On paper, DeadCore sounds like a game right up my street – a quick-fire platformer mixed with FPS and puzzle elements? Yes please! In reality, something didn’t quite stick and DeadCore was a game that I left feeling more disappointed than badass.
The basic premise of DeadCore is a simple one, and one that we have seen countless times before – get to the top of the tower. The tower in question is a large black obelisk of a structure, with platforms floating haphazardly at various points all around it. The aesthetic is all very 80’s sci-fi, with black and grey colours highlighted by neon and red, and on the whole it works, but yet it does make the game feel like one of a hundred training missions used by games before they fire you into the action of the main game itself, and this was an impression I couldn’t seem to shake.
Another hurdle to overcome is the controls. DeadCore is a game with a target audience in mind – speedrunners. Everything is seemingly timed in DeadCore, with a timer displaying how long you took to complete each level popping up every time you finish. Fine, no problems there, but the controls do hinder you a little, especially in the first few playthroughs. Like many indie games before it, DeadCore is a port of a PC game that released on Steam a while ago, meaning originally its controls were mapped to a keyboard and mouse. All well and good, but jump ahead to the PS4 version and you are faced with using analogue sticks to perform mid-air acrobatics and make some quite tight turns as you jump from platform to platform. With practice this does work well enough, but initially it is more cumbersome than anything else as analogue sticks don’t have the same snap as a mouse can afford. I can think of a few sections where I knew exactly what I needed to do but the controls just seemed to get in the way more than anything else. When you couple this with the imaginary ticking clock that you know is counting every second it takes you to plod your way about you can’t help but feel a little amateurish, and early on the choice is made between hobbling through each level carefully like an OAP or rushing through like some Spice addict without any regard for accuracy or personal safety. Luckily DeadCore doesn’t punish falling to your death too severely, with checkpoints well placed throughout each level, generally after each tricky section.
The puzzles in DeadCore aren’t too taxing either, and basically consist of timing jumps or turning boosts on and off with your SwitchGun while avoiding cube shaped enemies that try to ram you from your lofty perch like some toddler in a dodgem car. Should you make a mistake and fall into the abyss you simply respawn at the previous checkpoint free to try something different next time, reducing the whole process down to trial and error with the loss or fear of failure never overly punished. I would quite happily try to make a jump that I knew deep down I probably wouldn’t land, safe in the knowledge that if it didn’t work I’d simply try something different next time. It was here that the risk of real frustration can kick in though, especially when you are required to keep punishing yourself over and over and over on a particularly tricky section.
During my time with DeadCore frustration really came to the fore early on when I completed the second level only for it not to save or register, and when I quit I had to start again with the levels beyond still locked from the main menu. What happened that meant I had to start The Tower level over again I don’t know whether it be a glitch or some error on my part, but it was at this point that the enjoyment I had playing DeadCore started to slip away, and even though the campaign is relatively short at 5 levels, it was from here on that playing became more of a slog. Once I’d succumbed to the fact that my first playthrough wasn’t going to be a speedy record breaker of a performance I made lots of experimental mistakes that often ended with me plummeting to my doom or disintegrating in a laser field, and I wasn’t really that bothered, not only because I knew I would respawn a few sections earlier but also because I didn’t really care. DeadCore does have a simple story to it but that is exactly what it is – simple. There are no cutscenes or lengthy sections of dialogue to plough through which is fine, but ultimately I found that I just wasn’t bothered about what I was doing. The story is there if you look for it, with some of the collectibles that hide around each level fleshing out the world a little bit should you wish to look for them and read the information they unlock through the pause menu, but if a good narrative is your thing DeadCore doesn’t have it.
As I mentioned earlier the clear target audience for DeadCore is within the speed running community – the gamers among us who push for the fastest time from point A to point B, and if that is you there is a lot to like about DeadCore – trimmed down narrative, extensive timing mechanics that allow you to shave seconds off each playthrough, and controls that once mastered work well to create a fluid and fast paced blitz of a game. Sadly this isn’t me, and while I cannot say that I didn’t enjoy the time I spent with DeadCore, I can say that I don’t feel the need to go back and set any records any time soon.
DeadCore PS4 Review
DeadCore is a Platformer/FPS hybrid that is not for the feint hearted or those lacking in patience. Testing, challenging and infuriating all in equal measure, be sure to have a spare controller handy should you decide to throw yours against the wall during the short but maddening campaign.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
*Reviewed on a standard PS4