Deadcore (Xbox One Review)
The first person puzzle game is a genre that has become an increasingly lucrative one. Arguably hitting its real stride with Valve’s Portal in 2007, the succeeding years have seen a number of notable takes. Antichamber, The Talos Principle and The Witness are recent successful examples. However, almost all examples have tended to share one similarity – a deliberate, thoughtful pace.
However, 2014’s Deadcore (Grip Games/5 Bit Games) – at the time, a PC release only – was somewhat ahead of its time. It married that cerebral approach with a pace normally associated with the likes of Quake and Unreal Tournament. This created a somewhat unique (at the time, at least) melding of modern aesthetic with old-school feel that resonated with many at the time.
Now, in 2017, console owners get the opportunity to experience it for themselves, as Deadcore finally comes to Xbox One and PS4. Unfortunately, the three years between releases haven’t necessarily been as kind as one might have hoped.
The game’s premise is an abstract one, but easy to grasp. You have come crashing to the ground from…well…somewhere. You then have to make your way to the top of the imposing tower that dominates the landscape. To do so, you are armed with nothing but a double jump and a projectile weapon with which to activate and deactivate switches and jump boosters. Using these, you navigate a series of platforms and obstacles to reach checkpoints that take you ever closer to your destination.
So far, so Portal. Or Mirror’s Edge. Or, hell, even some of the more recent Far Cry titles. And that’s one of the game’s first problems. It blends together some of these disparate elements well, but it’s also incredibly easy to recognise its mechanics in other games. This can make the whole thing seem derivative at points. Still, some of the very best games of all time have been derivative in more ways than one. It’s a minor complaint and one that can be very easily overlooked, if the mechanics are up-to-scratch. In this regard, there’s a lot that Deadcore does right. Put simply, Deadcore’s level design can – at times – be a speedrunner’s wet dream.
Many of the game’s areas offer up just one path, but others allow you to make clever use of your abilities to advance along different paths. This means there are often precious seconds (or milliseconds, when you’re really honing your runs) to be saved.
However, this again highlights a problem with this console port that anyone who has paid any kind of attention to the PC-console divide will be well versed in. Gamepad controls will just never offer the same level of precision and speed as a keyboard and mouse. As a result, Deadcore can quickly become an exercise in frustration, as you marginally miss that next platform or get caught by that moving laser field.
As I’ve blatantly suggested many times before on this site, my reactions aren’t what they once were. Therefore, I’m absolutely willing to accept that better players may be able to avoid some of these issues. This means your mileage may vary, in terms of enjoyment. However, the fact remains that it often hampered my enjoyment, and I just can’t overlook something so fundamental.
Overall, Deadcore feels like something that should have come to console sooner. It’s not terrible by any means, and many will enjoy the thrill of climbing the leaderboard. The overall ‘Tron meets Portal’ future aesthetic was also something I enjoyed. Sadly though, it’s all just a little underwhelming. When even the likes of Titanfall 2 have successfully adopted puzzle elements into its core gameplay, Deadcore falls a little short.