Deadlight is the first game from Spanish studio Tequila Works. It is somewhat of a supergroup, combining individuals from not only the video game industry, but from film as well. Members of the Tequila Works team have worked on titles such as Diablo 3 and Heavy Rain, as well as the movies Avatar and The Lovely Bones. So, going into Deadlight, I had high hopes for the game and, I must say, I wasn’t too disappointed.
Deadlight is the tale of Randall Wayne, a park warden in the city of Hope, British Columbia. Soon Wayne starts to hear of growing tensions in the east; Soviet Russia is the cause, everyone says. After violence erupts across Europe, reports start coming in that a new viral epidemic as begun. A mutated form of rabies start to contaminate any who come in contact with the virus, turning them into feral shadows of their former selves, consumed with a hunger for flesh. The virus quickly spreads to the small, secluded town of Hope and Wayne gets separated from his family. What follows is Wayne’s tale of desperation, survival, and death. The story that’s presented in-game is usually done by way of Wayne’s musings on any given situation or the comic book style cutscenes that play between certain levels. Unfortunately Wayne’s hoarse rambling can get a little annoying as the voice acting is inconsistent and, at points, very shallow.
Along the way there will be a plethora of collectibles to tie you in to the story. The collectibles tell little snippets of information about the world just before the infection, chronicling events like the military protocol for the refugee camp set up inside the Seattle stadium. Other notable collectibles include three handheld gaming systems styled like the ones popular in the 1980′s, the decade in which the game is set. Finding these allows you to play a few mini-games that give a brief, but welcome, reprieve from the rest of the game.
The Shadows, although dangerous in their own right, are not most difficult thing in the game, the platforming is. Deadlight is setup on a 2D plane, with Wayne running side to side across the screen. The actual path in the game is quite linear. In fact, there was only a small few places in the game that the path forward wasn’t obvious to me. Actually, the way forward is almost always clearly marked as little white arrows show you where Wayne can climb or jump to reach. As Wayne, you will climb over fences, shimmy your way across wires, and jump from rooftops. Occasionally, I found myself jumping in the wrong direction and mistakenly flinging myself from rooftops, but it was a small hindrance. The real issue is the repetitiveness of the game. What started out as fun very quickly becomes a chore. You’ll use almost the same mechanics the entire game, with the exception of a few levels towards the middle. Occasionally, there are some collectibles to be found off the beaten path, but they don’t provide enough of a distraction to clean the sour taste left in your mouth.
There are a few scenes of truly tense action, however, when the Shadows, the zombies, come into play. You’ll almost always be outnumbered and will have to use the environment to your advantage when facing them. The game gives you a very limited amount of ammo, so you won’t be able to rely on your firearms very often and will usually resort to fleeing in the direction of your objective rather than fight. The few situations where you are forced to fight are the shining moments in the game. Shadows can only be killed by either getting shot in the head or a decapitation, both of which require a certain amount of skill to achieve. More often than not, you’ll be relying on your trusty fire ax to knock the zombies to the floor and finish the deed, but you may opt to fire off a few rounds to thin the horde before meleeing your way to victory. Although your ammunition is limited, I never found myself even close to running out. Almost any confrontation can be resolved by using the environment to kill the zombies or your fire ax.
The art style of Deadlight is its saving grace. Although the game is presented as a 2D plane, the background presents an illusion of being 3D, with lush artwork forming a stark contrast with the shadowed foreground the Wayne occupies. Enemies will often move down through the background, advancing toward Wayne, making the backgrounds feel like part of the world. Moving through the environment, the camera will pan in and out, sometimes revealing previously shadows rooms as you enter them. The shadows look the part, with their bodies darkly shaded and gleaming red eyes standing out prominently. Deadlight has one of the best art styles I’ve seen and it is delivered in a great way.
The Bottom Line: Deadlight is a visually stunning game, however that’s where the surprises end. The story ends up saving itself in the end, but you still have to suffer through Wayne’s incessant chatter for the 3 or so hours it will take you to finish it. The collectibles provide a needed distraction from the monotony of the gameplay and combat gives you an sense of urgency that isn’t often experienced.
Nizulo rates this 6/10
Deadlight is currently available for download on the Xbox 360 for 1200 MSP’s ($14.99 USD).