Deadbeat Heroes. Another fine title made possible by a dev team’s collaboration with Square Enix through its Collective program. I must say, unlike the utter failure that is the Steam Direct initiative, Square has proper QA in place and really won’t allow any “floodgates” to be opened for digital drivel. It’s refreshing to see a company that cares more about its public image than sheer profit. That being said, this Steam debut for Deadbeat Productions has its small but noticeable flaws that prevent the game from truly reaching its potential.
An aging vigilante can’t shirk his duties and London in the ‘70s is still in dire need of a hero. Or several, in this case. The arrest and incarceration of the Kray twins left a power vacuum in London’s organized crime, but one which threatens to fill up just as swiftly. Captain Justice steps in and despite his back pains, shall still coordinate an unlikely team of would-be crime fighters. Judging by Captain’s motto, “No Super, All Hero!” it’s safe to say that Felix, Felicity, Betty and Max are average folks which benefit from the use of a Power Glove which grants them the enhanced speed and strength required to perform the stunts and takedowns which entail each level. So they’re more likely regarded as secret agents relying on gadgets than superheroes.
The Justice Team may not possess much in the form of an initial arsenal or even means of transportation. Felix, the first unlockable protagonist seems like a Kingsman type with his quips, tailored suit and eyeglasses, yet he’s forced to travel across London in a “Justice Scooter”, before the car becomes available. A rental I presume, since Captain’s pension most likely can’t support even a second hand purchase. It would have been even more ironic to have Felix deliver pizzas between preventing bank heists and park attacks, but Deadbeat Heroes doesn’t want to ridicule its characters to such an extent.
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Even the villains, in spite of their caricature-like appearance and mannerisms, have a certain Evil Genius appeal to them. Linear or not, the story holds its own and being structured into chapters, it ensures that a sense of progression is well simulated. Even if you’ll only play in singleplayer mode, unlocking new moves, powers and team mates, prove the perfect motivation to look past the less diversified enemies (looking more like clones of each other) or the obviously few environment types. You can expect plenty of sarcasm and violence in Deadbeat Heroes, but sadly no adult humor. Archer or Austin Powers: the video games will have to wait some more, I reckon.
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Not enough information to confirm it’s a Unity Engine project, but I suspect that’s the case, judging by how it named its preset settings (“Fantastic” as maximum setting for graphical quality). In any case, Deadbeat Heroes looks the part. Cel shading goes hand in hand with the comic book style this game wishes to evoke. Its “console legacy” however, is less pleasing since we’re discussing the PC version here. There is no mouse support, everything’s done through the keyboard (or controller, if you own one) and while the environments themselves are fairly destructible along with the graphic depiction of dead foes, those vanquished goons and various gang members are vanishing from the map in a matter of seconds. Surely a PC could sustain those digital corpses in a persistent mode, right?
Remember, Deadbeat Productions that a PC port is more than just the console version of the game, which you offer to a larger player base. The gameplay must remain the same, I agree. But you can make some concessions or improve the stability and graphics on a PC version, because most systems will accommodate the changes, unlike the Xbox version of the game. And by the looks of it, Deadbeat Heroes has few flaws apart from the stage scenery which consists of mostly indoor sections that aren’t distinct from one another. Whether we are talking about banks, office buildings or parks and subway levels, the variety mostly comes from the day/night cycle, not the object re-positioning. Boss fights at the end of each chapter, seem to focus on a single warehouse environment as if both factions set up a meeting in that place every time.
Nothing to complain about the sounds though. The voice acting is top notch, with the majority of characters sporting a proper British accent while the soundtrack didn’t disappoint either. The various stop motion screens featuring the written equivalent to comic book-style sounds made by kicks and punches, really confirm the particular type of atmosphere which Deadbeat Heroes wishes to convey to its players. It’s not a spoof, of that much I’m certain.
As an almost light-hearted version of a superhero video game, Deadbeat Heroes never depicts its violence and gore in a manner that might be considered disturbing. It’s more visible than in the Freedom Force series, but still manageable even for a teenage audience. At its core, the game might be regarded as an enhanced brawler since the Justice Team relies more often than not, on the hit-and-run tactics. Up close and personal, melee combat that has to be compensated by swift stunts such as wall runs and mid-air dashes, since some of the foes are packing heat. Shooting at you with all sorts of firearms and explosive devices. The title’s difficulty stems from clearing rooms in a timely manner while avoiding most incoming projectiles. Defeating certain enemies, you will access more power-ups which allow for one-hit knockout moves. So in a sense, you’re “borrowing” super powers for a limited time, rather than have constant access to them and be overpowered.
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Our heroes’ health pool is limited to absorbing three consecutive hits before you’ll be forced to restart the level. Some enemies drop health bonuses but from what I’ve noticed, those aid kits and consumables are a far too rare sight on later levels. Be on the move at all times and don’t be afraid to experiment with combos and evasive maneuvers. All that counts, is that you dispatch the goons efficiently and without getting hit. Each stage has an annoying final rating and the more you advance through the storyline, each chapter will feature more pretentious prerequisites that will have you “failing” the level even if you successfully defeated all the bad guys within it. The chapters themselves are divided into 3 or more sub-levels and a boss fight stage which only gets unlocked after you reached a certain rating. They never get properly explained and the golden rule is to use combos as fast as you can.
A masked time trial is even worse than an honest one but Deadbeat Heroes is ideally played in co-op, so perhaps the challenge and those absurd ratings are lesser issues when two players are combining their efforts. I knew that the moment I saw its interface, but I still expected Deadbeat Heroes to offer a smooth experience for singleplayer fans. I hope it’s only a matter of future “gameplay optimization”. It remains to be seen. The title can be enjoyed as it is right now, but be aware that if you play solo, it won’t be nearly as easy as in co-op.
All the screenshots you see above, have been taken by me in-game through the Steam Overlay.