The lights are on
Deadlight is one of the XBLA Summer of Arcade titles from a while
back that's been recently ported to PC. It's a divisively reviewed
survival horror/action/platforming/puzzler from a little known studio,
running with a vibe similar to the highly praised Limbo. Does it hold up
as well on PC as it did on 360 for Tim Turi? Is it worth your money?
This review is for the PC version of the game.
Must run from awful pre-drawn motion comic cutscenes!
No, not really.
No, seriously, it isn't. I wish I could say it was, but it isn't. It just isn't.
to know why? Okay then. Deadlight is a broken at times, unpolished,
badly executed good string of ideas with some of the worst writing this
side of gaming. The first hour or so was great, before any of the said
issues showed up though, and it's really its in this brief beginning
that Deadlight shines. You navigate the environments intuitively,
puzzles are rather basic but are rewarding, combat feels like it's got
room to grow, the environments look great, and it all comes together
brilliantly. I have to believe this was the part the developer (Tequila
Works) kept showing Microsoft, because after you reach a sewer, things
start going downhill.
First off, I'm fine with stretching reality
a bit for a good story, but my gosh the sewers in Deadlight's verison
of bombed out Seattle are bigger than four football fields on their
sides end to end and side to side. The death trap centric platforming
seems more like something out of some Saw inspired flash game or Super
Meat Boy than zombie survival, and the character tied to them makes no
sense. Even when you're in non-hostile areas the game still makes you
platform around with obviously inconvenient gaps and problems in the
Probably because they can't get past the awful checkpoint system. Did you even test them out?
don't get much better when it comes to the dialogue. Tequila must fancy
themselves to be like Remedy, makers of games such as Alan Wake and Max
Payne, because they constantly seem to be following the self-narrating
mantra without understanding how to do it properly. How many times does
Randal talk to himself in third person in the game? Easily over forty
times, adding an additional one every time you die at a checkpoint where
he's scripted to talk. Each. Bloody. Time. He's not even
providing good exposition or explanation, he's just telling you what you
can obviously glean from observing. The game design has a show not tell
approach, but the writing seems to ignore this, which is even more
confusing when you learn the game was both designed and written by the
Regular dialogue doesn't handle any better, ending
with one of the most confusingly befuddling finales ever. Even in its
last moment Deadlight seems to be so busy saying one thing that it does
the exact opposite because "screw it, we've run out of money in the
budget to make a finale moral choice". Characters are introduced and
then dropped without the slightest bit of delicacy, and any vaguely
interesting ideas are usually tossed aside in favor of the contrived
mental breakdown of Randal.
There is also the odd treatment of the zombies. In the game, they're referred to as "Shadows" even though you actually remain in shadow whereas they'll appear visible in daylight... an attempt at irony or metaphor? We're told they're a threat, and that they can't be stopped, yet they rarely ever actually feel even as dangerous as the Walkers in The Walking Dead. The only reason they seem to be a danger to you is due to Randal being trapped in two dimensions while they're free to enter all three, and that Randal is kind of a a wimp. Your guns have no real effect beyond knocking enemies down unless you hit them in the head, but even if you clear a room it may have even more zombies spawn from literally out of nowhere in the shadowy background and just keep coming -- this was particularly frustrating in a puzzle where part of the objective is to shoot something with your gun while using your ammo to fend off zombies because that fire ax is about as dangerous in Randal's hands as a Nerf gun in a ten year old's hands.
It's a bad sign when three GBA style unlockable mini-titles are better than your core game.
This trend of
dissonance extends to the entire game. Some platforming sequences seem
scripted for perfect runs and yet the slow moving, awkwardly paced
platforming can barely keep up. I died repeatedly at one very irritating
section merely because of how the game handled its wall jumping and
sliding speed. Masochistic platforming is one thing, but at least make
sure you can do it right. If I died of my own failure I wouldn't get
mad, but there were times where I'd be sent back way too far by the
checkpoint system because of a level design oversight that really should
have been caught by Microsoft's QA testers.
Similarly, the game
is bugged like, to quote Zero Punctuation, a "big bug bugging out in a
dune buggy". I've fallen through a failed collision detection on a
corner into a gaping abyss (no, seriously, I even have ten seconds of
the looped death screams of Randal now recorded on my phone). I've seen a
zombie climb over a ledge then become frozen and standing over a void.
I've landed on perfectly safe areas where you should die. I've found
unfinished textures left with the default UDK purplish-blue and white
squares. I've had my health sometimes fully restored by dying and
reloading the checkpoint but other times not -- so as a result I can't
be sure which one was intended.
Seriously? No one noticed this the entire time they were readying the game for Steam? Are you guys blind?
to the main gameplay hang-ups, most of them seem to result from two key
decisions. The first decision is making half of everything dark no
matter if there's light or not (rather ironic or appropriate considering
the name). The other decision was to make everything 2.5 but the only
entity that can't use depth is you. Yes, you are the only person in this
world trapped in two dimensions. See those zombies in the distance?
They can come and take a bite out of you before you can even properly
get your bearings or even tell if you can fight them back. You might
waste all your in-game stamina just swinging at them, missing them all,
and then get clobbered. That's not to say you can really fight zombies
-- Randal apparently was intentionally designed as a pathetic loser who
somehow was a ranger (ranger of what, I honestly couldn't tell you) yet
can't just use his fire ax to knock zombies aside rather than
continually nudge them forward or slash off their arms. Amazingly
enough, even without arms, the zombies still manage to grapple you, and
like with the health restoration, sometimes you'll lose health during a
grapple from the start, sometimes you'll lose it if you're slow,
sometimes you won't at all.
Come on kids! Lets count the glitches in this loading screen: two loading icons AND a weird green effect.
of something positive to say about Deadlight is a surprisingly
difficult challenge. The core design and ideas seem promising, but
Tequila either lacked the time or talent to make this a polished
product. Even when the game is actually working properly without
glitches, it's a waste of three hours, and is certainly not worth the
ten dollar price tag. It should be mentioned that the game does have a
Nightmare mode for those who dare to run through the campaign twice,
rewarding you with a new, even more nonsensical twist ending that I
honestly have to believe was what they were originally going with until
someone told them how awful it sounded. However they failed to point out
that a final sequence made to play like an action shooter wouldn't work
considering the game's mechanics and unforgiving nature.
go on. The loading screens have nothing to do with the story and
sometimes make no sense. The cutscenes are awfully put together. The
pacing is all over the place. The tone ranges from realism to dark
fantasy. Worst of all there's a contrived scene in a prison shower area
that hints at the possibility of the only living female character in the
game potentially being raped while being "cleaned for possible
contaminants" that is just tasteless.
Why are there giant zombies in this dream? You can only guess as they have no impact whatsoever.
only reason you could possibly come looking for Deadlight is its
soundtrack and atmosphere, which are the two things the game manages to
truly hit on a high note. The music gets you intensified and moving when
under threat and the way rooms fade into and out of view as you
progress is like comic book panels, and is very visually pleasing.
Still, these are hardly worth recommending the game. Instead, just enjoy
a few glamor shots of the game -- I'll post some below for you to get
your fill. As it stands, Deadlight gets a 5/10. Broken, unpolished
even when working right, and badly put together, it remains a
disappointment whenever you think about what it could have been.
You've beaten Deadlight! To play it on Nightmare difficulty, insert $10
to play it with all mentioned in the review.
It may be pretty, but Deadlight just isn't worth even a discount price. 5/10.
Cheers,Paradigm the Fallen
Just because you played Limbo doesn't mean you understand what made it a hit.
Trivia: The main character defies his very orders to another person in the finale, confounding any sense of development.
Deadlight is available on Xbox Live Arcade and Steam for $14.99 dollars (for what it's worth). There is an additional $19.99 Soundtrack version on Steam, or you can get the OST separately for $6.99.
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