Deadlight was a 2.5D platformer that took some pretty obvious cues from Limbo but added zombies into the mix. It wasn’t a terrible game when it came out in 2012, but it wasn’t anything amazing either. It existed, it provided a fun enough romp along with some frustrations, and then it ended. Now it’s 2016, and for some reason, Deep Silver has decided to rerelease Deadlight with some new content. Does this director’s cut hold up, or should it have been left on the cutting room floor?
You play as Randall Wayne, a Canadian park ranger who’s trying desperately to find his wife and daughter in Seattle. Alongside his best friend Ben, he met up with a group of survivors, with the game picking up in the middle of the action as Randall executes one of the survivors for being bitten. From there the group is rapidly falling apart while Randall continues his hunt for his family. Randall’s journey isn’t exactly a good one though, as what should be an emotional search for his family gets derailed by terrible voice acting and horrible writing. Characters seem nonsensical and unconnected to events, often trying to explain what’s happening to them despite the player clearly being able to see it. The game also ends on a strange plot twist that seems more silly than anything else. The nightmare difficulty (which was added in the PC port, but not in the original 360 version) also has a new ending with a new equally nonsensical plot twist.
For most of Deadlight, you’ll be running, jumping, solving some basic puzzles, and killing zombies (or, as they’re known in this game, shadows.) Randall has some basic skills that allow him to do this. He can jump on and climb over walls, hang from ropes, and all the usual stuff you would expect from the genre. All of Randalls climbing and jumping is tied to his stamina bar. It goes down while he climbs and backs up when you get a place to rest. While this seems like it may put some tension in the climbing sections, most climbing and jumping segments are over long before your stamina bar gets close to the bottom. The sections themselves aren’t anything too exciting or stressful. Most of the problems I had would come from the general sluggishness of the game.
It’s not that the controls are bad, or that the sections are too demanding. It’s just that everything feels like it happens just a little after I ask it to. At times, I feel like if I initiate a jump, Randall will take a second before he jumps. It doesn’t help that there are several points where Randall felt like he wasn’t doing what I said either. Often I would try to have him jump up and grab a ledge only to watch him instead jump forward and into a pit. Even the simple act of turning around on a fence would lead Randall to do a little “dance”, swapping between sides rapidly.
It’s made frustrating especially since Deadlight‘s platforming sections weren’t bad otherwise. The segments were often kind of creative, requiring me to take a few moments and look the environment over to figure out the best way to move around it. At times, the game felt like “the floor is lava” with the amount of shadows that were reaching for me from the ground. When the controls click, and you figure out, the jumping puzzles is when Deadlight is at its strongest and is the most enjoyable.
You sometimes can get your back pushed to the wall, and your only option is to fight your way out of the situation. This sadly means having to deal with Deadlight‘s clunky combat system. Your only melee weapon is an axe, and you can swing it at the cost of stamina. Sometimes it knocks enemies down, at times it instantly decapitates them, sometimes it just makes them stumble a little, and it’s a total toss in the air what it’ll do every time you swing it. Worse, it’s difficult to tell if a shadow is in the background or able to be hit. I often found myself wasting stamina swinging at shadows I couldn’t connect with because the game never really makes it clear if I can. Even if I could, I still sometimes ran into strange situations where my axe would pass through a shadow but deal no damage. Fighting more than a couple of shadows at once is a death wish, so for the most part avoiding melee combat is the best situation.
While the melee combat is clunky and barely usable, you’ll eventually pick up a revolver and a shotgun, and the ranged combat fares a little better. Here you can use the right stick to aim, and the game will put a marker on the target to show exactly what you’re going to hit. It makes getting headshots pretty easy, but you still don’t want to get backed into a corner by too many shadows as reload times are quite long. The real problem with the ranged combat is that both the revolver and the shotgun act the same. They both hold the same amount of shots, and the both only hit the target you aim at with no special anything. The only real reason to swap between them is however you’re fairing on ammo.
If Deadlight has one lovely thing going for it, its the art style. The game is often really nice to look at and manages to hit a happy medium between “beautiful” and “depressing”. The game was constantly gorgeous, and if hoards of zombies weren’t chasing me, I could find myself stopping to take in the view. I also enjoyed the game’s soundtrack as well, matching the game’s tone often. On the other hand, the voice acting can only be described as “bad”, and no one honestly seems interested in or talented enough for the drama.
So what’s new in the director’s cut? Not much. There’s a new survival game mode where you must survive in a hospital for as long as possible. Since this puts Deadlight‘s clunky combat front and center, there’s not much reason you’d want to do this. There’re some creative ideas here, like being able to move crates around to reach new areas and some new weapons to use, but overall it’s just not a very fun game mode. There’s also some developer interviews that talk about the creation of Deadlight. It’s interesting stuff that’s ruined by a weird editing style that includes a bunch of shaky camera movements and random zoom-ins. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why anything was shot this way.
Deadlight: Director’s Cut feels very middle of the road to me. It’s a strange remaster of a game that doesn’t feel warranted. The new content isn’t much of anything, while what’s already there is just okay. There’re some occasional cool platforming segments, but most of the game is just annoying. Since Deadlight came out, there have been many better entries into the genre, and you’d be better just seeking them out.
Deadlight: Director's Cut is just a port of Deadlight to the new consoles without much new added to it. Its the kind of thing that I'm not entirely sure why it needed to happen. If you've never played Deadlight before then you aren't missing much, and if you have then there's no reason to pick this up.