A trip down memory lane
Deadlight is one of those games that evoke fond memories of various games that were quite outstanding for the time. We're speaking of course of the classics such as Flashback and Another (Out of) this World. They are games that were collectively responsible for a lot of changes in the game industry and games that really stood out amongst the early crowd.
So how does Deadlight fare? The good news is that whilst it is a bit short, 3-4 hours if you're running through with minimal secret hunting, Deadlight produces a zombie apocalypse that's worth playing.
Deadlight takes place during an apocalyptic take on the world, the undead have taken over and pockets of survivors fight to stay alive in a world that has lost a war against these 'shadows'.
Deadlight is a simple game on the surface which is made stronger by the puzzles and the reliance on various 'running man' mechanics for several of the game's more intense sequences. Ammo is sparse, weapons are virtually non-existent and the hero must use his wits/the environment and sometimes pure blind luck to survive the hordes of flesh eating monsters that will come crawling, leaping, smashing and crashing out of the scenery to take a bite out of him.
It's played on a 2d plane with 3d elements and you move from scene to scene navigating environmental hazards such as deep water. Leaping from platform to platform and outwitting the hordes of slavering undead that want to eat your face. You can shove them back; you can cave their skulls in with the odd weapon that is lying around, or even shoot them if you're lucky enough to get a gun. There are some really intense gameplay moments in Deadlight that test your nerve as well as your ability to think quickly on your feet. There are a few tools you can use to make your life easier and taunting the undead will draw them to a specific location allowing you a few moments of respite or causing them to walk into a dangerous environmental hazard.
The game is broken into several acts, with the early acts having a better feel than the later ones. There are some acts that will become frustrating for players where there seems to be nothing but high speed running through the area, no chance to stop and explore and no real idea of where you're going next. These trial and error sections are made a little easier by a fairly generous checkpoint system that takes a lot of the sting out of the section's tail.
There are some hidden secrets to be found off the beaten track, mostly these are diary pages and a few health pickups to bring you back to full health if you've been chomped on. The in-game diary is extremely well done and provides a lot of backstory information on the world of Deadlight and some of the creatures therein.
Lastly the game's mix of in-game cut-scenes and semi-animated storyboard-like scenes do a fairly good job of conveying the game's dark storyline and there is a pretty nifty ending.
Deadlight is a mean and moody game and the Unreal engine does a good job of portraying a world that teeters on the brink of destruction. The level design and the graphics for Deadlight's world are really well done and the visual feel of it brings to mind the decaying zombie apocalypse quite nicely. Special effects are excellent and some of the scenes feature inclement weather with lightning storms and Noir-style shadowy backdrops that hint at the barest sign of danger. All of these elements combine nicely to give Deadlight a solid graphical feel and a desolate atmosphere, especially with the lighting.
Deadlight is nicely animated with the main hero moving fluidly through the environment, rolling, ducking, hanging and traversing with a sense of cohesive movement from one animation to the next. The enemy animations are also good, with the undead appearing to crawl out of various spaces, smash through doors and generally look as though they've stepped out of an episode of the Walking Dead.
The combat animations are good as well with just enough level of detail to match the moody graphics, they're not overly showy and they fit the Everyman Hero aspect of the game's main character. It also amuses us that he's called Wayne, we can't help but think Batman really let himself go.
There are physics based weight puzzles, some liquid based puzzling and a few other nice touches. Overall the physics system works well and ties into the gameplay nicely.
The enemy AI is pretty solid with various attack patterns and a seemingly endless hunger, they also don't appear to be overly intelligent - which is a great sign for a zombie apocalypse genre game.
Deadlight is a great and atmospheric game and it needs a solid audio track to bring the apocalypse to life, fortunately it has just that. The wind howls, the rain lashes and the desolating is apparent from the creak of broken cars and the groan of the shambling hordes. There's nothing out of place and it's all really well done.
Deadlight's score is mean and moody; it matches the look and feel of the game perfectly.
Deadlight's script is pretty solid with some nice dialogue lines and some great moments in the story.
There are a few missteps voice wise, but nothing majorly glaring. The main hero's voice is fairly well done and suitably fits the world of Deadlight and the situation he's in.
Deadlight is a short taste of the zombie apocalypse that is perhaps a little too expensive for some people's tastes, since it does come in at 1200 Microsoft Points on Xbox Live Arcade. The shortness of the game does little to offset this cost, but if you do dive in, you'll find a fun romp through the post apocalypse of a world that's been driven to ruin by mankind's darker side and the eternal hunger of the dead.