-Error reading from ESRB datastream-
You begin Deadlight in a ravaged world, your name being Randall (His friends call him Randy/Wayne), and your goal is clear from the beginning, find your damn daughter and wife! Randall is slowly being torn apart from the inside in pure depression that he cannot hold his family close and the fact that zombies have taken over isn’t helping his issues. While the story starts with you in a small pact, that pact gets torn apart in the opening cutscene as Randall must let the others go on without him, though he promises to meet back up with them eventually.
Most of Deadlight is spent being played all by your lonesome. In Part 2 and Part 3 of the story, major characters are introduced and worked into the gameplay in some fashion but that ultimately becomes more a nuisance than any kind of positive. In Part 2, you spend around one fourth the entire part performing “trials” in a man called The Rat’s underground sewers. This kills any kind of momentum the first part had worked up, forcing you to perform monotonous tasks one right after another, while seemingly never progressing the interesting overarching story.
These trials may have been much more tolerable, however, if the controls weren’t cumbersome to handle. It seems like near every jump you make doesn’t land where you suspect it to, leaving you not knowing where to predict your landing, which obviously can become very frustrating in times where it forces you to land in a certain spot. For example, you have to jump on a floating block in the water, but look out because if you miss, its instant death as Randall can’t swim. You may think you’re going to hit the spot but no, Randall slid a bit, and then fell right into the fiery pit of doom that is deep water. Precision is definitely not Deadlight’s forte.
The platforming isn’t the only feature that experiences some poor controls as so does the combat. While it’s nowhere near as frustrating as the platforming, the combat just feels clunky in every way. Gunplay is simply done aiming with the right stick and firing with the trigger, while you use your melee weapon with B. It sounds simple enough but once zombies get in close, it feels like the melee just doesn’t want to work correctly, hitching up when you press the button and sometimes having the weapon fade through the enemies all together, not even hurting them.
This does bring about one of the more unique and fun things to do in Deadlight which is strategizing how you can avoid the zombies. You can taunt them by using Y and if you use that intelligently, you can manage to get them all wrapped up in one pile and avoid them completely. This adds to an already tense atmosphere that Deadlight establishes early on and doesn’t relinquish until the credits roll.
The atmosphere and overall creepy vibe you feel throughout Deadlight is by far the best thing to be found within this fifteen dollar package. Even when the controls are bugging out a bit or you’re just getting impatient with enemies, you still have a slight bit of fear looming in the back of your head. The anchor of the atmosphere is the moody and dark look Deadlight features. Shadows and dark colors are prevalent in everything you see and whether it’s from flickering lights or not fully revealed enemies, Deadlight will have you squirming back and forth in your seat.
Deadlight features one of the more odd stories I’ve seen in the past few years. There’s nothing obscenely weird about it, it’s the execution and lead up to a mostly dry and disappointing ending that perplexes me. Part 1 establishes a very interesting, ravaged 1980’s world. Zombies have all but taken over everything and there’s nothing you can do about it except for move forward and hope for some positive to emerge. But like I previously mentioned, Act 2 halts that momentum and instead introduces characters that are meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Half of Part 2 feels like a sidequest that should have been in a more fully realized Deadlight. Part 3 attempts to regain that excitement but mostly fails all the way up until the cringe worthy ending that will leave you more disappointed than satisfied.
While every game has some unrealized potential in it somewhere, Deadlight had so much that it really saddens me to see it turn out like it has. It never falls off the deep end and becomes terrible by any means, but it never realizes its full potential. While the atmosphere is there, nothing else is quite up to the lofty standards that are placed upon Summer of Arcade releases. Deadlight tried so hard, but failed even harder.
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