since 2012.
With this remaster, Deep Silver has promised updated controls, improved 1080p resolution, and all around better visuals. However, after playing through both versions of the game, I can’t wholeheartedly say that I noticed a major difference. Sure, it’s been a while, but the original version was never a real looker, and this one is more of the same, albeit with better lighting. It’s not bad looking, but it’s stylized and zoomed out to the point where details get lost. There’s also still a very minor amount of sluggishness, as well as the odd glitch here and there. I personally encountered one where I was thrown up, way out of the map’s confines, before falling to my death.
There is a new survival mode to be found, though while it does add something new to the mix I don’t expect it to hook anybody longterm. It drops you into a closed, but labyrinthine environment (that being a children’s hospital), where you must survive a zombie onslaught for as long as possible. Weapons litter the landscape, boxes can be pulled out to act as blockades, and both your time and your kills are ranked in online leaderboards.
If you’ve played through Deadlight once before, there’s little need to upgrade to Deadlight: Director’s Cut, unless you absolutely loved the experience the first time around. The updates are tough to discern, the bonus content is rather limited, and the $19.99 price tag is on the high side. However, if you’ve yet to test your mettle at surviving Randall’s nightmare, then you may feel enticed to pick this half-decent game up on its second go around. It’s worth playing through once, but hasn’t — and won’t — set the world on fire.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
Deadlight: Director's Cut is worth a look if you're new to this post-apocalyptic tale. However, if you've already played through the game in its original state, there's little reason to return.