Deadlight is a 2.5D cinematic platformer set in a 1980’s Seattle, during a Zombie Apocalypse. The game is developed by Tequila Works and published by Microsoft for XBLA. While the game focuses on platforming there are some survival horror elements and twin-stick shooting elements.
The game begins with you killing a fellow zombie survivor, after she is bitten by a zombie. The other survivors return, being chased by the undead. After giving them your gun and helping them escape, you enter into the tutorial. It takes you through the basics and is pretty risk free; though if you’re not careful the undead can get you.
You play Randall Wayne, once a Canadian Park Ranger he has turned into a survivor of the Zombie Apocalypse. His only goal is to find his wife and daughter, who he lost during the initial attack. The group he is with manages to escape without him and he sets out to track them down, find the “Safe Point” and rescue his family.
The game heavily relies on platforming, with the majority of the game having you commit acrobatic leaps over gorges, pools of water or between buildings. You can climb obstacles, hang off of ledges and wires and wall jump; all of which help you traverse the environment. While quite linear; you will have to use your skills to reach some more difficult areas, if you want to collect items that are off the beaten path. Luckily a small visual clue, in the form of a small piece of cloth blowing in the wind can show you where some ledges are. It really does help when you get stuck in some of the areas but it can point out hidden routes as well.
Due to the weight and realism that the gameplay goes for in terms of movement; the controls feel clunky and imprecise in some situations. Aligning yourself for some of the context sensitive actions will leave you stuck in crowds of zombies or in some environmental traps; this is the same for some jumps as well which require quick timing and alignment to grab above you. The controls also make it difficult to manage some of the long jumps as well, due to how precise you need to be.
Randall’s inability to swim is a little annoying as well; as there are a few times where water is just an obstacle for the sake of having an obstacle. Stamina is also taken into account when hanging off of ledges and such but only really comes into play when running for extended periods or during close combat. It does affect your speed and in combat, it very much affects the effectiveness of keeping enemies at bay.
Combat comes in three forms: close combat, ranged and environmental. Environmental traps are few and far between but they do offer some interesting deaths now and again. Dropping cars on opponents, leading them into electricity or calling/whistling for their attention; only to have them lured off of ledges or into traps. It easily falls into the more interesting and fun combat in the game but the chances for its uses aren’t often enough.
Close combat starts with you just pushing the Shadows off of you to begin with but later on you will find an axe to deal with them for good. Cutting down swathes of enemies with your axe will not happen anytime soon as it is largely ineffective against them. Enemies swarm you and you have to waste a large amount of stamina to knock down multiple foes. Enemies will grab you and rapidly pressing B will be your only escape. Having multiple enemies surrounding you is likely a death sentence; as you have a hard time escaping all of their grips. Aside from headshots and environment kills, Shadows can only be killed in Close quarters by either finishing them on the ground with your axe or if you are lucky, getting a decapitation with the axe.
Shooting is normally optional and you will only need to use it in certain sections. A headshot is the only way of getting a kill on the “Shadows” and body shots are ineffectual at best. It is a standard twin stick approach to shooting and is very easy to aim. You will find that for large sections of the game you will have more ammo in your weapons than needed and can almost use all your ammo without any thought to running out. One reason for this is that a few “safe” sections contain a body where you can stock up on ammo. Moving away and back again, lets you re-loot the corpse; giving you effectively infinite ammo in some areas.
The game is made up of three acts; each of which is split into small chapters which can be replayed once you have arrived in it. Each chapter can last anywhere between 2-10 minutes on a singular clean (no dying or restarting) run and the entire game will last about 2-3 hours on a clean run. It is quite easy to make it into 5-7 hours from just playing through the game for the first time. There is a multitude of collectibles to find throughout the game and the chapter select will give you a breakdown of what you have so far. These range from diary pages, mementos and even three “Game and Watch” style handheld games to play.
The story never really pulls any punches and you’ll guess most of the plot before it even happens. The diary entries are a nice touch and are much more interesting than the main story. Randall’s narration does enter the realms of being pretentious at times as he over-reflects on the situation at hand.
Presentation and Audio
Graphically it’s love it or hate it. The darkness of everything in the foreground contrasts with the more colourful and detailed background environments; it makes for an interesting style but it may not be to everyone’s tastes. The audio sets the atmosphere quite well but the voices range in quality and Randall’s voice may be a little too gruff and soldier-like for some.
The clunky controls can be a bit of a downer but it does feel moderately more realistic in the way Randall moves because of it. There will be many a section of gameplay that you’ll have to redo until you get things right but it rarely gets too frustrating; though there are some sections that are just brutally difficult and require perfect timing. Close combat can get awkward but the shooting is let down by body shots doing seemingly nothing to stop your attackers approaching you.
It is very reminiscent of last year’s War of the Worlds game; though it lacks the same level of story but makes up for it by having better gameplay. The majority of the first act is superb but it does lose steam over the course of the game. The second act feels odd due to it being much harder and more long-winded than the other chapters. The game has some good set pieces but the flashbacks could have been left out as they offer little other than to tell bits of a story you more than likely already know.
The story takes a detour from reality during the second act. Though it does it purely to add more of the puzzle elements into the game and as such; gives it more interesting a varied platforming experience. It is a welcome change; as the rest of the game is much more easy and predictable save for a few sections. The game is built more around how the story unfolds rather than the gameplay which is good or bad depending on how you look at it.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.