Game Review | Deadlight: Director's Cut
Game Summary: Society has been nearly decimated by the outbreak of a virus that reanimates the dead, turning them into what the survivors refer to as "Shadows". (Wikipedia)
Back when the original Resident Evil was released, there were some complaints about the control system being unresponsive and frustrating for many. Others argued, as I would, that the controls created tension because it required players to maintain control of themselves as well as their character.
The other reason Resident Evil’s controls worked is that they were consistent. Movement consisted of walking forwards, backwards, or rotating to either your left or right, with other buttons dealing with the myriad interactions needed in the game.
Why I’ve spent the first two paragraphs of this review talking about another game is because it’s the controls that let Deadlight down. This is effectively a 2D side-scrolling game and yet somehow it controls so poorly that there still aren’t enough buttons on a modern-day controller to avoid combining commands on buttons.
A serious question here: why is it so bloody complicated to move around in a parkour-like manner in two dimensions here when you consider that the Assassin’s Creed series managed to get the basics of three-dimensional agile movement done better years earlier?
And it’s not just the unnecessary complication of the controls, it’s the exact precision needed too. It quickly grew frustrating when there were situations that I just couldn’t figure out, having to resort to a guide and discover that I was doing the right thing, but from just the wrong spot or a fraction second too early or late.
I’ll admit that I gave up on this game under the two-hour limit I imposed on myself as a minimum for games because I was just getting so frustrated playing it. Having to repeat so many sections so often because of the ludicrous precision required just killed any enthusiasm I had for it.
And it’s a shame because it started off so well too – apart from the dreadful voice acting. Stephen Hughes voices the main character, Randall Wayne, but it sounds like he wasn’t given any direction as to how his lines should have been read and his character comes across completely flat as a result.
But as I was saying, it started off so well, and the audio-visual aesthetic remains pretty cool throughout, especially the nice touch of making the Shadows’ (not zombies!) eyes a bright red that contrasts nicely with the otherwise-muted colour palette.
Unfortunately though, it completely fails as a game thanks to the terrible controls. And it isn’t just me – I wondered if it was just me getting the buttons wrong, but a quick search brought up plenty of results of people asking how to do certain actions, or even switching from a controller to the keyboard because they could then use specific buttons for a guaranteed outcome rather than hope the game would respond correctly while using a controller.
Quite frankly, that just isn’t good enough. If you can’t create a consistent, reliable control system on a controller, then don’t allow it as a control choice. It really is as simple as that and I have such a huge number of games to get through that I’m not going to give Deadlight a second chance.
Harsh? Maybe, but those controls are design choices that just don’t work and I don’t see why I should continue to frustrate myself with badly-designed controls and gameplay mechanics when I could try something else instead.
I do feel sorry for the audio and visual design staff as they’ve done really good work here, but the rest of the game just doesn’t live up to it. Genuinely, copying Assassin’s Creed and having one button for appropriate character movement and allowing players to focus on directional control would have kept things simple, avoided frustration and made the entire game better.
If you do see screenshots or video of the game and want to give it a try, I’d recommend playing on PC only, and use the keyboard for controls. Even then, the often-absurd precision required might still frustrate you, but you might last longer than I did before calling it a day.
My opinion might not mean much as a result of not pushing myself to go further, but I would hope that the fact I disliked the gameplay so much that Deadlight drove me away from playing it in order to avoid frustration is evidence enough of my criticisms.
Deadlight: Director’s Cut is more than a disappointment, it feels like a waste. The atmosphere is there with the audio-visual aesthetic, but the gameplay completely lets things down, with over-complicated and unnecessarily precise controls creating more frustration than tension.