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Deadlight (PC/360/XONE/PS4): Dead on Arrival (Detailed Review)

Deadlight is fucking terrible. I am making sure I emphasize this right away so that no one makes the mistake of assuming this wretched pile of filth has any merits. Deadlight is so bad, that I’m writing this review immediately after playing it, just to make sure that I remember every maddening detail of it. If I did not approach my review with the same level of barbaric, genocidal ferocity as IDF soldiers towards Palestinian civilians, I’d feel more empty than the aforementioned IDF soldier’s souls.

Oh yeah, I have not felt this level of disgust towards a game in a long time, and even longer towards a non hentai game. Deadlight is a game that makes me genuinely angry. And I don’t mean the occasional comedic anger I use, I mean violently, unhealthily angry, the type of anger that I haven’t felt since I was a child and had significantly less anger management skills. It’s actually quite impressive that a game has accomplished this feat, but it’s impressive for all the wrong reasons.

I’m honestly quite overwhelmed where to even begin with this game, but I guess I could start with the fact that this piece of garbage got 7 and 8s in most of its reviews, as if you need another reason to not take game journalists seriously. You all will just eat up any generic interchangeable cutscene orgy as long as it has pretty, cinematic graphics won’t you? I swear to fucking Christ, any “I’m 14 this is deep” narrative will be passed off as the next Citizen Cane to you fuckers. Do any of you consume anything in any other medium, because this is the only way I could see how someone could view this as art. Aren’t professional critics supposed to have a finer and more high class taste than the average gamer?

He literally chooses to waste water that is in short supply, to put out a fire that he can walk around. Super serious artistic masterpiece everyone!

Okay, I guess I start by scrounging for positives. Well uhh…. the music is alright. Yeah, that’s the only category that doesn’t have an asterisk next to it. The artwork is good to, but there is a problem with you not being able to tell when zombies are in the background or not, and it’s even worse considering they enter into the in-game environment very slowly, which results in you being unable to tell if your attacks can even connect.

I’ve heard it mentioned that Deadlight was intended as a homage to sidescrolling cinematic platformers such as Prince of Persia, and Out of this World. While I have not played either of those games, I did briefly look up gameplay footage to compare to Deadlight. In terms of its visuals, Deadlight does manage to capture the cinematic feel that it’s going for, and I won’t say that it’s bad in this area. However, I’ve noticed that despite the more realistic visuals, it feels significantly more video-gamey than titles like Prince of Persia and Out of this World. Now this is a guess on my part, as I’m mostly going by what I know about those two older games, but I suspect that the environment of Deadlight isn’t as believable as the latter two.

Randall has a strange habit of clinging to ledges and not getting down when you need him to. This results in a lot of cheap deaths.

In Prince of Persia and Out of this World, obstacles were a part of the environment,and death animations were different depending on the means of death. In Deadlight, you have infinitely re-spawning zombies that kill you just by touching you for long enough, and you have sequences where you get killed by small amounts of falling debris that would do nothing in any other game. Deadlight ilacks the sense of immersion and atmosphere that titles like Out of this World possess, yet it keeps the frustrating, I Wanna Be the Guy esque, trial and error based gameplay that makes repeat it dozens of times, while also forcing you to hear game’s poor voice acting again and again. Oh wait, I was supposed to be talking about positives. Yeah, that’s pretty much it.

So about that story, yeah, it’s shit. You are given a 40 page diary right at the start, so right off the bat you have to decide between waiting twenty minutes to even play the game, or seeing characters reference shit you don’t understand. There’s also missing pages of the diary, which serve as bonuses to collect. By the time you collect all the missing pages (assuming you have the endurance to play this game enough to do so), you will have forgotten most of the diary content and will have to read the entire fucking thing again if you want a full understanding.

Anyway, Deadlight takes place in 1980s Seattle, half a year after the outbreak of a deadly disease that reanimates the dead. Survivors call these creatures “shadows,” because the developers think not calling them zombies made them original. The main character is Randall Wayne, a park ranger who spends every waking moment doing a Solid Snake impression and saying “damn” very aggressively. Oh, and he also wants to find his wife and kids, which he believes could be at the last remaining safe point in Seattle. The game takes place during Randall’s attempt to make it to the safe point, and avoid the totally not zombies, and evade roving militia group called the New Law.

There are typos in the fucking diary! Consider this tone set.

The writing is shit, the characters are wooden and soulless, and the story is terribly paced. Deadlight tries to come across as this dark and tragic tale that will break the player’s soul, but I cannot name a single point where I was invested in any of these characters. I already pointed out the fact that Randall loves to say “damn” a lot, but seriously, I haven’t seen this type of forced edginess since Shadow the Hedgehog. Actually no, Shadow the Hedgehog does not deserve that comparison, because Sonic’s goofy ass animal sidekicks are so far above anyone in this stupid ass game that it’s an insult to name them in the same breath.

You also spend the entirety of the second act trapped in the underground lair of some crazy old guy called “The Rat,” and he makes you avoid a bunch of booby traps in his lair, then tells you to find his son. You then find his son, but he doesn’t want to return because he’d rather take his chances on the surface than live in the sewers. Deadlight proceeds to have a rare moment of brilliance where Randall has contemplate whether it is ethical to return the kid to his insane sewer dwelling father simply because it’s safer down there. It was an interesting dilemma of “freedom Vs security,” or at least it would have been interesting if any of this was addressed in game. Yeah, I fucking gotcha again, this game doesn’t have any depth, he just brings the kid back without giving him a say in the matter, and then The Rat says he’s going to tighten security around the place because “Muh Parental Rights.”

If you couldn’t tell, I find the implications of this scene to be absolutely rancid. Deadlight simply wants you to assume that returning the kid to the person who almost killed you about an hour ago is a good idea. I get that the kid would be safer that way because The Rat’s labyrinth has a ton of traps to keep the zombies out. The problem isn’t “The Rat’s Son is stripped of his agency and that upsets me and my left wing political values,” but rather the fact that the Son is stripped of said agency because he only exists as a plot mandated excuse to justify spending one third of the game with Randall getting caught up in some bullshit to make the game longer. That being said, it is quite common for poorly written and shallow characters to not only harm the story, but to draw unfortunate, and unintended comparisons to real world political issues.

For example, think about how often you hear about “objectification of female characters” as a critique of sexist media, despite the fact that objectification refers to the process of making a real person into an object. Fictional characters are not real, and only have as much agency as their creator chooses them to have. So unless you want to claim that the creators of Looney Toons are serial animal abusers, you can’t claim it’s immoral to depict bad things in fictions. That’s not to say that the way they choose to depict these characters can’t tell you about their real life beliefs however.

CW: Discussion of Misogyny, suicide, and Sexual Assault. Also spoilers.

What the story of Deadlight demonstrates is that whoever wrote this game does not respect women and children; they probably aren’t Andrew Tate misogynistic or anything, but certainly conservative boomer chud tier. This can be shown in the final stretch of the with two scenes, the firstbeing a borderline rape scene where a woman is forcibly stripped by New Law soldiers, under the pretense of making sure she’s not zombie (no, this isn’t a typo). You knew your game is high art tier when it shares a plot device with Suck My Dick or Die, and it’s only slightly less bad. This scene is completely out place with the tone of the game, and Stella is not even given the chance to react to it, nor does it serve any role in the story beyond a pathetic attempt at shock value.

The other scene in question is the end game twist. Right after the maddeningly frustrating final level, Randall and Stella get cornered by the zombies, and Stella begs Randall to mercy kill her so she doesn’t turn into the opposite of an un-zombie. This causes Randall to remember that the wife and daughter he’s been looking for the entire game… are already dead. Much like Stella would later do, Randall’s wife and daughter asked him to kill them so they don’t get killed by the how could you possibly think they are zombies!

Randall’s response is to say “no, I will not mercy kill you because my family not wanting to be turned into horrific, subhuman abominations caused me a lot of distress” and ending on the most vapid anti-suicide message I’ve ever seen. I did not think I’d ever utter the words “vapid anti-suicide message” together, but holy fuck, does Deadlight address this in the most disrespectful way. Similarly to The Rat’s Son, Randall’s wife and daughter are not treated as anything more than props, and their agency is not even considered.

To make things even worse, Randall is able to save Stella by putting her on a boat right next to the dock he’s cornered at, right after his declaration that he’s not going to mercy kill her. This is completely fucking idiotic because it demonstrates that there was never a reason for Stella to want to be killed in the first place. Of course they have to put something like this because showing Stella suffer a fate worse than death before Randall’s eyes would show why Randall’s decision is so fucking vapid.

The optional ending achieved by completing nightmare mode, on the other hand, reveals that Randall is a serial killer with DID, and he killed all of his friends then forgot. Now there were some clues to foreshadow this, such as some questionable behavior of his described in the diary, and the fact that every ID collected from dead bodies throughout the game listed the name of a serial killer, but this twist still sucks. First of all, The Rat was talking about how he “sees everything” early on, so this ending implies he let a fucking serial killer rescue his Son, which makes what I discussed earlier so much more fucked up. What pisses me off, however, is how disrespectful this trope is to people with DID.

New flash for vapid hacks, DID is a real condition, there are real people who have it, and making it your bullshit horror trope is not only lazy writing, but it makes life significantly worse for people with DID because most people’s only exposure to them is through garbage fucking games like Deadlight!

Spoilers and CW over

Unless you specifically shoot the first soldier before you help Stella up, then shoot the second one after, you die, and start again. This is only the first few seconds of the most agonizingly frustrating level in the game.

So what about the gameplay, you may ask? It’s fucking shit, that’s what! The gameplay, much like everything else in this travesty of a video game, is maddeningly frustrating and anger inducing. Much of the game consists of you climbing over shit and leaping to other shit from the shit you are climbing. You can think of it like a 2D Uncharted, only the controls are so shit that your character will refuse to disconnect from walls and will keep leaping back and forth between ledges. Considering how much of the design is based on split second timing, you will have to replay levels a lot.

And if the horrendous controls weren’t enough, the game is filled with a fuck ton of beginners traps that will force you to retread everything again and a-fucking-gain. The further you get in the game, the greater frequency of these traps there is, and the more you have to replay the same stage. Oh, and you also have to listen to the game’s awkward ass voice acting every time.

I can barely muster any type of response for the gameplay. It’s bland and frustrating, which is the worst combination you can get. If it’s easy and frustrating, you could at least turn off your brain and go through the motions. But you don’t even get that with something like Deadlight, because you have to memorize every shoddily designed level, move at just the right time, and feel no satisfaction because you realize you still aren’t done with this dreadful game. Oh, there was also a part where I glitched into the inside of one of the buildings, and once I died, it spawned me inside of the building, leading to an unwinnable game. Thankfully, it later spawned me at the normal spot, but how has a bug like this not been patched yet? This version of the game was released in 2016 for fucks sake!

Deadlight is a game that has absolutely nothing going for it. I’ve seen more competently designed games by micro budget indie developers with a fraction of the budget this game has, and I’ve seen better stories on DeviantArt. Deadlight is an utter disgrace, and the fact that this game received positive reviews is even more of one. That being said, it’s no wonder why no one even heard of this game after its release, and why it’s gained no substantial following. I got Deadlight for free, and as cliche of a line as it is, I still feel ripped off. After all, time is money, and this game stole five hours of my time, and I know for damn sure that any use of my time would have been better spent.

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