Games with Gold Spotlight: Deadlight

Here’s the deal: When you sign up for Xbox Live Gold, you get free access to Games with Gold on Xbox 360, which means a new, free game every two weeks! Yep, that’s right: If you have Gold, you don’t have to do a darn thing, and you get a free game. So, what are you waiting for? Here’s a closer look at the latest Games with Gold title!

Randall Wayne is a man on a mission. Desperate to get back to his family amidst the horrors of a zombie apocalypse, he faces not just the living dead, and not just the barbarous shreds of humanity left to “run” things, but his own inner demons. That’s the world of “Deadlight,” the new Games with Gold on Xbox 360 title – completely free to all Xbox Live Gold members.

With gun (or thumb stick, as the case may be) in hand, you guide Randall through a sidescrolling, survival-horror adventure across the Pacific Northwest. Eerie environments both above and below the surface expose you to the worst and the best of humanity, and test your puzzle-solving wits – and when all else fails, your quick trigger finger. But, like any good survival-horror title, the emphasis in “Deadlight” is very much on avoiding conflict instead of confronting it… or, at the very least, confronting it with something other than the very limited ammunition at your disposal.

Clever thinking and astute observation of the environment are just as important as good aim. And, while merely surviving is a big part of “Deadlight,” you’ll discover plenty of secrets and collectibles as well.

But the real draw is “Deadlight’s” oxymoronically bleak-yet-lush atmosphere. Beautifully rendered environments (built on a heavily customized Unreal Engine 3) bring this dilapidated world to (un)life in 2.5-D splendor. While Randall fends off shambling zombies in the foreground, the world continues its hellish descent in the background. Strong performances from the voice actors set off the sparse dialogue, and stunning set-pieces punctuate the oppressive dread of the game – driving home how much “Deadlight” combines stylish aesthetics with white-knuckle gameplay.

“Deadlight” also features an extra challenge for the truly masochistic in its “Nightmare Mode,” where zombies (and other enemies) are far tougher – but in which Randall may also come face-to-face with some harrowing truths that the easier routes omit.

The time spent in the harrowing world “Deadlight” offers – and the soul-searching story of Randall Wayne – will stay with you long after you turn off your Xbox 360 and (try to) go to sleep.