|Engine||Unreal Engine 3|
|Release date(s)||Xbox 360
|Genre(s)||Cinematic platformer, survival horror, sidescroller|
Deadlight is a 2012 sidescrolling survival horror/cinematic platforming video game for Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows, developed by Tequila Works and published by Microsoft Studios. It was released for Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade on August 1, and for Windows via Steam on October 25. In 2014, Deadlight was available for free to Xbox Live Gold subscribers from April 16-30.
Set in Seattle in 1986, the game tells the story of Randall Wayne, a former park ranger who sets out to find his family in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. Intended as a throwback to the classic sidescrolling games of the 1980s and early 1990s, such as Prince of Persia, Another World and Flashback, Deadlight received mixed reviews, with many critics praising the graphics, atmosphere and plot, but criticizing the game's controls, brevity and linearity.
Deadlight is a 2.5D sidescroller in which the player character can move only from left-to-right and right-to-left, and is unable to enter any environments off the aligned path. The game consists of puzzles which the player must solve as he attempts to avoid the many "Shadows" (zombies) he encounters. Players are advised to avoid Shadows as much as possible, and try not to engage them in combat. When combat is unavoidable, the player can use melee attacks with a fire axe, which consumes stamina, or later, he can use a revolver, and then a shotgun, although ammunition for both weapons is extremely limited. The player also gains access to a slingshot. However, this cannot be used in combat, and is instead used for solving puzzles. There are only a small number of occasions when combat is completely necessary however, and throughout the game, the emphasis of the gameplay remains strongly on avoiding Shadows, not confronting them.
The character begins with three health points which can be replenished by using first aid kits. The number of health points can increase by a single point if the player can find power-ups. Running and melee combat deplete the player's stamina meter, which causes the screen to blur and the player to stop moving so as to get his breath back. As with the health meter, the amount of available stamina can also be increased by power ups. Unlike health, however, the stamina meter refills over time.
The game contains many hidden collectable items strewn throughout its levels. Some are entries from the player's diary, revealing more about his backstory. Others are personal memorabilia lost by people in the early days of the outbreak. A recurring collectible comes in the form of identification cards, all of which feature the name of serial killers (such as John Wayne Gacy, Albert DeSalvo, Aileen Wuornos and Jeffrey Dahmer), although the photo ID on the cards feature members of Tequila Works' staff.
The game takes place in Seattle in 1986 after the near-total decimation of society following the outbreak of a virus that reanimates the dead. Randall Wayne, a park ranger from the town of Hope in Canada, is a survivor of the event, and has since been separated from his wife Shannon and daughter Lydia. Randall has come to Seattle because of reports that located within the city is the last remaining "Safe Point" in the Pacific Northwest, and he is convinced that this is where Shannon and Lydia have come. Accompanied by his friend and fellow park ranger, Ben Parker, Randall has since joined with a group of three other people; an elderly police officer named Sam and two twin sisters, Stella and Karla.
As the game begins, Randall has just shot Karla in the head, as she has been bitten and is about to turn into a Shadow. As Sam and Stella return to the warehouse in which they are sheltering, the building is attacked by Shadows who have been drawn to it by the gunshot. The trio flee through a skylight, but the ladder breaks before Randall can follow, and so he tells them to get to the safe point, and he will meet them there, reminding them to stay on the lookout for his family.
Randall escapes the warehouse and sets out across the dilapidated city. He soon learns of a violent militia group calling itself "The New Law," who kill anyone that won't join them. After finding Sam's van crashed on the side of the road, Randall comes across Sam in a nearby shop. He is seriously wounded, and bleeding to death. The van had been ambushed by The New Law, who took Ben and Stella with them and left Sam for dead. Sam tells Randall that the safe point isn't real, but is actually a trap set up by The New Law, hoping to lure in survivors, so they can kill them and take any supplies they may have. After Sam dies, Randall sets out, determined to rescue his family and friends from the The New Law.
As he heads towards the safe point, he is cornered by a herd of Shadows. However, before they can attack him, a hand reaches up from a manhole and drags him down into the sewers. Randall begins to have strange dreams and flashbacks of his life before the outbreak, mingled with vague memories of returning to his house upon the onset of the Shadows. Waking up in the sewers, Randall meets the "Rat"; a strange old man who has turned the sewer system into an elaborate series of booby traps to kill Shadows and The New Law, should they venture down. The Rat tells Randall that if he can make it through the traps, he will help him find his friends. When Randall does so, the Rat tells him that his teenage son is missing, and asks Randall to bring him home. The Rat promises Randall that he will search for his family and friends, and reveal what he knows upon the safe return of his son.
Randall agrees and sets out to the surface to search for the boy. After crashing a van, Randall is contacted via radio by an unknown person, who guides him to safety on a building rooftop. The person is the Rat's son, who was looking for food when he was attacked by The New Law. As Randall and the son speak, a New Law helicopter appears, opening fire on them. They flee, and eventually return to the sewers, whereupon the Rat tells Randall that Ben and Stella are at a nearby sports stadium, held by The New Law. The Rat has not been able to find out anything about Randall's family, however.
Randall heads to the stadium, finding Ben being tortured by The New Law, who leave a Shadow to kill him. Randall rescues Ben, who tells him that The New Law have taken Stella to the safe point. After acquiring medical supplies for Ben, they head to the safe point via a helicopter. However, en route, Ben loses consciousness and the helicopter crashes. Ben is killed, but Randall survives, eventually making it to the safe point. He is captured by The New Law, but manages to escape, and sets out to rescue Stella. He does so, and in order to cover their escape from the facility, Randall turns off the power generator, allowing the Shadows to penetrate the facility, killing off many New Law soldiers in the process. Randall and Stella make it to a dock but are cornered by a group of Shadows. Stella pleads with Randall to kill her, which causes him to recall a repressed memory; upon returning to his home in Canada after the outbreak, he found he had only two bullets in his gun. As the house was under siege from the Shadows, Shannon pleaded with him to kill her and Lydia. With great reluctance, Randall did so. Having remembered the incident, he refuses to repeat it by killing Stella, instead telling her that she must survive and never give up hope. Breaking the wood of the dock, Randall sends Stella into the water, where she makes it to a nearby sailboat and drifts away. Randall apologizes to his deceased daughter, who appears in front of him, as he laments that he should have died with her. However, he is happy that they will be together again soon. As the horde of Shadows race towards him, Randall accepts his fate, and the game ends.
In an alternate ending, unlockable by completing "Nightmare" mode, it is revealed that Randall is a murderer. He killed Karla even though she wasn't bitten, he smothered Sam upon finding him in the shop, and he choked Ben in the helicopter. The game ends with Randall struggling to come to terms with who he really is.
Upon release, Deadlight received mixed reviews, with the (much less widely reviewed) PC version generally seen as superior to the Xbox version. On Metacritic, the Xbox version has an aggregate score of 68 out of 100, based on 79 reviews, while the PC version has a score of 78, based on seven reviews. On GameRankings, the Xbox version has a score of 68.10%, based on 52 reviews, and the PC version has a score of 86.50%, based on two reviews.
Positive reviews tended to focus on the graphics, atmosphere and storyline, whilst negative reviews often cited the brevity and linearity of the game, and issues with the responsiveness of the controls.
Game Informer's Tim Turi was impressed with the game, scoring it 8 out of 10, and writing "Just when you think we've seen everything the zombie genre has to offer, another worthwhile adventure lurches forth. Deadlight mixes Shadow Complex's impressive 2.5D visuals, Limbo's rewarding platforming puzzles, and The Walking Dead's grim atmosphere. The resulting cocktail is potent." IGN also gave it a positive review, awarding it a score of 8.5 out of 10, with reviewer Ryan McCaffrey praising the game's aesthetics; "Quite simply, its aesthetic is gorgeous, with a silhouetted Randall in a darkened foreground running for his life in front of a drab, muted, crumbling Seattle. Several of Deadlight's set-pieces are so stunning that I had to actually stop to admire them before pressing onward. Randall's gravelly, determined-yet-pessimistic voice acting is also laudable, as is the somber soundtrack." Another positive review came from Marty Silva of 1UP.com, who graded it A-, writing "the Summer of Arcade has delivered a fantastic title that stands out far more than many big budget, AAA titles. Much like a reanimated corpse, zombie fiction isn't fading away anytime soon. While this may elicit a groan from some, Deadlight proves that the ubiquitous genre still has some life left in it." Francesca Reyes of the Official Xbox Magazine was also impressed, scoring it 8.5 out of 10, and calling it a "frantic, dizzying, four- to five-hour rush"."
Less impressed was GameSpot's Chris Watters, who scored it 6.5 out of 10, criticizing its linearity; "In the three or so hours that it takes to complete the game, you feel less like you are trekking through a dangerous world, and more like you are acting out a script. Deadlight's engrossing visuals make it fun to play the part, but you'll wish you had more lines." Edge's Nathan Brown scored it 6 out of 10, criticizing the nature of some of the puzzles, and complaining that at times, the game exhibits "a frustrating case of trial-and-error design that recalls Another World more than it does Limbo. A number of time-sensitive runs through crumbling or under-fire environments suffer from the same problem: cumbersome controls and a lack of clear signposting result in one too many deaths." Electronic Gaming Monthly's Evan Bourgault scored it 6.2 out of 10, writing "Deadlight could've been a much better game if it had a more fleshed-out story, a control scheme that wasn't frustrating, and a longer play time. It starts off promising enough, but the wonder of it all screeches to a halt during its second half." Martin Robinson of Eurogamer scored it 7 out of 10, and was also critical of the game's length; "The bigger problem is how mechanically slight this is; there's not enough meat to come back to, making this a one-shot affair with a bloated price tag that doesn't quite fit. As fleeting entertainment, Deadlight works, its flattening of a tired apocalyptic premise doing enough to make sure that it feels fresh. It's a worthy successor to other 2D XBLA adventures, but in the end you can't help feeling that this one could have done with a little more depth."
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