Deadlight: Director’s Cut
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Tequila Works
Release Date: 07/21/16
I first played through Deadlight when it was originally released in July of 2012, back when it was exclusive to the Xbox 360 and Windows platforms as part of Microsoft’s “Summer of Games”. Four years later, here we are with the Director’s Cut, now being published on Xbox One, PS4, and PC by Deep Silver, which sees the game updated with enhanced controls, refined graphics and animation, and 1080p resolution, as well as a new “Survival Arena” mode. Having already played through the relativity short original release, I was skeptical as to whether or not Deadlight was really a game we needed to see an enhanced version of… especially one that wasn’t actively looking to add any more content to the core game itself. Let’s take a look and see how well the game pans out.
Deadlight takes place in post-apocalyptic Seattle in 1986, several days after the outbreak of a “zombie” virus. Victims of the virus have overrun most of the world and aggressively search for the flesh of the living, and while the survivors call the infected “shadows,” it’s otherwise a standard zombie setup in thought and deed. The story follows your character Randall Wayne, a former park ranger who is in search of his family, and believes they are at a safe point located in the far end of the city. As you make your way through the stages, a number of flashback sequences pop up to fill in the many details pertaining to Wayne and his family, and without giving too much away, as seeing the story to the end is definitely the driving point of the game, it is (in my opinion) a tough one to swallow. Wayne will meet a number of other characters on his journey, including the members of a sadistic band of survivors calling themselves the “New Law”, who actively attack other survivors for their supplies. According to Tequila Works, the story, like many other elements of the game, is inspired by 80’s sci-fi and horror. Having seen more than my fair share of films from these genres in that specific era, I have to say that they missed their mark in quite a few spots along the way as far as the actual storyline is concerned; the plot isn’t bad, but there are segments of it that fit that aesthetic, and others that are, as I said earlier, hard to swallow.
Mechanically, Deadlight is a throwback to classic platform games like Prince of Persia, Nosferatu, or Flashback. You move left and right, climb over and up obstacles as need be, and make the occasional jump or running jump. Wayne can defend himself from the shadows with either an axe or a revolver, but the more creative way is to lure the shadows into various traps with the “taunt” button. Doing this will see the shadows shamble into open manholes, falling to their death, or in just the right spot to pull a lever and drop a large crate on them. In comparison to the original 2012 release, the controls seem a lot less tight, which is a good thing. Running and jumping, an action you’ll be using often, is a lot easier to do right. In general, the character seems to move at a more reasonable pace over all. These enhancements still don’t make a particular stage almost entirely dedicated to jumping and puzzle elements free of frustration, but it was definitely more tolerable this time around.
The design and aesthetic of Deadlight is where the game really shines. The shadows themselves are often cast in an entirely black silhouette, while Wayne himself is portrayed with a dulled contrast. The foreground of any given stage is typically bathed in a harsh light which makes the moving characters themselves standout considerably, while the background remain diluted and washed out. Many of the games post-apocalyptic set pieces are pieced together with great detail and look fantastic. It’s especially impressive to see shadows shuffling about in the far reaches of the background catch wind of your approach and begin to make their way towards the foreground where your character operates. Shadows will follow you even you proceed past the screen, so there is an almost constant sense of urgency and pursuit. Deadlight is easily one of the best looking games of its kind, and the art department at Tequila Works definitely deserves a pat on the back for the amazing effort here. The 1080p scaling does make things look sharper and clearer, but it also detracts somewhat from the rich atmosphere the aesthetic creates; like watching an old zombie film from the 80’s on Blu-Ray, the absence of the original format’s dullness and grain takes something away from the overall package. I’m not saying one should download the Xbox 360 original in lieu of the newer version, as it is a superior product; I’m just surprised that the design team didn’t opt for an “original presentation” option of some sort, especially given the heavy 80’s influence that encompasses the entire experience. Sharpness aside, Deadlight will still dazzle, set piece after set piece, and if there is any reason to play through the game, it’s definitely to take in all the gorgeous post-apocalyptic scenery.
New to the director’s cut of Deadlight is the Survival Mode, which sees Wayne attempting to survive as long as he can within the hospital stage amidst a never ending onslaught of shadows. The mode is interesting, but given the kind of game Deadlight is, this mode proved to be more frustrating than fun across a couple of sessions. The mode features an online ranking board if that’s a thing you’ll find engaging, but overall the mode simply doesn’t offer enough to make it worth owning this version of the game for exclusively, and it really doesn’t fit into the experience well, honestly. As the significant “content” addition to the Director’s Cut, it’s not a compelling addition, and doesn’t make a strong argument to buy this release based on the addition exclusively, especially if you own the prior release.
Short Attention Span Summary:
Deadlight Director’s Cut is honestly an unnecessary remake, as it is, that’s only going to appeal to players who’ve missed the original release entirely. While the game is good, and the visuals are aesthetically amazing, the Director’s Cut just doesn’t offer enough new material to warrant an additional purchase for those who might have already played it back in 2012. If you missed the original, it might be worth your time, but with the Survival mode being the only new feature, a better option might be to pick up the original release for $5 less on Xbox 360 or PC if you haven’t already; for the price, this doesn’t offer enough to be a compelling alternative unless you only own a PS4.