Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Deadlight Review

It is hard not to find yourself excited when Microsoft announce the next XBLA promotion they are releasing. They always feature the biggest and most ambitious titles at a bargain price. There is always that one staple game people are most looking forwards to in the 4-5 on offer and Deadlight is probably rivalling Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD for that title. The one thing going against Deadlight is that it is a side scrolling survival game. A lot of comparisons can be made to Limbo and Shadow Complex, two very successful XBLA games in their own right, as directly competing with them in a saturated genre is no easy task. Does Deadlight manage to pull it off though? It is certainly up there as one of the best XBLA games I've played to date.


Deadlight tells the story of Randall who is out to save his wife and daughter from the obvious zombie takeover of Seattle. Randall is a 2 dimensional character that you will control as a mere shadow running along a darkened foreground. The background is a bright, vibrant setting that will have you staring in awe of its beauty despite the reign of terror engulfing the world. This art style should sound very familiar because it is exactly what Limbo did. If it is on your direct dimension of interaction then it is black otherwise enjoy the view. I am pleased to say that Deadlight takes this to the next level by creating an immersive world that really blends in with the darkened foreground, rather than simply pointing out the obvious rift between the two. Objects in the background directly relate to what you are in or your current location and there is movement in the third dimension as zombies are sometimes walking towards the screen, which is very cool.

Every aspect of the audio in this game is outstanding. The cut scenes features voice acting from a few different characters, but the majority of what you hear is the narration from Randall. His deep voice perfectly suits the mood of the character and the struggle he is going through. The musical score in the game sets an eerie feeling throughout the entire adventure. It manages to do this without interfering with the actual game by setting the mood instead of influencing the play. This lets you focus on the gameplay instead of unnecessary sound effects in the desolate world you find yourself alone in.


Deadlight is a game that will test the strength of mankind and the distances we will go in dire straits when motivated. This could've turned into a zombie shooter where you stroll into the area, kill everything you see and move on, but it is so much more. Randall never feels like he has a solid grasp on the situation, he is always stuck in that endless struggle between trying to survive while also moving closer to rescuing his family. Sure, you will sometimes have access to a weapon that will assist in disposing of the onslaught of zombies. Most of the time is spent using the environment to assist you and simply doing everything in your power to avoid conflict altogether. Moments where you are running for your life with a horde of zombies hot on your tail is an exhilarating experience that never stops sending a chill down your spine.

For your 1200 Microsoft Points you will be given a game that will take you approximately 5 hours to complete. This is pretty good for a game at this price and being shorter than a console game means that the lack of plot points won't make the experience stale. While there is the obvious struggle and pain Randall is experiencing for allowing himself to get separated from his family, it isn't an engaging story that it could've turned out to be. A huge twist at the end that no one would expect does make it worthwhile but just don't let the initial tales of the zombie outbreak put you off.

Controls are simple and the animation of Randall is fluid. Most environments should give you a fair idea of what you need to do but expect to die a few times. That car conspicuously hanging from a wire could be used to kill zombies, if you find the switch. Stuff like this is very cool and a rewarding way to engage the players brain. Some of the platforming from ledge to ledge requires some pretty precise timing that could put off some players, but with perseverance it will be the least of your troubles.


Sure, zombies have been done to death in almost every medium now, but one more title couldn't possibly hurt? Deadlight is a very strong title that kept me glued to the screen for the entire game. I never thought that running away from a horde of zombies I could see would be scary but this game provides moments that had me tensing up and praying for survival. Randall's struggle is perfectly portrayed to the gamer who is never fully in control and is relying on some smart decisions rather than a guns blazing approach. If you enjoyed Limbo then this game will be a welcome addition to your collection.

Graphics - 9.5/10 
Sound - 9/10 
Gameplay - 8.5/10 
Overall - 9/10

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Darksiders II Review

Here we are, the unofficial start of gaming season after months of waiting and news from games coming late 2012/early 2013. E3 has come and gone and months of irrelevant yet sparse game releases has finally brought some true players to our consoles. Darksiders II is the sequel to 2010's Darksiders, which I found to be a very enjoyable game that I was shocked by, since it hadn't previously been on my radar. This iteration promises to be bigger and better than ever as we follow Death on his mission to clear the name of War, his brother and fellow Horsemen of the Apocalypse. With a story in place that is three times longer in a world twice the size, does this set the scene for a game that truly steps it up to the next level?


Darksiders II seems to have a case of mistaken identity as it doesn't know whether to blow you away with an amazing art direction or make you cringe with repeated textures or sometimes shocking draw distance. The positives easily outweigh the negatives but there are elements that lack the finishing touch that would take this title to the next level.

From the very beginning of the game you will admire the stunning art direction taking for this game. Character models are spectacular and a lot of effort has been into making every main character and boss unique from everything else in the game. Death is a stunning creature that has been crafted to not only be fierce and all-powering like the fellow Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but the colour palette used keeps him bright and vibrant. The animations of Death and his enemies are smooth and he reacts to the environment around him perfectly for the majority of the time. There are some glitches where you won't grab onto an object but they don't happen often enough to become a major problem.

The land is expansive and areas slightly venture away from the linear path with multiple areas and paths to choose from when moving from point to point. These environments can be spectacular areas that have you pausing and just wanting to take in your surroundings, or also ones that make you cringe. From the spectacular opening scene in a snow storm to the bland pixelated attempts in the standard 'in between areas' there is too much of a gap in polish. Stumbling across some places towards the end of the game that are truly epic showcases of what the developers are capable of almost make up for the bland and similar environments you had to travel through to get there, but it lingers at the back of your mind.

One of the standouts is the voice of the various characters in the world. While conversations follow the standard click, listen, click mode of RPG's and there is limited interaction outside of these cutscenes, it is still satisfying. Death is a deep character who knows what he believes and isn't afraid to speak his mind. They have hired well and the dark growl of Death compliments his attitude perfectly and this is the same for many of the other characters in Darksiders II. The musical score isn't the most memorable soundtrack you will hear this year but it does have some high points when the fighting gets intense. Overall Darksiders II is a tight package in terms of its presentation but doesn't set the house on fire.


For those who have never played Darksiders before, it is essentially a hybrid of platforming, hack 'n slash and a RPG. References has been made to be imitating the fighting in God of War, puzzles of Zelda and platforming from Prince of Persia. While some similarities could be pointed out, this is definitely an original game that obeys its own rules and makes an experience that will keep you entertained for the entire adventure. The mixture of various genres means that it fails to shine in any particular aspect, but somehow they have made everything click together into a workable package.

For 30 hours you will be following a semi-linear path trying to restore humanity while at the same time saving your brother War. The story is nothing that will pull at your heart strings but merely provide some encouragement and intensity to continue your quest. Expect it to follow a fairly similar set up of asking Death to collect x amount of items or find this particular person but it doesn't seem to get too stale especially as they mix it up towards the end. The real standout of Darksiders is the actual gameplay.

There is a perfect blend of puzzling, platforming to complement the main action. None of the aspects of Darksiders dominate proceedings and you will find yourself switching between each one regularly. Combat is fluid and fun with a true hack n slash feel to combat for the majority of the game. Many enemies can be dealt with by some good old button mashing and dodging, but the awesome boss battles require you to use everything you know to defeat them. These battles are the real highlight of the game as Death will be going up against enemies sometimes 100 times bigger than himself in real titanic battles worthy of the God of War franchise.

The wide open maps joining areas are full of loot and treasures to find but aren't heavily populated which is a slight letdown for such vast openings. It is recommended that you go exploring not only for the items that you can find but to also level up your character. There are RPG elements in the game which range from finding and collecting loot to make Death more powerful to an abilities tree where you use skill points to develop Death in your own unique way. Adding this in mixes up the experience and can encourage multiple playthroughs by taking a difference path on the skill tree.

The last aspect of Darksiders II worth nothing is the platforming/puzzle aspect that is incorporated mostly into the 'dungeon' areas where most of your objectives take place. For the most part they are fairly simple puzzles that remind me of the Assassin's Creed catacombs that had you traversing across walls, ledges and conveniently placed items. Looking around and finding out your path beforehand is the best way to go about things. While it may get boring for some I love the platforming element incorporated into the game which really adds another dimension to Darksiders II.


Despite not mastering any genre, the mix and match of various game aspects has turned Darksiders II into a surprisingly strong title. Separate it into parts and this is a fairly mediocre package but altogether it is a great game that keeps you entertained right until the very end. Fighting through the grinding stages early on is definitely worth it as the game steps it up a notch in the hours before the fitting conclusion. Decent graphics and good voice acting pulls the story together and compliments the action nicely. This game will hook you in and I definitely suggest checking it out.

Graphics - 7.5/10 
Sound - 8.5/10 
Gameplay - 9/10 
Overall - 8.5/10