In an alternative 1986, players take control of rugged protagonist Randall Wayne as his world crumbles around him, we enter the fray after the zombie apocalypse has already happened, and encounter Randall and his comrades in the aftermath of a very difficult decision. They are forced to scatter as their refuge is besieged by the living dead, which sees Randall left on his lonesome as he attempts to reunite with them at a designated spot in the city. On his journey, Randall encounters a couple of friendly faces but finds that the greatest threat of all isn’t the zombie horde, but rather the men who terrorise the other remaining survivors. Most of all though, his journey is a personal one into the past, to the start of it all, the outbreak, and his own emotional pain. And whilst the voice acting on the whole doesn’t do the premise justice, the final denouement is still a relatively moving one.
Zombies have become entirely mainstream and thoroughly passé thanks to the likes of The Walking Dead TV show and a plethora of other zombie slaughtering games (though I was delighted with the Dead Rising 4 announcement), yet Deadlight does things a little differently, and actually manages to keep the subject matter relatively fresh. It’s effectively a 2D puzzle-platformer with combat elements, there are guns and you get a fire axe, but ultimately, the game is centred on its narrative, and Randall’s ability to survive. Generally, this simply involves running, jumping and climbing to avoid enemies, whilst swinging the axe to knock back any foes who get a little too close for comfort. Randall is a fairly nimble character, wall running and leaping from building to building and such like, and these are skills that the player has to utilise efficiently, particularly as there are a number of sections of trial and error gameplay, where the player has to avoid a sudden influx of falling objects or death dealing helicopters out for his blood – well, the gunner and pilot are anyway. Personally, I’ve never liked this kind of game design, I find it to be rather cheap and annoying, and in this Director’s Cut edition, it’s worsened by one of the release’s “improved” features, its control scheme.