When Deadlight launched for the Xbox Live Arcade in 2012 it was met with a pretty lukewarm response. While many praised the game for its gloomy visual style and setting, others were left unimpressed by how brief and occasionally frustrating the gameplay was. Now we’re here four years later with what has been dubbed the Director’s Cut of the game, and while not a whole lot has changed it is still an experience worth checking out.
The game takes place in the 80’s in a zombie-infested Seattle, and you control a middle-aged man named Randall Wayne as he searches for his missing family. While the prospects of playing yet another zombie game in this day and age doesn’t exactly get the blood pumping, Deadlight is able to tackle the genre in a much different way than what is standard these days. The game is a 2.5D sidescrolling platformer, and rather than zombies being cakewalks that can be easily charged through they are a force to be reckoned with here. Taking on one might be easy enough with a blunt weapon, but two or more quickly becomes a tense encounter that requires either running away or utilizing the scarce ammo of one of the few guns in the game.
Deadlight is split up into 3 main acts that serve as major junction points within the game’s narrative, which offer slight variations on locations that will impact the gameplay. For the most part, though, Randall will be bashing, sprinting and wall-jumping his way through dark and decrepit structures while trying to avoid hordes of zombies that populate every nook and cranny. The platforming is solid for the most part, offering some challenging puzzles to figure out and obstacle courses to get through that are very rewarding to complete. There are also some seriously intense chase sequences that are a lot of fun whenever they pop up, as they provide a nice tempo change from the otherwise slow and steady segments. Every now and then the controls can slip up a little and cause you to do something you didn’t mean to, however, and in a game with little room for error that can be frustrating.
Those moments were few and far between, however, and I was completely engrossed in this little world. It goes to some surprisingly deep places from a thematic standpoint, as well. The psychological element of the story is its strongest point, as our protagonist is slowly losing his mind and having hallucinations of life before the zombie outbreak. There’s even an entire section of the game that is an allegory of a certain classic piece of literature that I won’t spoil, but it’s something that’s pulled off so well and makes so much sense that it’s almost baffling that a zombie game hasn’t gone there before.
There are a lot of little details in the game’s world that reward snooping around
There are a lot of little details in the game’s world that reward snooping around, too. Items can be found that give more insight into both Randall and his unfortunate situation, as well as offering some stat-boosting items that are very well hidden. The game’s layout is linear for the most part, but the amount of hidden collectibles almost gives it a metroidvania sense of exploration where you want to check every room as thoroughly as you can. The stories contained within some of these collectibles are engaging, and only further expand upon the bleak and unsettling picture that the core gameplay paints.
While there are some visual and mechanical touch ups that were done with this new Director’s Cut version of the game that are a nice touch, the big new feature is a mode called Survival Arena. This mode strands you in a zombie-infested hospital and your only goal is to survive as long as you can. You start off with nothing and then slowly find weapons scattered throughout the level, all while zombies come at you from every direction. It’s a nice little addition to the game to be sure, but considering that combat isn’t really the game’s strong point or focus it isn’t something that held my attention for very long.
While some of the big criticisms that people had with the original version of the game still stand, Deadlight: Director’s Cut still feels like a fresh take on the zombie genre 4 years later. The narrative is brief and there are the occasional control issues that still pop up, but those things don’t take away much from the intensity that it is able to hold steady throughout its handful of hours of gameplay. It probably isn’t worth a return trip if you’ve already played the original game, but if this is your first time checking out the Deadlight world then this version is definitely the one to get.
Deadlight: Director's Cut
- Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC
- Published By: Deep Silver
- Developed By: Tequila Works
- Genre: Survival Horror/Platformer
- US Release Date: June 21st, 2016
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Quote: "While some of the big criticisms that people had with the original version of the game still stand, Deadlight: Director's Cut still feels like a fresh take on the zombie genre 4 years later. It probably isn't worth a return trip if you've already played the original game, but if this is your first time checking out the Deadlight world then this version is definitely the one to get."
- Dark and gloomy setting
- Challenging platforming
- Great story
- Still feels short for this kind of game
- Occasional control issues lead to frustration