It’s a story as old as time itself. My family is missing, my friends have gone on ahead without me, and the only thing between me and my target destination is a horde of zombies. I don’t know how, but I will get my friends and family back. Not even the seas of hell will be enough to slow me down.
We should set the record straight on something before we go much further. Deadlight isn’t a horror game as much as it wants to claim it is. There aren’t any aspects of the game that are meant to jump at you, and outside of a somewhat creepy vibe from time to time I can’t honestly see why this would be considered part of the genre. Those of you looking for a new Resident Evil or Amnesia title will have to keep looking as this will do nothing to quench that thirst. Instead, what we’re given here is an action-platformer, which contains an emphasis on puzzle solving and adds a few horror elements in for good measure.
However, when a game wants to act as a platformer, it is imperative that the controls are precise. Sadly, the canned animations found throughout Deadlight come off as extremely clunky and lead to some frustrating deaths. Thankfully, most of the platforming elements in the game are fairly straightforward affairs, so this isn’t often a huge issue, but there were some parts that could have been grossly improved with a more fluid animation system.
While Deadlight isn’t the most original story I’ve ever come across, the way it’s presented is impressive. The game is set in Seattle, Washington during the mid 80s, after an unknown apocalyptic event has taken place. There’s nothing here you haven’t seen before, and it can be incredibly ham-fisted from time to time. However, it’s an engaging tale that I wasn’t ready to pull myself away from.
Deadlight does equip you with a handgun and shotgun occasionally but, outside of the third act, combat is discouraged. The zombie horde will overwhelm you given enough time, so your best bet is to quickly figure out the easiest path out of the room and hightail it out of there. To help you get around your pursuers a bit easier, you’re able to whistle or yell to grab their attention, leading them towards wherever you’re standing. If you manage to get to a bit of higher ground before luring them towards you, it’s a fairly simple task to simply jump over them.
The visuals themselves aren’t fantastic, but the way they are presented leads to a pleasing aesthetic. It seems that Tequila Works knew that they weren’t working with a graphics engine that would blow people away, but by zooming out the camera and altering the lighting they were able to make character models that would have been right at home on the PS2 seem like a perfect fit. Everything is a bit dirty and grimy, and while this would normally be a negative, that look fits very well with the dystopian world that is presented and I can’t really imagine anything else fitting quite as well.
The rare times that you see a character model in direct light are a bit jarring; however, if you’re able to suspend disbelief a bit then there’s enough here to get lost within. It’s really a testament to the designers of Deadlight that a game made up of subpar elements stands out as one of the most visually engaging titles of the year.
The audio here is workable, however there’s something unnerving about the voice acting. Some of the characters feel a bit out of place, almost as if the actors were a bit distracted at times. The resulting dialogue comes off as a bit forced, which is a shame since some of the actors themselves are absolutely brilliant. Randall sounds like he eats cigarettes to save valuable time spent smoking and is a perfect voice for the grizzled outdoorsmen. The Rat Man’s dialogue manages to perfectly convey the mind of man who is driving to the brink of insanity. If Tequila Works had been able to spend a bit more time directing the actors to sound more natural in their approach, this would have been a contender for a best voice acting award.
The soundtrack itself is absolutely outstanding. It may not have anything that will get stuck in your head for days on end, but the somber tone the orchestral score conveys is second to none. I really hope that Tequila Works releases the soundtrack down the road in some format; this would be the perfect music to have for a haunted house or for clearing your head at three in the morning.
The story itself is dreadfully short. While the game does log how long it took you to complete it, there’s a huge difference between playing time and real time. I clocked just over 2 hours with my initial play through according to the game’s leaderboard, but I’d wager that it took me right around 5 hours of actually playing the game. While it was enjoyable at this length, I have to expect more from a game that runs 1200 Microsoft Points.
Once you finish Deadlight, you’ll be a bit hard pressed to find a reason to fire it back up. There is an avatar reward as well as an achievement for clearing 100% of the game, but considering that I was able to complete 75% of the title with my first play through, I can’t imagine that scavenging through the game for what I’ve missed can add all that much.
Deadlight is trying very hard to live up to the grandeur of previous Summer of Arcade masterpieces such as Shadow Complex and LIMBO, but it’s fallen far short of reaching their status. The game is definitely enjoyable, but between its clumsy animation system and abbreviated length, I have to question if there’s enough here to earn your lasting adoration. If its price was set at 800 Microsoft Points, this would be a no brainer, but paying 15 bucks for a title that you could complete in an afternoon is a hard sale. Deadlight is in no way, shape or form a perfect game, but there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had here.
This review is based on a copy of the game that was provided to us for review purposes.
Deadlight showed all of the potential of being a stellar game, but due to a few questionable decisions from the directors as well as its abbreviated length, it falls somewhere between "ok" and "good".