In this week’s Red Bull Gaming Blog, Glen Ferris aims for the brain with side-scrolling zombie shooter Deadlight…
We’ve had first-person, third-person, overhead, top down and just about every other type of POV zombie games, but rarely have we played an undead 2D side-scroller. And never has it been so stylishly drawn as in Deadlight, the new Xbox Live Arcade actioner (yours for 1,200 Microsoft Points) from developer Tequila Works.
A game that eschews the clichéd route of action and puzzle solving in favour of genuine scares, it’s imbued with a dread-filled atmosphere thanks to a nourish palette and a decidedly cinematic bent. Damn good looking and intriguing in its presentation, it's a release that could well have been something special, sadly though it’s not only the umpteenth zombie shooter in recent memory but it’s also found very much wanting in terms of playability.
The story’s set in your prototypical undead wasteland as it focusses on protagonist Randall Wayne, an everyman attempting to journey from Canada to Seattle to find his wife and daughter. A very recognisable plot is hardly lifted above the norm by a truly terrible script and frankly abominable voice acting.
Okay, so crappy dialogue need not necessarily get in the way of a great game (even the masterful Resident Evil had a few clunkers), but, despite a cracking start, Deadlight suffers from some fundamental errors.
These cock-ups mostly concern the slippery combat controls which make it incredibly awkward to get a bead on your prey - imprecise doesn’t cover it, as you awkwardly take aim or swing your axe at a rotten noggin. This, coupled with the uneven levels of difficulty (zombies tend to jump out at you when you have no way of defending yourself) and the fact that even dipping a toe into a body of water invites a game over, and you’ve got a rather unpleasant letdown.
Even these major oversights would be forgivable if the survival horror elements (ammo and health conservation, that sort of thing) weren’t dropped during the final act in favour of dull trap-laden platforming so riddled with inconsistencies that completing the game becomes more of a chore than a pleasure.
It’s a real shame to see such potential go down the plughole, especially when Tequila Works have clearly poured a lot of love into the project. But a mess is what it undeniably is. Our advice? Spare yourself the frustration and save your wallet for something infinitely more rewarding, say Telltale Games’ excellent The Walking Dead series.