5 Reviews

Deadlight

It's dead confusing

As far as art and design goes, this is a classic. The setting, a 1980s Washington State decomposing after a zombie outbreak, is beautifully realised. The third dimension behind the basic platforming doesn't only add eyepopping settings, but an effective and pulse-quickening threat. Ravenous undead don't pop up from behind boxes but stagger in from the background, giving several agonising seconds of mortal danger before you manage to scale a fence, kick a window in or throw a cabinet across your path.

Such cowardice is born of authentic fear: you're too weak to fight them off or even wait them out. Hanging from ledges or wires drains your stamina, meaning there's no choice but to hurry on to safety, and when you do eventually get hold of a gun you can only load it with individual bullets using LB. It's beautiful, it's taut, it's effective, and it's entirely nullified nearly every time your character opens his mouth.

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The narration is beautifully delivered, but the words are nonsensical to the point of hilarity, like Patrick Stewart reading out a teenage Goth's Facebook wall. Wiseau-grade gems like "what we call darkness is the light we can't see," and "Karla is dead. And now you are too. I've got to get to Safe Point" convert what is supposed to be a moving tale of a loner finding his family to a work of comedy, and there's no sense the developer is in on the joke.

The damage this does to the beautifully crafted atmosphere is compounded by its structure. Unlike 2D bedfellow Shadow Complex there's no opportunity to explore beyond harvesting collectibles: the rotting teeth snapping at your heels mean you can only ever charge forward and you spend less time marvelling at the setting and more time noticing problems.

Out of shape
While the game itself is never diffi cult or badly designed, it consistently contrives to point out its restrictions: neither controls nor narrative are ever slick enough that you ever feel immersed. An extended period in a spike-filled labyrinth is spent cursing the precision of the platforming and wondering why the person who claims to be helping you doesn't just turn the traps off, and Canabalt-style roof runs require trial-and-error identification of which obstacles require slightly too many button presses to get past.

The result is a curious hybrid of prime beef and dog food that regularly impresses but is impossible to take seriously. It then really lets itself down with a truly atrocious finale that combines shooting - the game's least satisfying mechanic - with enemies that routinely kill you before you have a chance to react, while ditching the previously generous checkpointing.

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Your reward: a face-palming moment of sub-Hollyoaks melodrama and a mission clock that reveals that of the seven or so hours you spent retrying, you've only experienced about two and a half hours of actual narrative. You'll see some glorious stuff in that time, but it's difficult to shake the idea that you'd get the same calibre of storytelling from a petrol-station DVD and still have enough money left to buy a drink afterwards. Deadlight gets a lot of things right, and is a game worth playing, but the storytelling never lives up to the presentation.

The verdict

Beautiful, but bone-headed

  • Great concept
  • Gorgeous visuals
  • Admirable tension
  • Atrocious dialogue
  • Dire finale
6
Format
Live Arcade
Developer
Tequila Works
Publisher
Microsoft
Genre
Platform

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