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Deadlight (PC) review

Deadlight (PC) review
Deadlight (PC) review
Deadlight (PC) review

At a Glance...

Formats: PC
Final Score
6/ 10

User Rating
no ratings yet


We liked?

  • Solid platforming game
  • Great use of visuals and sound for atmosphere
  • Short and sweet

Not so much?

  • Cripplingly flawed controls
  • Limited replayability
  • No, seriously, about those controls...

Final Fiendish Findings?

Deadlight may not quite be a classic, but is an extremely atmospheric platform title with some great moments – and is nigh on ruined by a poorly considered mouse-and-keys control system. If you can play it with a pad on PC, or play the original XBL version instead, prepare to be entertained; otherwise, give it a second thought.

Posted January 21, 2013 by

Full Fiendish Findings...

The zombie apocalypse has never been more popular thanks to movies, games and books all selling on visions of the walking dead chewing down on the living. It’s likely that if the Mayans had predicted corpses climbing from the grave we’d have been welcoming December 21nd with open arms and a shotgun. Offering a retrospective view of the end of the world, Deadlight gives us zombies of the 1980s, thankfully without mullets.

Set on 4th July 1986, Deadlight follows Randall Wayne as he travels through the ruins of Seattle. Hordes of zombies – called ‘Shadows’ in-game – dominate the streets, causing problems for Wayne while he is trying to reunite with a group of survivors and find his family.

The game is a 2.5D platformer, with Wayne following a linear path through, above and under the city. On route, there are numerous occasions where any modern platform fan will feel at home, with the environment often being a bigger hazard than the shuffling former-Seattleites.

Describing the game as “linear” sounds almost negative these days, after enjoying more open-ended titles such as the Metroid and Castlevania series. However, while the game’s path offers almost no deviation from beginning to end, the sense of being driven forward cannot be faulted. In that sense, it has a lot in common with the original 1989 Prince of Persia, also a game with little deviation but doing what it does well. PoP became a classic, and while Deadlight may not reach those heights it does at least follow good footsteps.
Deadlight (PC) review
Leap-of-faith moments for hand-holds, wall-jumps and a general inclination to run when there is room to are all par for the course. And this is a key part of it – running. For most of the game combat is a last resort rather than a matter of convenience – gaining a weapon may give you a little confidence, but the initial fire axe is clumsy and will tire you quickly (and the zombies need a few blows, including a coup de grace when toppled before actually staying down). You gain guns later, but ammunition is scarce for most of the game, requiring accurate headshots while the noise will often attract larger mobs to swarm you.

The atmosphere of the game is hard to fault – from the eerie piano and choral music on loading, to the muted colour scheme of the lifeless-but-not-dead-enough city, and the near-silhouette of Wayne and the zombies in the foreground.

There are three levels, each with a very different feel – the first is dark journey through the ruined city, with simple puzzles and encouragements to run and escape; the second is the closest to a traditional platformer as you evade traps and trigger switches; and the third goes for a big bang finale, with the greatest emphasis on guns and quick reactions to hazards.
Deadlight (PC) review
As an incentive to keep you playing after finishing the (roughly 3 hour) game, the levels are littered with collectables – momentoes of other peoples’ lives, pages from Wayne’s diary, and three playable LCD games. The number of these found or missing in an area are shown on a mission page, and after completing an area it can be replayed at will from the main menu, giving you more freedom to ignore all those pesky friends that might need rescuing and let you prioritise your looting instead.

Of course, all this can go for both the Xbox Live and PC releases of the game. So what can be said of the PC version specifically?

… and at this point, it all starts to go horribly wrong.

There are some minor bugs – the current release (patch 1.1) still has sound glitches, with cutscenes occasionally (and inconsistently) being silent, for one example. However, the PC version’s biggest problem is far more fundamental than this – trying to interpret the joypad controls of the original version.

The game can be played with a hardwired 360 controller, although odds are good that if you have one of those you’ve probably got an Xbox itself, in which case why not play Deadlight on that? Other joypads can be used, although as the game offers no way of remapping buttons you are left hoping that the essential controls are in intuitive places.

However, without a pad you’re stuck playing with an unwieldy mouse and keyboard setup, and “unwieldy” is probably the mildest way of describing things. The mouse is there to try and recreate the fine aiming and shooting of an analogue stick, but cannot match the twitch-aiming a pad allows; and it also means that one hand is left constantly holding a combat controller in a game that encourages you to avoid fights…

… and the other hand has to take care of everything else – movement, running, jumping, crouching, reloading, taunting, and using objects. Unless you have had extra fingers added to this hand, the scale of this challenge may be game-breaking. It is merely awkward at early stages of the game, but becomes ridiculous towards the end where you may need to be sprinting, wall-jumping and rolling all in quick succession.

Simply put, your greatest opponent is the control system itself, and frustration is only slightly deferred thanks to the generous number of checkpoints.
Deadlight (PC) review
The keys can be remapped – mercifully – although whether that will ever be able to match up to playing on a pad is another matter (personally, my mappings ended up spreading the keyboard controls across both hands, resulting in mad grabs for the mouse any time it looks like a fight was coming. Playing it on the pad again afterwards is as close to playing a different game as can be believed).

Deadlight may not quite be a classic, but is an extremely atmospheric platform title with some great moments – and is nigh on ruined by a poorly considered mouse-and-keys control system. If you can play it with a pad on PC, or play the original XBL version instead, prepare to be entertained; otherwise, give it a second thought.


Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.