Deadlight Director’s Cut Review: Deus Exposition Machina

Tequila Works
Tequila Works /

Deadlight Director’s Cut begs the question; if the PS4 wasn’t popular, would this re-release even exist?

Developer: Tequila Works

Publisher: Deep Silver

Platforms: PC, PS4 (Version Reviewed), Xbox One

Release Date: June 21, 2016

We’ve now gone far enough into the 8th generation of video game consoles that the shift of criticism has moved from “does this game need a remaster?” to “does this game need a reimagining?” Nevertheless, there will always be stragglers among the pack, trying to capture a trend that has lost most of its momentum.

Enter Tequila Works’ Deadlight: Director’s Cut; not quite the remaster, but not quite the familiar experience. This former XBLA title, then published by Microsoft Studios, has been picked up by Deep Silver, who brought it across the current major platforms. Whether or not this game warranted a second look is dependent on the player’s tolerance for stock characters and predictable moments.

Deadlight Director's Cut
Tequila Works /

Deadlight takes place in an alternate version of the past, beginning with the 4th of July, 1986. It’s been more than a hundred days since “patient zero” came back to life as a zombie; those infected with the epidemic are represented and referred to as “shadows” of their former selves. Randall Wayne, a park ranger from Vancouver, BC, has traveled to Seattle in hopes of finding his lost family. He’s amassed a crew of survivors, one of which is killed at the start of the game to prevent them from turning into a Shadow.

As a park ranger, Randall is built with a strong physique and a stronger will to find his family. Players will search for his family by running up ladders, jumping through windows, climbing telephone lines and doing everything they can to avoid the shadows. They often hide in the background, jumping out once the player comes near them.

The emphasis of Deadlight: Director’s Cut is not to be the badass with an axe, a revolver or a shotgun; it’s to out-think the undead. Environmental destruction is a factor, as is a simple whistle. Credit must be given to Tequila Works for using the lens of their 2.5D side-scrolling camera angle to give the player just enough information to let them figure things out on their own. Overcoming puzzles never felt challenging, but their implementation was just clever enough.

Deadlight Director's Cut
Tequila Works /

If only some of that cleverness rubbed off on our hero. However noble the intentions of Randall Wayne are in Deadlight: Director’s Cut, the character performed quite poorly as the focal point of the game’s narrative. His cynical musings of a disheveled world lost to chaos is reminiscent of a Mad Libs exercise; inserting common post-apocalyptic tropes to fit whatever box the situation calls for. They are only outdone by the bland, familiar “message of anger/hope written on the wall” moments that plague the insides of numerous buildings.

Deadlight: Director’s Cut’s biggest obstacle of all; uneven controls.

The lack of enjoyable, redeemable qualities for the playable hero puts the entirety of Deadlight: Director’s Cut in jeopardy, especially considering its short runtime. You could 100% complete the game in under three hours if you’re paying attention, which is way too short to justify the type of game Tequila Works aims for. When the first half hour of teaching gameplay mechanics (jumping over obstacles, running from zombie hordes and picking up your first weapon) takes up a quarter of the game, pacing becomes a real issue.

It becomes compounded when you realize that the second act is comprised of one long journey in the sewers of Seattle, highlighting Deadlight: Director’s Cut’s biggest obstacle of all; uneven controls. Seeking out a character to aid your journey becomes the escape of a lifetime amid various traps lying in wait. But due to the floatiness of the controls (which, admittedly, have been tightened a small bit since the jump to the newer generation), you will die unfairly to mistimed jumps you should have made. Despite the parkour action moves of a much younger man, including wall jumps and long leaps, Randall isn’t equipped to take on the world. Thematically, he is built to face a shadow or two and get the hell out of dodge when the going gets tough.

Deadlight Director's Cut
Tequila Works /

There is something hauntingly beautiful about the fictionalized Seattle that the developers painted back in 2012. It’s dark, brooding and tense at its key moments, especially as danger comes rushing in behind you. And yet, once you see the same movements, the same style in set pieces and hear the same kind of “reluctant hero” dialogue, you can’t help but feel disappointed. Deadlight: Director’s Cut puts you through the motions too broadly for a game set up with a psychological thriller hook. It’s all too predictable, cutting into its effectiveness in both gameplay and narrative.

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The Director’s Cut aspects of this re-release had me puzzled, as well. An arcade add-on is a simple wave survival mode that tacks on extra weapons and barriers to keep you alive. Oddly enough, this game that focuses so much on making you overcome obstacles and enemies with a sharp mind doesn’t do so well with a “kill all the things” piece of additional content. The PC-ported Nightmare Mode does little to extend the game’s replayability, either, and seemed added on to justify a $17 price at launch.

6. The main reason <em>Deadlight: Director’s Cut</em> even exists is to bring an interesting game idea to Sony’s users for the first time ever. Beyond that, players would have to forgive the cliches, stubborn controls, and uneven pacing to appreciate the rare exciting set piece and overall beauty in the art style.. Tequila Works. . Deadlight: Director's Cut

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.