Deadlight: Directors Cut
is an updated, enhanced version of Deep Silver's zombie apocalypse title from 2012, Deadlight
, in which a man desperately searches for his family following the onslaught of the Shadow epidemic. With new Nightmare and Survival modes, how does the new version hold up?Deadlight: Director's Cut
is set in 1986, largely in Seattle. Randall Wayne is a park ranger from the Canadian town of Hope. We get his backstory from his journal and the game itself picks up precisely where the journal leaves off, so it's a good idea to read the journal before you get started. He sets out for Seattle (the last known safe haven) in hopes of finding his wife and daughter, who went missing in the aftermath of a deadly epidemic that turned most of the world's population into Shadows (aka zombies). He's been traveling with a small group of survivors from whom he separates immediately as gameplay begins, so Randy goes on alone. Unfortunately, while the extra touches for side stories are done well, the main story has some gaps in it, especially about The New Law, that could have used a bit more fleshing out since their actions didn't really make sense in light of the situation. The ending is also very abrupt, making it feel like there's just something missing.
The format of the game makes it unique for a zombie apocalypse game. While one still has to carefully balance resources (your bullets and stamina), the game is much more about getting to one's destination than about killing zombies (although there's plenty of that, too). The game is a side scroller and thus very linear (in a good way), but it's also a good deal more than that. The game also has some light puzzle elements, such as using Taunt (
) at the right moment to lure Shadows to their deaths when you drop a car on them or finding the best way across an open space full of Shadows. As gameplay begins, you're given directions as you go - how to break down a door, how to crouch, how to swing an axe; instructions are clear and easy to follow. You will also be jumping, climbing, wall jumping...think The Walking Dead
meets Lara Croft and you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
You can go left, right, up, or down - that's it - but it has a lot of platforming elements, especially the jumping. This is the part of the game that reminds me of the old Lara Croft games; some of the jumping is just plain devilish. If you time it incorrectly, you can turn yourself into a bloody pincushion as you land in a pit full of wooden spikes (among numerous other ugly ways to meet your end). Thankfully, the game has numerous checkpoints and autosaves to which you return when you die, so you don't have to go back very far to try again.
Checkpoints help a lot.
A number of collectibles can also be found: I.D.'s, missing journal pages, handheld arcade games, and miscellaneous memorabilia. Before you groan, the developers have done quite a nice job of making these interesting. I.D.'s are always found on bodies of the dead, with the first being for J.W. Gacy, which made me wonder. The next three were A.C. Wuarnos, O. Edward Toole, and J.H. Dahmer. The pattern was clear, although the specific connection between the game and the serial killers just seemed to be an interesting curiosity.
Some of the secrets found, however, are quite telling. For example, finding a photo of a young soldier in Vietnam gives you a whole new perspective on Ratman. The game is well done in this sense because while it wasn't necessary to the story to know some of these extra details, they do add quite a lot. For anyone who has pulled his or her hair out over collectibles, this game will be a breath of fresh air. Each segment of each chapter tells you how many secrets there are and how many you've found, so it's very easy to narrow down where to look for any that you may have missed. You can return to a completed scene at any time.
The art style fits the game beautifully.
The artwork and music are both very good. The cut-scenes have a hand-drawn feel that is dark but not overpoweringly so. The journal itself has nice touches - doodles, taped seams when lost pages are found - and players can see everything whenever they wish. The game has a large artwork section that's available from the beginning of the game to peruse. As progress is made, cut-scenes/movies are unlocked, as well, to be re-watched at one's leisure. This is an enjoyable feature when you can go back and forth between the journal and scenes as the story unfolded.
The Director's Cut has added two new modes to the game that were absent from the original. Survival is just what one would expect - survive as long as possible. Randy is trapped in the hospital with no escape, so he's going to take as many with him as he can. This mode is beyond straightforward as the game keeps up with the time and number of kills. Nightmare is a whole other animal. You play the whole game again exactly as you did the first time except for one major difference: the only checkpoints that you get are between chapters. That's right, friend. The five or six hours spent on normal mode must be repeated with barely any saves along the way. Of course, the six hours or so I spent included a great number of deaths. The actual time for a perfect run would probably be three to four hours. Missed jump = dead = start over from the beginning, and that seems indeed like a Nightmare. Nightmare is unlocked as soon as you finish the game on Normal for the first time. Survival is available right from the beginning. Unfortunately, the game is short for its price point of $19.99. Survival and Nightmare will certainly add more gameplay, but I don't know how much fun Nightmare will actually be.
The game is also a tiny bit buggy. Occasionally, weapons couldn't be changed, the game prevented aiming at enemies, or I shot through zombies with no effect. This didn't happen often, but when it did it always resulted in death. This doesn't matter that much in Normal mode, but for the game's new Nightmare mode, this could be...well, a nightmare. Similarly, the controls are usually excellent, but now and then they lag just a bit, usually at critical moments. When trying to swing the axe at an enemy coming up behind me, my character didn't want to turn around, so he's chopping away at thin air while he gets taken down from the back. Sometimes, the game will hesitate when going into a crouch, which can get you killed when you're running across the screen trying to beat the roof falling in behind you.
Most of the game's achievements are identical to the achievements for the original Deadlight
. The list is a good combination of story-related achievements, easy achievements (like push a zombie over a railing), and progressive achievements like the collectibles. There are then three additional achievements that are spread between the two new game modes. For the most part it's not a hard list, but the achievement that has been added for Nightmare mode will make a completion infinitely harder. I know without a doubt that I, for one, will never manage it. That's a bummer because the developer gives an alternate ending for finishing Nightmare; I'll just have to watch it on Youtube.
SummaryDeadlight Director's Cut
is a unique take on survival horror as a side-scrolling platformer and, as such, is a fun experience. With the gritty artwork and nice extra touches, the dark atmosphere is immersive without being smothering. The controls, while usually responsive, sometimes lag just enough to lead to a grisly demise. Finally, there's just not quite enough game here despite the newly added Survival and Nightmare modes, the latter of which lives up to its name. It's difficult to put one's finger on why, but something is missing. Overall, Deadlight: Director's Cut
is a good game even for those not into zombie apocalypse titles, but beware of the drawbacks.
- Nice artwork and music
- Unique take on zombie survival game
- Great extra touches
- Easy tracking of collectibles
- Controls not always responsive enough
- Occasional gameplay bugs
- Nightmare seems impossible
- Game is short
The reviewer spent roughly eight hours plowing through the zombie hordes, finishing Normal mode, trying the new modes, and winning 28 of the game's achievements. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.