Yeah, don’t ask me, I have no idea what this is either.
Ever heard of Deadcore? No? How could you not? It’s clearly at the forefront of the unending queue of Portal clones! Q.U.B.E? The Turing Test? Back down! DeadCore is here to show all those posers how it’s don— Ok, I’ll stop. Personally, I was surprised to have not heard of this game since it’s a port done by Grip Digital, one of my favourite indie developers as of late.
Recently, they’ve been porting some excellent titles for a while now, from the previously mentioned Q.U.B.E, which was an interesting puzzler that grabbed me with it’s ambiguity, and The Solus Project, an atmospheric survival game that unintentionally became horror due to it’s crushing atmosphere. In reality, the actual developers of Deadcore are 5 Bits Games, a team who’ve only made Deadcore and that’s that.
However, not every apple that Grip has grown here is golden. They’ve also ported the awful Jet Car Stunts, a lifeless racing platformer with less meat on it than the Skeleton Lords, and dull FPS Tower of Guns, something so unbelievably void of spark that I can’t even think of something funny to say about it. So, is Deadcore going to be able to jump leaps and bounds over the bottom of the barrel? Short answer, no. Long answer?
For starters, the game has a severe identity crisis. It’s a puzzle-platformer FPS walking simulator which is in the shadow of it’s inspirations. Portal, Prey (2006), Mirror’s Edge, Half Life, everything on display here is like the worst case scenarios of those mentioned. It’s like a dubstep cover of The Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter”. Out of date and coma-inducing.
Deadcore really doesn’t want to waste time. Before you even strap your boots in, you’ve been given a gun that looks like it’s made out of chicken bones and your only instinct is to run. I wouldn’t mind this if there was just the tiniest bit of context behind it. There is some, but in the form of mind-numbingly boring text entries. We’re some guy who’s been teleported here and he’s got to figure out th.. The secr.. Zzz..
Serious talk for a second, obscure storytelling isn’t a bad thing if its snippets of genius are well written. But this isn’t on the same level as, say, Dark Souls, or Deus Ex, or even Gone Hone. This is just poetry done by a bored preteen on a Sunday, The ramblings of a store brand Phillip K. Dick interlaced with Radiohead lyrics. It’s grating to read these awfully written paragraphs so that means the story is out the window.
Actually, I’ve figured out why the game is called Deadcore, it’s because it’s core mechanic is DOA! Ha hah! Ahem.
Deadcores unique selling point is a Gravity Gun Gun, that name being given because added on from its ability to manipulate gravity in small pockets, a la Prey (Still talking about the 2006 version), it can also disable switches and enemies from a long distance. The enemies range from weird cube things that can swing you off the map, to a swarm of small droids that corrupts the screen somewhat. Neither of them really pose a threat though, which is surprising, seeing how the gameplay is such a mess.
Yes, the one flaw out of 80 quadrillion that ruins the general flow of events, is that progression through these “worlds” is a chore. It’s like a prototype of the Xen section from the original Half Life. You know? The absolute worst part of Half Life? Yeah, they made a 6 hour game out of it. And it’s soooooo boring. To look at and to go through. I say it’s a chore because it recommends speed but you’ll just end up slipping off the floating cubes or clipping through them because Unity-made games are actually stable, for really reals.
The puzzle variety isn’t exactly a rainbow of brain exercises. There are 5 levels in the main campaign, with it’s most inventive mechanic being “G-Mod” (Good name), a modification to your Gravity Gun Gun that can manipulate gravity in small pockets. It’s neat but It doesn’t work nearly as well as you’d think, given that the frame rate dips a lot in these sections, which confuse the daylights out of you and boom, you’re dead.
The speed of your character is also ridiculous. To continue the Half Life comparison, this is Gordon Freeman meets a Lamborghini. Paired with a double jump and a faster-than-light dash, this combination makes you move at such an insane pace that it makes the already frustrating pinpoint platforming a suicidal cascade of anger.
Upon research of this game to understand it’s origins, I saw that the game apparently won the award for “Outstanding Visuals” and I had to triple-take in order to verify if I wasn’t dreaming since all I saw was a half finished game. The skybox is pixelated, even when you’re not zooming in and in later levels, the font for the in-game text is the same font I used for an English exam in 2011, and as the world grows dimmer in the later levels, the already muddy visuals will make the puzzles look like failed renditions of the Nostromo from Alien.
One of the few positives that I can give to this “game” is that the soundtrack is kickass. It’s like a demented mixture of Autechre, Aphex Twin and Daft Punk. I wouldn’t say it’s atmospheric but it’s enough to hype you up for anything. Upon searching it up, it was composed by one Arnaud Noble, who’s worked on sound design for Rayman Legends, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, and the 2014 version of Thief. Well, two out of three ain’t bad, but I digress.
Really, the existence of this game just baffles me as I see no reason for its presence. I guess if you’re really into speedrunning, and I mean REALLY into it, you might find some stimulation from it, but it’s obnoxious difficulty, ugly visuals and bewildering narrative design will turn away anybody looking for an actively engaging experience. Just play Mirror’s Edge, at least you won’t fall through the world.
This review of Deadcore is based on the Xbox One version of the game.
Owner of the largest collection of indie games in the Western Hemisphere, and TimeSplitters’ biggest fanboy.