Free game. Who doesn’t love those words? It’s free AND it’s a game, the perfect combination. Well, next to free and food, of course. I need very little to be happy in this world. My loved ones, regular exercise, my work and video-games. So, when I’m given the opportunity to do one of those things for free, well I’m the happiest of Larry’s. I recently plugged my Xbox 360 back in to play Telltale’s ‘The Walking Dead The Game, Season 2’. This led to me buying Dark Souls II, as I figured ‘when in Rome’. I then downloaded World of Tanks, because I could. And, whilst still in Rome (metaphorically of course, though I am going there this summer) I downloaded Deadlight, because it’s this month’s Game with Gold. Also because it has zombies in it, and I love me a good zombie game.
I must admit that I wasn’t sure what to expect with Deadlight. I’d seen one or two reviews that gave it an overly average score of around 6, and that usually spurs me on to try a game. I think, once a few review sites have given a game over 4 out of 10, there is very little that could convince me not to at least try it. And I played The Walking Dead: Survival Instincts, which proves that I’m willing to play almost anything. So I downloaded the game and quickly got to playing it. It starts off with a graphic novel style cut-scene, with roughly drawn figures arguing over the death of another survivor. I can only assume that your character, Randall Wayne, had to shoot her before she turned into a Shadow (what they call zombies). The opening is very promising, the dark and gritty art style for the cut-scene sets the mood well, but for a while I found it a bit difficult to get into the game. That passed quite quickly, however, and once Deadlight has you, you’re sucked into the story.
The story is fairly simple, the game takes place in Seattle after the outbreak of a virus in 1986 and, as Randall, you have to traverse the city whilst searching for your wife, daughter and fellow survivors. There are a few plot twists, that I won’t ruin, not that they’re overly revolutionary. Still, the story keeps you engaged, particularly through the well designed and beautifully drawn cut-scenes. But, overall, there’s nothing about the game that really drags you in and connects you with the characters. However, Tequila Softworks did add in a collection of diary extracts that you can collect as you travel throughout the game. This is a nice addition as it helps build a bit of a back story to the outbreak of the virus, it also works well to develop the character of Randall without the need for longwinded dialogue.
The gameplay itself is refreshingly different and, where others have criticised it for its lack of substance, I would rather praise it for what it does well. Deadlight is a 2.5D sidescroller, which basically means that the world is in three dimensions, but you’re stuck to a 2D path. You can run right or left, and Shadows that you can interact with will be on that rail, either in front or behind you. There will, however, be things happening in the background and, on occasion, Shadows will move from the background and interact with the player – but you can’t do anything about them until they’re directly in front or behind you. It’s quite simple really, the immediate danger is only ever in two directions. Much of the game is puzzle based, and you’ll have to use a bit of your cunning and that big ‘ol brain of yours to get through certain areas in the levels. Many of the puzzles are frustratingly challenging, and you will die a lot in this game. Though this does help extend the gameplay, and it brings a level of difficulty to a game that would otherwise just have been running and shooting. The gameplay is fun and, if I’m honest, quite addictive. I often found myself thinking ‘just one more try before I throw my controller through the screen’. That’s the sign of a decent game right there, challenging enough for me to want to rage-quit, but enjoyable enough for me to want to try ‘one last time’, which, as I’m sure you’re aware, is a never ending cycle of one last tries and sporadic outbursts of rage.
It’s not just the gameplay itself that’s addictive, but how the game looks as well. It’s a weird one for me to explain, but the gritty art-style, the dark shading, the ruined city-scape, the un-human form of the Shadows, and the varied locations all make you want to play on. I found myself pausing to stare at the surroundings, which wasn’t overly helpful when you’re supposed to be running from a horde of zombies. For me, this is the game’s greatest achievement – its design. It really is a beautifully crafted game and even though it’s relentlessly frustrating at times, the overall look and feel of the game made me want to play on.
At the end of the day, this game is currently free, so you’d be a fool not to at least try it. Even if it’s only to check out the graphics and the fantastically detailed cut-scenes. I’m a massive fan of graphic-novel style art, and this game is packed full of it. The contrast between the gritty and untidy cut-scenes and the dark but detailed gameplay graphics is one that needs to be seen to be appreciated. The actual itself game isn’t all that bad either.