The Shadows are back, and they are still Zombies.
Tequila Works’ Deadlight originally launched as part of the 2012 XBLA Summer of Arcade, and it was a good game. Sure, I may have been suffering slightly from Zombie overexposure at the time, a condition which doesn’t seem to be passing any time soon. Referring to the Zombies in Deadlight as “Shadows” didn’t really help. And sure, the game may be a little repetitive and short, but during that hot balmy summer of 2012, Deadlight was a lot of fun.
Now, Deadlight is back in the form of Deadlight: Director’s Cut, a remastered version of the game for the current generation of consoles. The current trend among videogame publishers is to remaster and repackage older games for the new consoles, and barely a week goes by without another game getting some spit and polish and being dropped on Xbox One or PS4. However, I must admit that I was surprised to see Tequila Works’ side-scrolling survival horror game given this same treatment, not because it wasn’t a good game, but more because it just didn’t seem big enough to bother with. I guess I’m not the only one to think that…
In Deadlight, players take on the role of Randall Wayne, a gruff and grizzled survivor of the Zombie apocalypse who wants nothing more than to find his wife and daughter. Play begins as Randall gets separated from a group of survivors and has to make his own way through the apocalyptic landscape using his considerable skills of running, jumping, climbing and beating up the Undead. So far as stories go, there is not a whole lot going on in Deadlight that we haven’t seen before. However, the light storytelling is expanded upon with diary entries that can be found hidden throughout the game, which is a nice touch for both building upon the story and giving players a good reason to explore.
Not that there is a huge amount of exploration in Deadlight. For the most part, the gameplay is linear, with the player moving from left to right across the screen. There is minimal backtracking, which is always nice, and there are still a few secrets to find.
The gameplay will see players jumping from roof to roof, clambering up ladders or poles, grasping at platforms and doing whatever they need to in order to avoid the Undead. This is a game much more interested in finding ways to get past the Zombies rather than confronting them, and this is the basis for most of the puzzles. whether it be electrifying a large group of Zombies, or simply moving a box to reach a higher, Zombie-free area, the player will often find themselves dealing with various environmental puzzles in order to proceed. Then there are the various traps that have been helpfully left by other survivors, adding yet more for the player to contend with.
Not that Randall isn’t quite capable of taking care of himself, at least against small numbers of Undead. Weapons become available through the game, such as the early axe that the player gets, or the pistol, and these weapons make life a bit easier for Randall when he finds himself having to go toe to toe with Zombies. However, often times the weapons serve other purposes in the game, such as being able to break down barriers. This further points to the games main goal – avoid conflict wherever possible.
Visually, the original Deadlight was really nice to look it. It employed a silhouetted foreground, including the player character and Zombies, set upon a detailed 3D background. The camera was set quite far back, giving the player a good view of their surroundings if rendering their character a little small. It looked nice on the Xbox360.
But this is the Director’s Cut, and it is running on Xbox One, PS4 and PC at 1080p, apparently with enhanced animations. It may have been some years since playing the original game, and it still looks incredibly nice, but the improvements seem somewhat underwhelming. It still looks good, but the improvements don’t make a huge difference.
What do make a difference, especially for those wanting more challenge from an already testing game, are the additional modes added in the Director’s Cut. Nightmare mode is one for the true masters of the genre, with only one life given to complete the entire game. If you need to add more tension to the Zombie apocalypse, this is the mode to choose. Then there is a Survival mode, challenging the player to survive as long as possible within a closed environment with limited weapons. Leaderboards provide the encouragement to go back for more in this mode.
The new modes are great, and the game looks better than it ever has, albeit marginally. However, it is the core game that is really impressive here, and that is pretty much unchanged. It kind of makes labeling this re-release as “Director’s Cut” slight overkill.
Deadlight was a great game, and Deadlight: Director’s Cut is still a great game. The improved visuals and the new modes don’t make a lot of difference, and don’t really warrant picking the game up again for owners of the original. However, for those who never tried the delights of Deadlight, the Director’s Cut is the best possible version of the game and well worth trying.