When you read the press packet for a game like DEADline, you really can't help but think it's going to be super-duper amazing, I mean, I certainly did. A strategic military game, with RPG elements, an epic loot system, twin stick shooting, AND zombies?! Where do I sign up? Its with a big UNFORTUNATELY, I have to say, it does not live up to those expectations.
DEADline is the follow up to the mobile/steam title Breach & Clear, released on iOS, Android, and later on Steam. DEADline builds off the tactical system of the first game, which had the ability to stack up different orders for the different soldiers in your squad and execute them simultaneously, all while in a comfortable paused mode. It is a great concept, and it works well on the go—if you manage to have a large screen. DEADline adds to this an RPG leveling system with multiple skill trees, all of which are accessible to all of your soldiers, customizable weapons, and a real-time, top down shooting system.
When I fired up this game on Steam, even before the game loaded, I was excited. The intro for the developers, Mighty Rabbit, and the publisher, Gun, are very intense. The music sets the scene nicely, and the Mighty Rabbit intro is just cool. Starting it up, I could feel the internal hype. After reading the press packet, I honestly couldn't contain my excitement, there was something about the combination of elements that really got under my skin.
Starting up the actual game, you get to customize your four man squad. You get a choice between 16 soldiers, with no other visual customization options available. This really isn't a big deal considering the style of game, so 16 is more than enough. After you choose a portrait, you get to choose your soldiers class. There are a total of six classes to choose from: Fire Team Leader, Weapon Sergeant, Breach, Intel, Medic and Scout. Each of them has a skill tree attached that wildly varies the way you use that soldier, and looking through the entire skill tree is definitely advised. That said, the skill trees are somewhat lackluster. You have somewhere between two and four active skills, and the rest are stat upgrades or passive abilities. This is also where you get the first glimpse of the game's graphics, and you realize this game's roots in mobile gaming really hasn't been forgotten.
The graphics, at least in the menu, are terrible. Maybe it's just me, but the graphics for the soldiers look extremely low poly, and stretched, like they forgot to add a 16:9 mode for the menu. Being a menu, I am more than willing to let this one slide, so I decided to jump into the game and check the graphics there, where I am happy to say, they look quite good. Being a top-down-ish shooter, the low poly models don't really have an impact on the way the game looks, and overall, it's pleasant to look at.
After customizing your squad, you jump into the introduction mission where you have your first two squad members, with only their backup weapons, who need to regroup with the rest of the squad and get out alive. It's a very good tutorial mission, which introduces you to the vast majority of game mechanics in an interesting way. After this mission ends, the game proper begins, and this is where it all goes pear shaped.
Much like a typical mobile game, the missions are all, basically, fetch quests. The first safe house you visit is full of people who ask for medical supplies, rescues and clean-outs. The first few missions are interesting, but after you do it five or six times, it becomes tedious and repetitive—the story-line is boring and non-existent at best. This is horribly unfortunate, as the game itself is quite fun.
The game has two game modes, which you can switch between seamlessly and at will. The first mode is a top down, pseudo twin-stick shooter, where you can switch between your soldiers and blast away at zombies at will. The second is a strategic, time-controlled mode, where you can give orders to the squad and advance time at will and at what speed you like. The twin-stick mode is somewhat hard to control. There is no aiming reticle or laser sight or anything else to help you figure out what you are aiming at. This makes it very difficult to use this mode with anything but a big, fully automatic weapon with a large clip. In contrast, the strategic mode is really well done. When you give orders, and proceed to forward time, the rest of the game proceeds as well, which means you need to be on top of what is happening all the time. To me, this is the most fun element of the game. Making sure your squad doesn't get overrun and eaten alive is challenging but also rewarding.
After the first few missions, you notice a couple of weird glitches in the game. In the beginning these are more just annoyances than anything else. Sometimes gun sounds may not work, or zombies will walk against a wall continuously—nothing too bad. But then you come to this game's AI's worst enemy: the stairs. The first time I encountered stairs it took me a good five minutes to get my entire squad up them. The path finding seems to get caught up on the bottom of the stairs so you have to use the twin-stick mode for each soldier to go up them individually, which also makes the squad regroup on the soldier you have selected, making it quite a task.
On top of the game itself, you also have the loot system. Much like a normal hack and loot game, you pick up weapons and upgrades, and you can also pay scrap, this game's currency, to upgrade your weapons further, which generally only increases damage. The combination of different upgrades on a weapon can have vastly differing effects, including accuracy, fire rate, clip size, and damage. Finding the best upgrades for your soldiers class is one of the more fun elements of this game.
All-in-all, I played this game for about five hours, before I got to what I assume to be the "bad ending," where I get air-lifted out of there and leave everyone else to die horribly. You are given the option to continue and change your decision, but to be honest, I couldn't find the motivation to play it any more.
In the end, between the glitches, the fetch quests and the horrible twin-stick controls, I can not recommend this game. If you played this game permanently in strategic mode, you could maybe get a bit more enjoyment out of it, but it still wouldn't be worth the $20 USD price of admission. If you find this game on special, or if they fix the bugs and add some more mission variety, I would recommend checking it out, until then, probably best to stay away.
What do you think? Have you played it? Did the concept not appeal to you? Let me know in the comments below.
This game was bought by the reviewer, and reviewed on Steam, with the edition available at launch. The game can be purchased from here
This game had a great premise, but was poorly executed. It needs a lot more work before it can be a recommendation