Horror seems to be seeping into mainstream culture like brains from a Zombie’s mouth. We have had an influx of Vampires hit TV, Film, Comics and Books recently. The fang-tastic ghouls have dabbled with video games but perhaps felt that the other areas of entertainment more profitable. Zombies however didn’t have that problem. They want brains and don’t care where they can feed from. After feeding their way through TV, Comics, Books and Film, we have seen a Zombie invasion hit the video game market in the last few years.
Don’t get me wrong, horror and zombies, specifically survival horror are not new to the video game market, with titles like the Resident Evil and The House of Dead series setting the stage over 15 years ago. Recent years though have seen games like Left for Dead, Dead Space, Dead Island and the awesome The Walking Dead: The Video Game all coming to our consoles with a passion from brains and bucket loads of blood.
This influx and increase of zombies and survival horror coming to our consoles is where Deadlight hits its first problem. The market is becoming saturated by this horror sub genre and it needs to do something different to stand out. For me, Deadlight falls short from the get go.
The game developed by Tequilla Works and published by Microsoft Studios is the first from Tequilla Works who were established in 2009. The game is a survival horror that focuses on a decimated Seattle after a virus outbreak. You play the part of Randall Wayne who has been separated from his wife and daughter and joined a pack of survivors. After being separated from the group of survivors, who you have had minimal time to learn about or care for, you are left to traverse the Seattle landscape alone.
The adventure sees you spend 2 – 3 hours solving puzzles, escaping the ‘shadows’ (the name of the zombies within this game) and avoiding and then ultimately confronting the evil army ‘The New Law’ as you make your way to a promised sanctuary called ‘The Safe Point’.
Reading the premise, Deadlight already feels like a story I have read, seen or played through before and I think that is a problem with this genre. To be able to pull it off, you need the execution to be perfect and unfortunately Deadlight fails to do that.
The game is split into 3 Acts and for the majority of the game is paced quite well. The problem the game has it that it feels like a very standard platformer where you run, jump, shoot, solve a puzzle and then repeat. This means that by the time I got halfway through Act 2, it did start to get tiresome. The reason Act 2 was frustrating for me was due to the Rat character you meet (a scrounging hermit of a man living underground). Next to Randall this is a person you spend the most time learning about but is not someone particularly likable.
The characterisation throughout the game is a real problem as I have already mentioned. I didn’t really care about finding the survivors I was separated from at the start of the game or even discover the fate of my wife and child. In addition to all of these under developed characters you have to find the Rat’s son who has gone above ground. If it wasn’t for the fact finding the Rat’s son is a storyline plot point, I don’t think I would have bothered with doing so (you are not given the option but I wish I had been).
I believe one of the reasons I didn’t feel any empathy for the characters was because of the very poor dialogue and writing. No characters have any real development and the writing is something I would expect from a very bad B movie. In addition to this, the animation of the cutscenes contained graphics that took me out of the action, trying to use still imagery to tell a very film-like story.
If you couple the bad writing and poor cutscene animation with the sound of the game you have the three main problems I came across with Deadlight. The sound was very poor and all over the place. At one point you would be unable to hear the in-game volume at a standard TV level and then be deafened by the cutscene volume.
Deadlight is not all bad and a part of the game I did enjoy was the backgrounds; in some places this game looked beautiful. At least as beautiful as a destroyed Seattle landscape could look like. The thing is that because of the way the game plays, sometimes you don’t have time to chill out and look around because you are running for you life from zombies or soldiers trying to kill you.
The collectible system is also fun but doesn’t add a lot. With a lot of games now introducing a collectible system of some kind, I really wanted more from the ID’s and diary entries you find throughout the game. It was as though Tequilla Works read my mind when I was looking in the main menu at what I had found and came across the Handheld section.
Each Act offers a handheld that will harken the older generation back to those old school precursors of the Gameboy that had 1 single game on them in less than 8-bit graphics and only a beeping sound as the games music. Once you have collected one of these handhelds throughout the story’s 3 Acts you can the play it as a mini-game from Deadlights main menu. This was a nice little addition to see, and it makes the collectibles a little more worth the multiple trial and errors of dying at the hands of ‘The Shadows’.
There are elements of the game that are both enjoyable and disappointing and for me I would recommend saving your money until this Summer Arcade title gets put on sale and just enjoy the summer.