I love a good old-fashioned apocalypse. Just give me a nice bit of end of days mayhem, or a pinch of human vs human fighting and a mix of zombie, monsters and aliens and this reviewer is easily pleased. So does the Director’s Cut of Deadlight satisfy my Armageddon gaming lust? Or do I have to go out into the real world, find some zombies and start one myself?
Deadlight first came out on the Xbox 360 nearing the end of its cycle, but this is a remake with loads of extras for Xbox One. It’s a mix of a platformer, a shooter, a beat em up and a survival horror game all rolled into one. Showcased through a sliced view of the world, it plays as a side scrolling action adventure.
The year is 1986, we are in Seattle where civilisation has collapsed and is being overrun by “shadows’ – basically versions of the good old fashioned zombie. A few members of society are left and you are one of them. You play a man called Randall who’s looking for his wife and daughter through the chaos and mayhem of the city. The story takes you through the city itself, into the sewers, in and out of human conflict and onto emotional flashbacks to a different reality. It’s an effective, emotional journey that I really enjoyed, plus there are some great characters and situations that you encounter on the way.
The game is controlled by jumping and climbing over gaps, running and rolling through doors and working out small puzzles on the way. You have access to weapons as you progress from a steady axe, to a powerful shotgun. But this isn’t Dead Rising and killing zombies is very hard. In fact, the best thing to do is to run away quickly. When you do attack though you have a stamina bar that depletes very sharply when you are doing anything strenuous, so swinging an axe is hard, hard, work. If you get more than two zombies trapping you, you get to push them off once but after that you’re pretty much dead. Even the weapons like the gun and shotgun have limited ammo and can be hard to aim. This is the point though, and part of the survival game that makes Deadlight so tense and scary. The jumping works well but there are times when it’s hard to judge the edge before you leap off. The best device I found to use was the “holler” button where by you can shout out to the zombies so you can lead them into traps. My personal favourite tactic is to jump out of a window and hang onto the ledge, making sure they follow and fall to their death. The undead really are a bit stupid. The gameplay overall is deep, dynamic and kept me interested and entertained throughout the story.
Where Deadlight: Director’s Cut shines is with the beautiful and atmospheric appearance of the game. Every backdrop gloriously displays a world crumbling away into decay; we see hints of stories in the distance that we will never know the end to. All the action is brilliantly designed and drawn; it reminds me of Limbo, not so much in the look, but in the unique design and aesthetic. The cut scenes as well are played out using comic strip drawings, which is nicely done, and the amount of detail in the secrets found or the diary entries shows off some exemplary work by the developer. There are also some great flashback sequences that blew my socks off.
The voice over work is however a problem for me, especially the lead actor’s voice. The choice made here is to go for an ‘over the top, 80’s cartoon action hero’ grizzled delivery. It makes everything sound cliché and doesn’t make you invest or have any emotional attachment to the character. The same goes, in a lesser degree, for the other supporting characters, but it’s the lead that carries most of the game so it’s a real shame that this isn’t quite right. The score itself is very good bringing a mixture of effective sound effects and haunting music that really adds to the narrative journey.
Deadlight: Director’s Cut should take around five hours to complete and there are some tricky levels included, but nothing too taxing that will want to make you throw your controller across the room. There are secrets galore to find if you want to play through again, and some lovely bits of text that you can find to gain further insight into the collapse of society and other people’s reactions to the crisis. The diary entries also offer an insight into the past of the main character and are actually a really good read and an interesting take on the end of days.
There is also, after completion, a Nightmare mode, which is the same again but harder…and more annoying I guess. But if you’re into that sort of thing then it’s a good addition. The Director’s Cut also has a new mode called Survival Arena, which is basically seeing how long you can survive against hordes of zombies. It’s a welcome addition to the package and a lot of fun to play – however long that fun lasts.
Overall, Deadlight: Directors Cut is a great game and one of the best-looking titles from the Xbox Live Arcade. I really enjoyed my play through of the story and was generally interested in the lore, and even though I wasn’t enamoured with the voice work, the story is well crafted.
So if you, like me, want your end times to be action packed, frightening and gory then Deadlight is the game for you.