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While taking cues from a mix of other genres, notably zombie survival, platformers and side scrollers, Deadlight by Tequila Works is almost a sub genre unto itself.
Set in the mid 1980’s, Deadlight is the story of a man with a haunted past who is trying to find his family and friends during the outbreak of a zombie apocalypse.
“Oh Great!” I hear you say… but wait, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill zombie survival game.
What sets Deadlight apart from the hundreds of other “zombie” games?
Well, for starters it’s a side-scrolling perspective action game set in the past, 1986 to be specific.
It also has a realistic and believable story that doesn’t get in the way.
The basic concept of the game is to get from point A to point B with minimal contact with the actual zombies while using a small revolver, axe, shotgun and even a slingshot.
While there isn’t a lot of variety in the weapons or tools, they are put to smart use.
And you had better be smart with them, because ammo is very scarce and should only be used when outnumbered.
Your basic killing weapon will most likely be the fireman’s axe. It’s not fast, but it does the job as long as you think smart before swinging.
The game uses a well done stamina system, each jump, running and even each swing of the axe lowers your stamina quickly, so you can’t run into a herd of zombies and just spam click them to death.
Taking off the zombies head is the only way to stop them and the only way you can do that with the axe is to knock them to the ground with it first.
Taking out just one zombie can knock your stamina down to half, so you have to play smart.
The .38 caliber revolver, modeled after a Smith & Wesson Saturday Night Special is a much more lethal weapon, but again, you can’t just pump the zombies full of gutshots to drop them.
One aimed shot to the head will kill most zombies.
If your aim isn’t so good, the shotgun will definitely make your day.
Usually one blast from this scatter gun will easily shred two to three zombies.
This game isn’t all about killing zombies.
Along the way you will also encounter some light environmental puzzles that you must overcome with either speed, jumping at the right moment or using your non-lethal slingshot to knock loose boards and traps from a distance.
As the story progresses you deal with more than just the living dead on your journey to discover what happened to your wife and child.
From falling buildings, razor wire and the occasional pike trap and even gun welding living people are all part of the plot to keep you from getting to the end of the story.
Graphically the game is very well done.
The urban city of 1986 Seattle looks almost time-period perfect.
From the correct vehicles, to signs and ads that would have existed then, the city feels like a real city.
The game has a very “noir” feel to it that seems to have been done with great attention to detail.
This game was originally released as an Xbox 360 Live Arcade game and I was surprised how well it looked on a modern PC.
Even though there isn’t a ton of graphical options and doesn’t have any modern overdone camera effects that so many modern games try to stuff down our throats (I’m looking at you Watch_Dogs), the graphics hold-up very well and I actually prefer them to some more modern games.
Full disclosure here, I’m not one of those guys who likes to have music blaring in my games.
When I play a serious game I want a realistic sound environment, so one of the first things I do is turn off the music or at least turn it very far down.
I did leave the background music at about 20% for this title as it did lend to the atmosphere of the game.
Gunshots sound about right and zombies are easily heard in the distance.
The voice acting seems pretty professional and while the story will not win any awards, it is done properly with the voice acting.
Let me say, the main story is rather short.
I have a touch over 11 hours logged in with this on Steam, and that’s with trying to get all collectables.
As this started life as a Xbox Live Arcade titles, that is a reasonable time for a game of this price bracket (also the game is currently 80% off on Steam).
You have the option of using your standard keyboard and mouse or an Xbox type controller.
I figured the Xbox controller would be better suited for play as well due to Deadlight’s pedigree.
Controlling the character is fairly straight forward and responsive, although there were a few times where a slight lag between my actions and the input may have been responsible for a death or three.
However, for the most part the controls do their job and are easy to learn.
Firearms feel pretty good and only make you wish for more gunplay than what exists in the story.
Using your melee weapon, the axe, feels very well done.
Slow and heavy, the way a huge fireman’s axe should feel.
When you sink the axe in a zombie’s chest you can almost feel the axe biting in.
Along the way you will come across various diary pages from your character’s diary, to personal mementos from people who got killed during the apocalypse.
While collecting these items isn’t required to finish the game, they do provide a little more depth to a short journey.
Once you have finished the main story, a “Nightmare” mode is unlocked that allows you to restart fresh with a new outfit.
The difference in Nightmare mode beside your costume is that when you die you have to start over from the beginning, so lovers of roguelike games will appreciate this mode.
With the game being a Steam purchase there is also Steam achievements to be earned, a few concept art pieces and a few “making of” videos that can be accessed from the main menu that get unlocked as you progress.
To see the alternate ending you have to finish the game on the Nightmare mode.
Similar to Alan Wake the character’s journal, while incomplete at the start of the story, can be completed by finding lost pages.
Once you have the complete 60 page dairy you can read more backstory about the main character and the events leading up to the zombie apocalypse.
If you are looking for a zombie game that doesn’t follow the current copy and paste formula, then you might want to give Deadlight a swing.
While I felt the jumping controls were a little off at times, and one or two sections had me getting a little ticked-off, there wasn’t anything too bad that most people couldn’t work through.
The worst “problem” for the game seems to be the broken leaderboards, which does affect two or three of the Steam achievements.
Given that the game was released under the Games for Windows banner when it was initially released, I assume there is a problem with the leaderboard servers not showing as Games for Windows Live has been shut down.
I have done some research and can not find a definite answer as any questions and problems others have posted in regards to the online connection have been outdated by at least a year so buyer beware in that regard.