Tag Archives: Gaming with Gold

To think of shadows is a serious thing in Deadlight

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Deadlight is all style, no substance, which results in a very cool-looking slice of perfunctory–and often clunky–2D action. A shame, really. Unfortunately, when it comes to playing videogames, looks only get you so far, and I found much of my so-far early goings with Deadlight frustrating and shrouded in obtuse darkness due to its shoddy controls, stilted voiceover work, and strange mix of gameplay styles. I’ll explain more shortly.

Deadlight is set in 1986, and a zombie plague has decimated the world. Or maybe it’s a shadow plague, since no one seems to like referring to them as anything other than shadows when clearly they are of the flesh-tearing, brain-munching zombie ilk. Just, y’know, wreathed in shadows. Anyways, you play as Randall Wayne, a grizzled survivor trying make his way through Seattle. Oh, and the way you know it’s the 1980s? Those cassette-tape loading animations and knockoff Tiger LCD handheld-game collectibles should clue you in. Otherwise, it’s just another dark, grim world. Your goal: reach the Safe Point.

Clearly inspired by literature works like Stephen King’s Cell, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, as well as taking cues from other side-scrolling games like Limbo and Out of This WorldDeadlight, early on, feels really good. Like, really good. I still don’t mean control-wise, but Tequila Works really nails the atmosphere of a world gone to shit, especially in the first act, where all the focus is getting through one scenario to another in a single piece, which often meant avoiding fighting shadows and using other methods to get around. Mr. Wayne is no supersoldier, just a guy taking advantage of everything around him to stay alive, and whistling at a zombie so it walks towards you and right into the pool of electrified water is hilariously satisfying.

There’s a little bit of everything in Deadlight. From the beginning, it’s mostly about running, jumping, climbing, crawling, and moving through the environments while avoiding enemies. This is all well and good, except the jumping feels sluggish, and when you let go of the analog stick Mr. Wayne continues to run a step or two further, which inevitably leads to messed-up jumps and other problems. Limbo‘s jumping never felt amazing, but that game moved at a much slower pace, even when a giant spider was chasing you. Combat comes in two forms: your ax or your gun. Ammo is limited, and I think I’ve used the gun more for solving puzzles than popping the heads of shadows off. You can swing your ax pretty well, but you’re limited by a stamina meter; all in all, the vibe is constantly avoid combat, and so that’s what I did. Lastly, there’s puzzle-solving, and a lot of what I’ve seen involves hitting switches/pulling levers and hightailing it somewhere else; alas, because of the previously mentioned problematic running, this can be a challenge, and Mr. Wayne suffered many deaths before the timing of it all could be determined. Trial and error is okay when implemented sporadically, but it really feels like every room you go into in Deadlight is designed to kill you first, then teach you how to live.

Again, it’s a shame the game plays so poorly and is unfocused, as visually, it’s astounding. Shadow Complex helped bridge the gap between 2D planes and 2D.5, and Deadlight uses this trick to create some stunning images of shadows appearing in the background and walking towards you from the distance. There’s a good amount of zooming in and out, highlighting different parts of the area, and a lot of it is well detailed despite the fact that Mr. Wayne is going to run past it all in a few minutes. While I found a lot of the voicework to be hammy, the art used in the cutscenes is what you’d expect if The Walking Dead comics were colored and a webcomic, and while they are a stark contrast to the actual gameplay graphics, they help build a consistency nonetheless.

I don’t know how much more is left to see in Deadlight. Currently, I’m still inside the Rat’s test chamber of terrible ways to kill one’s self. It’s not very clear how I’m supposed to get Mr. Wayne from one side of the room to the other, and all it takes is a misplaced jump to die and give me enough pause to reconsidering how I’m spending my gaming time. Might have to end up looking for an online walkthrough as my Xbox 360’s hard-drive is nearly filled, and I want to download and play Dust: An Elysian Tale, but in order to do that, I need to beat Deadlight and feel done enough with it to hit “uninstall.” It seems like it’s a pretty straightforward experience from beginning to end, though I can guarantee I won’t 100% it as I’m positive I’ve missed a secret or two along the way.

Crackdown’s aimlessly emergent leap of faith

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Occasionally, I will pop into Crackdown, kick a few gang members in the gut, leap up like a European tree frog to the top of some buildings, and collect a couple of Agility Orbs. If I get lucky, I’ll also take out a gang leader or unlock another agency supply point, which acts as an ammo-refilling and fast-travel hotspot. Given the size of the map for Pacific City, these waypoints are vital to getting around quickly, in spite of the fact that, eventually, the agent you’re playing as should be able to leap over entire buildings. Until then, it’s a much slower-moving game, and I still find myself uninterested in driving any kind of car because of that, y’know, Doc Brown quote.

By far, the best thing about Crackdown, which came out in 2007 mind you, is that it drops you in its open world and immediately lets you do whatever you want. Sure, there’s some guidance with map icons and your commander giving you directives in your ear, but you can completely choose to ignore all that and go on a gang-related rampage, test your might in some land- and car-based races, or experience the dopamine release that comes with finding an orb that increases your skills at a molasses-like pace until you get enough to upgrade. This sort of “totes on your own” mentality can be good and bad; at first, it’s liberating, not having to worry about running over to start some trivial quest, just bounding from one area to another and seeing what unfolds. However, after some time, it becomes boring, especially now that I’ve collected about half of the Agility Orbs in the game, which just leaves behind an empty husk of a city.

Alas, that’s where I’m at now in Crackdown: a bit bored. When it comes to main missions and, uh, actually playing the game, you’re tasked with taking down three different criminal organizations each operating in a separate region of Pacific City. Each organization has multiple lieutenants and minor bosses that can be erased from digital life in any order. You can also eliminate the organization’s kingpin at any time, though those at the bottom of the ladder drastically lowers the firepower and abilities of the kingpin’s guards. Reaching some of these big bosses requires planning and the navigation of large buildings, so you’re better off waiting until your powers have grown, allowing you to jump higher and dish out more damage. I think at this point I’ve killed maybe three to five lieutenants, certainly no major crime-lords yet, and I don’t even know where I should be focusing my attention. Seems like everywhere I go in Pacific City, some bad guy/girl is up to no good and surrounded by goons with guns all aimed at me. Really, it’s just easier jumping from roof to roof.

Visually, Crackdown is no Saints Row: The Third or Grand Theft Auto V. I mean, how could it be? I ask thee again–how? The year 2007 did what it could, and the focus here was more on tall buildings and a sense of openness, a freedom to go left or right or even very high up. That means that when you’re running around on the streets below, everything is bland. Flat and lifeless. Cars are chunky and blocky, and these bounce off other vehicles like bumper cars at the summer festival, occasionally emitting some smoke. I’ve done only a handful of stunts with cars and don’t expect to do any more as they all handle like garbage, even the much-hyped “Super Car” from the Agency. Civilian life in Pacific City consists of groups of five to six people–most who are clones from other groups of people–walking around and running the second they see the Agent coming their way. But that’s all they do, is walk around, just walk, walk, walk. Strangely, and maybe this is the loner in me speaking, but life is better way up high, where silence lives.

Combat is no step up either. You can throw objects like cars or gas tanks, you can kick with your kicky stick (leg), or you can use one of two carried weapons to pierce flesh with bullets. The left trigger locks on (when it feels like working), and right trigger fires. Alas, the shooting feels light and ineffective, especially when up against bosses that have multiple health bars. It’s akin to shooting a bag of sand, except that bag of sand no longer remains unmoved, it’s also firing back your way. It gets even worse the farther away you are from the target, though the Agent’s shooting skills should advance at some point, so maybe it’ll be easer then. Oh, and you can toss grenades, which explode with the impact of a big fart that could no longer be held in. It’s not great, and my tactic involves shooting a guy until I start to reload and then running into them with a jump kick. Rinse and repeat, as well as run away when you lose too much health.

Like I said, I’m getting bored with Crackdown, so I’ll probably do another round or two of running and jumping around in hopes of nabbing some more Agility Orbs with the hope of stumbling upon a boss and, if the wind is blowing my way, putting him or her in the ground. I’d like to progress a bit more only to see the Agent grow in strength and ability, not because the story is some compelling piece of literature. This is truly the definition of a sandbox title, and I’m just about done playing.

My serious complex with Shadow Complex

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We all have our neurotic moments, and one of mine took place over the weekend. See, I am still operating under the very same Xbox 360 that I pinched pennies for and bought way back in 2008/2009. That 360 came with an internal 20 GB hard drive, which, thanks to downloadable games and saves and countless patches, has been filling up over the passing years at a steady clip. It’s nearly full, and I’ve had to reformat an external hard drive I wasn’t using to be able to download some other stuff. That “Gaming With Gold” program has steadily provided me with a new free game every two weeks now, and some are big boys, ranging from 6 to 8 GBs. The point is this: there are several games in my collection that I am done with–or nearly done with or haven’t touched in years or don’t even remember or can confirm in my brain that they were a once and only once kind of experience–and to make space…well, it’s deleting time. See ya, Limbo, Bastion, and The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom; it’s been real.

And I was almost ready to remove Shadow Complex without blinking before I realized that I was just one Achievement away from having unlocked them all. According to the “Serious Complex” Achievement, all I had to do was level up to 50. Hmm. That sounds easy enough, and I wondered why I hadn’t, as, during Shadow Complex‘s time, I ate that game up. Pretty sure I completed it at least three times. After loading up my last save, I discovered I was sitting pretty at LV 45 and playing on Hardcore difficulty. That meant…well, only five more levels to go. Totally do-able. I could totally do that, I told myself rationally, and then I’d have all the Achievements and could erase the game from my 360 knowing fully that I experienced that game fully before it disappeared. Remember, I owned up to all this crazy at the start of this post: my neurosis.

It was not an easy climb to the top, surprisingly. But I guess it never really is. Shadow Complex‘s Hardcore difficulty means you lose a lot more health when shot by enemy soldiers and don’t gain back as much from health packs. I don’t have to worry about ammo as I have a lot of infinite perks already unlocked. It took me a while to get used to the controls again, as well as reacquaint myself with the sprawling, color-coded map. There was a lot of wandering to and fro, finding unneeded collectibles and some boss encounters and remembering how fun it is to run super fast from one side of the map to the other. I died a lot, and I gained a trivial amount of XP along the way. Like, pennies and nickels. That is, until I found an exploit, which helped me gain the final two levels in maybe 15 minutes or so.

At the top of the map, a little ways off from where you fight the final battle, you can gain a MAX BONUS for XP by punching seven or eight soldiers in a row and then exploding some kind of war-robot by launching a missile up its metallic butt. This nets you a really good size chunk of XP, and there’s a Save Room right near the area. So what I did was make my run, get the XP, save, reload my last save, and do the run again, save, reload, and so on and so on. It’s simple and boring and kind of has to be perfectly timed, but it worked and was a better XP guarantee than just plodding around, room to room, popping a soldier here and there and watching that XP turtle forward.

And then the Achievement popped, allowing me to add Shadow Complex to my list of green-starred names over there in sidebar county. I exhaled, checked a few things…and then deleted the game from my hard drive. It was fun going back for a bit to this modern Metroidvania, and the game still plays fantastically, but at this point, I’ve now seen nearly everything from the game. I beat it with 100% of the items and with 13% of the items. I beat it fast, I completed it slow, I unearthed everything. I played with the hook-shot and found ways around enemies, I kicked a lot of spiderbots, and I tried out all the golden weapons. This is just basically me justifying to myself that I did all that I could with the game, and that there was no reason to keep it on the system, when other games, like Clash of Heroes, needed the space.

I suspect this sort of OCD is going to come into play with a few more titles on my Xbox 360, such as Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge and Torchlight, as they both only have one Achievement left to unlock, both attainable, but, just like with “Serious Complex,” might take some time. Some pre-planning. We’ll see when I turn neurotic next.