Randall Wayne has been searching for his family ever since zombies overran the world, traveling with another group of survivors in the hopes of discovering their whereabouts, but when Randall becomes separated from the others, he will have to put off the search for the family he’s lost in order to reunite with the family he’s gained.
Family has always been a strange subject for me, well not entirely strange, just strange in how it’s determined considering there are so damn many variations and definitions. For some, one is only considered family if they’re a blood relation, though even within that group there seem to be different levels of family, immediate family being a mother and father plus any children. This then gets split into different family types depending on if the parents are still together, if the children spend their time split between both parents after a divorce, or if one parent has sole custody over the other. Then there are the additions of extended family, grandparents, aunts, uncles, great aunts, great uncles, cousins, second cousins, third cousins, that guy in Detroit your mom swears is related to you somehow she just can’t remember from where exactly. The point is it all gets rather complicated when the requirement for being family is blood based only. Others, like myself, tend to look at family as more of an abstract concept completely open to interpretation. I think family is whoever we decide it to be, whether that be a blood relative or not is up to you. I have blood relatives that I can’t stand to be around, people that I don’t consider as family other than them sharing a last name with me somewhere along the line. At the same time, I have friends that I would easily consider family, people whom I love very dearly but who aren’t related to me in any way, so for me, when I mention my family I’m talking about some of my relatives and many of my friends. I fully believe that family is entirely what you make of it, a belief that’s been reaffirmed by being a zombie. See, when you become a member of the living dead, you immediately become part of one very large family because all zombies look at one another as family. We don’t care who you were before you became one of us, once you’re a zombie, you’re family. It’s not that you can’t still have your own family among the living if you so choose, you’re just part of our family now too. We don’t require any kind of blood kinship for inclusion, besides, blood doesn’t matter much when it’s a coagulated goop that looks like old motor oil.
In Deadlight you play as Randall Wayne, a Canadian park ranger who made his way to Seattle, Washington in the hope of finding his missing wife Shannon and their daughter Lydia. When a virus began reanimating the dead in 1986, it quickly overwhelmed the world and caused a complete breakdown in society that destroyed life as people knew it. Randall ended up separated from his family in all the chaos and has been searching for them ever since, finally receiving a clue as to their whereabouts when he hears of a protected safe point in Seattle. Along with his fellow park ranger and friend Ben, a police officer named Sam, and twin sisters Stella and Karla, Randall has made the dangerous trip, but what no one knew was that Karla had received a bite along the way. Randall is forced to put Karla down, shooting her in the head before she can hurt anyone else. The shot alerts every zombie for a mile and the undead begin to surround the warehouse where the group was hiding. While Ben, Sam, and Stella are able to make it to their vehicle, Randall is cut off, telling the other three to get to the safe point and he will try and meet them there. That mean’s Randall is going to have to make it through zombie infested Seattle by foot, avoiding the ever constant threat of being eaten along the way, if he wants to be reunited with his friends, and more importantly, his family. As he begins his perilous journey he finds that he will have to watch out not only for the zombies, but a violent militia called The New Law who seem more interested in murdering any survivors they find rather than helping them, and The New Law might be more dangerous than the zombies stalking him from the shadows.
Deadlight was an interesting take on the zombie video game. Most zombie video games are all about killing as many of the undead as you possibly can in ever increasing ways, but this side scrolling platformer is more about surviving the undead’s attacks than stopping them. You’ll have some weapons at your disposal eventually, such as an axe, a revolver, and a shotgun, but spending too much time using these weapons will only lead to your quick death. The goal is to avoid them as often as possible, finding ways around them when you can and minimizing contact with them when you can’t. The weapons you’re given aren’t for wholesale slaughter, but for defense and destroying the occasional lock, even allowing four or five zombies to gang up on you is likely to end with you needing to restart the level. Your weapons might help you dispatch an occasional zombie here and there, but won’t do jack against larger groups. The axe is going to be your most prevalent weapon as it’s the one you’ll have for the longest amount of time but using it takes a lot of your stamina. Stamina is what allows you to run, jump, and hang onto to buildings and ropes, it’s also what allows you to swing your axe, use it all up and Randall becomes sluggish and easily overwhelmed, and since you don’t have a whole lot of life, you don’t want to have to worry about losing any because you ran out of stamina at the wrong time. Your firearms are the better zombie killing tools, but you have to make sure you hit them in the head on the first shot, ammo not being an easy thing to come by in most levels. Luckily aiming isn’t too difficult, made easy by using the right thumb stick to find your target. That doesn’t mean you should take advantage of it though, zombies will gain on you quickly and it isn’t uncommon for one or two to gain ground on you while you’re taking out a third. Your best bet is still going to be trying to avoid the undead as often as you can. It was this dynamic that made Deadlight a bit different among a slew of other zombie games, the fact that avoiding the undead was preferable to killing them. There will be the odd time where you will be forced to kill zombies to proceed, but it’s a rare thing, and those times won’t make it easy for you.
The artwork for the game was gorgeous, having a dark, shaded aspect where nothing was ever fully visible to the naked eye, as if Randall himself was trying to avoid having to see too much of the world around him. I thought it was beautifully drawn and a treat for the zombie lover to behold as you run through the zombie infested city of Seattle. They did a very good job with the use of shading to create an intriguing environment for the player to get through, making things only as visible as they needed to be so that it always seemed dark and foreboding. They couldn’t making things too dark though because the environment can be quite tricky and force you to think on your feet to get through the various levels, using an almost parkour style of play at times as you leap between buildings, run across cluttered city streets, and make your way through suburban houses. You’ll have to use more than a bit of strategy to figure out the best way through and how to avoid the zombies, either calling them over to a space where you might be able to go around them or trying to sneak past them without garnering their attention. There’s also more than a few times where you will have to figure out traps set by other humans or try not to be killed by members of The New Law who are more than happy to do the zombies’ work for them. At times it can become a chore though, I must admit, as there are levels where you are forced to run through without being able to learn the area first, meaning the only way to get through it is by dying and then restarting, attempting to avoid being killed by what got you the first time, only to have to do the same thing multiple times with different obstacles before you’ve got a real understanding of how to beat said level. That means dying more than a few times as you lean the layout enough to get by. It could get frustrating at times thanks to the shaded artwork that I loved. It looked great but made seeing things very difficult until you were right up against an obstacle or trap. I enjoyed playing and figuring out the best way through a level but it could get frustrating at times.
Deadlight has a lot of replayability to it as well, tasking you with finding various things throughout the game, things that aren’t a requirement but were good additions regardless. There are three major things to find, Randall’s journal entries, personal ID cards, and handheld games. The journal entries are the most important of the three as they flesh out the story for you, giving the player a look at Randall’s life before the plague started and how his small town of Hope in Canada was dealing with reports of the dead beginning to rise. How they ended up scattered around Seattle when the man has never been there is beyond me, but they’re there regardless. The IDs aren’t the slightest bit important and add nothing to the game, he only likes to collect them as he believes they help to keep people alive at least in someone’s memory, but I still liked trying to find all of them. The handhelds were the third thing to find and fun to play. Any child of the 80’s will remember playing with these before the Gameboy was a widely available and more affordable thing to have. They were cheap things you could buy at any store and had a single background that didn’t change and a simple play structure that allowed you to control one character as he or she did the simplistic actions required of said game. You can find three of them throughout the game, playing them from the start menu. They played in a way very reminiscent of the ones yours truly grew up with.
If I had one complaint it would only be that Deadlight is extremely short, you can play through it in about three hours if you try. Still, it was a fun game that I enjoyed very much and would recommend anyone try out if given the chance.
The Undead Review
Developed By; Tequilla Works
Published By: Microsoft Studios
Platform: Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows
Release Year: 2012
Rotten Heads: Three and a Half Heads Out of Five