There are so many games available these days, that creating a memorable gaming experience has fast become more than simply delivering a fun experience. But that never used to be the case. See, back in the ’90s if you had a spare controller and some friends to hand it was rare that you used to want for much more other than the deliverance of fun, a bit of competition and ensuring no-one was touching that dodgy ‘Turbo’ button.
With party games on the rise once more however, it seems some developers are happy to return to simpler times, forgoing the need to always focus on vast in-depth stories and visual masterpieces to bring a memorable tale. Deadliners does just that, bringing players nothing but some classic party madness.
Haven’t heard of Deadliners? Fear not for the rules are simple and the idea novel – especially given it’s essentially a multiplayer version of the iconic Snake. In fact, there’s plenty of fun to be had early on. Whichever mode you choose to jump into – of which there are several – you’ll be taking on the control of a single line, a Deadliner, and by utilising clever planning, and working with plenty of cunning and skill, you’ll be able to ensure your Deadliner is the winner.
Within Deadliners the first thing to take note of is the path opposing players are taking and the obstacles that stand in your way. Any and all movement around the in-game arena will see your Deadliner, and those of other players, leaving a permanent trail of where they’ve been. Running into these trails is essentially like running into a brick wall… it’s game over, much like in the aforementioned mobile hit, Snake. As you would expect, this can become quite troublesome should the screen start to fill with multiple coloured destructive trails, and so tactical thinking is a must should you want to come out on top.
Running into each of the lines isn’t the only threat to worry about in Deadliners though and with large squares often appearing in vast numbers across the angled arena, it doesn’t take long before players are required to bring the key mechanics and lifelines into play – shooting and clearing.
You see, shooting is essential for two reasons; the first of which being to clear away the obstacles blocking your path, whilst the other is because you can use shooting to block the path of opposing players. With each shot, players fire a square physical shape a pre-set distance. Hit something destructible such as a block in your path, and you can destroy it. Miss and you’ll find your shot turning into the next obstacle blocking everyone’s path. It’s a unique idea and one that requires players to think before shooting, but it can also see Deadliners become a little confusing, especially when the screen becomes full of lines and obstacles, and you’re too close to be able to do much about it.
Clearing on the other hand is especially useful in such a situation, as it enables players to pass through opposing players ‘deadlines’, giving some vital breathing room when things get too tense.
All of this plays out across five unique game modes, in which you’ll need to utilise some fabulous skills. Free For All sees 2-4 players battling it out for points in various different maps, while Capture the Flag is a 2v2 game mode that has players fighting to get a flag back to their base, adding a twist in the form of the death of a player removing their line entirely. After that we have Linehunter, a 3-4 player mode that has players attempting to become the line by eliminating the current Deadliner, and Survival which runs as a 1-4 player mode pushing players through waves of randomly spawning targets; the idea being to survive as long as possible by making well timed clearances and shots in a bid to chase down the high score.
There is also my personal favourite; Skill Challenge. The Skill Challenge mode in Deadliners on Xbox One is basically where you go to learn the game – it’s a training of sorts, and it’s something you can only do in Single Player. While most players would usually want to skip the training in a game and get straight into the thick of it, the Skill Challenge mode is essentially an additional game mode with 7 unique challenges to master for each of the game’s mechanics: Move, Shoot, Clear and Control. Shoot and Clear teach you how and when to shoot perfectly by sending players through surprisingly difficult courses that require quick thinking and reactions to reach the end of, but it is the Move and Control challenges which are most appealing, and probably the place I spent most of my time with the game. After having played several games of Deadliners already with friends, I found myself stuck in an addicted loop of wanting more and more from the Move and Control challenges, and they are so enjoyable in themselves, that they could well be made into an entire game of their own.
Sadly, there are only currently seven of each, so it would require a lot more in order to flesh out a full title, but both the Move and Control challenges bring a lot of fun should you have the patience and skill to be able to get through them. Each set of challenges sends players through extremely tight courses with numerous barriers ready to bring your efforts to an immediate end, should you make the slightest mistake. What’s so enjoyable however is that the shooting and clearing mechanics aren’t important here and the key goal is simply making it all the way to the end of the stage; something which is incredibly difficult due to the speed in which your Deadliner travels and the complexity of the stages.
Away from the gameplay side of things however and Deadliners is a game that presents itself well. It’s a very basic idea that’s easy to follow once you’ve learnt the few key mechanics that are in place, and with simplistic visuals which amount to little more than bright neon-backgrounds and a Tron-like/snake-esque inspiration, it brings an art style that catches the eye quickly. Sadly, there is currently no option to play with any A.I. or other players online, and that’s a shame as it would have been nice for players unable to bring a local group together. In fact, that lack of online could well be the biggest downfall for the game.
Unfortunately, there is one issue with Deadliners that is very hard to overlook; the lack of visual identification for each player in-game. Before each game players are able to choose from a bunch of designs for their Deadliner, which on paper is perfect, but when it comes down to playing, the only thing you’ll be focusing on is the dot that you are controlling at the end of your line, and with no other visual cues to differentiate each player, it can be hard to know exactly who is who when the screen becomes cluttered; something which can often result in accidental deaths.
Overall though and Deadliners is a decently enjoyable game. Of course, for the most part you do need to have a group of friends ready to play, but it’s a game that provides a level of replayability and gets the basics right. If you’re after something that you can play for hours on end then Deadliners may not be the best choice, but for short gaming bursts with a few friends then it does the job, offering tense and frantic gaming that requires ultimate concentration and skill to win. And that’s something we’ve missed in the party genre for quite some time.