The concept of building a first-person shooter mixed with puzzle elements based on the Quatermain novels by H. Rider Haggard sounds like a winning combination. I mean who doesn’t want to take on the role of a hero akin to Indiana Jones. Developer Farm 51 (the same guys who brought us Painkiller: Hell & Damnation) are looking to deliver just that. Deadfall Adventures tries to marry these concepts into a competent shooter that unfortunately falls flat in a few areas. Still, there really isn’t much else like it, which makes it interesting if nothing else.
You play as James Lee Quatermain, a roguish adventurer always looking for fortune and glory. Sound familiar? He is a descendant of the infamous Alan Quatermain, which makes his services even more desirable. Long story short, he is brought in to investigate an ancient treasure, which goes horribly wrong and sets him on an adventure filled with romance, Nazis and of course supernatural enemies.
The plot is paper thin and the voice acting is painful across the board. Never once did I care about my adventure, not the people pushing it along. Quatermain is arrogant and poorly spoken, lacking the charm of the characters he is based on. The plot goes from confusing to flat out ridiculous by the third level, and the poor acting left me caring less and less about each cut scene as the adventure drove on.
At its core, Deadfall is a shooter mixed with exploration and light puzzle solving. The game gave me the opportunity to set difficulty for both action and puzzles, which is always nice. The shooting here is mediocre at best. Standard controls are in order, but the turning is off by default, and the auto-aim is more counterproductive than helpful. The core shooting never feels right. When aiming down the sights it obscures so much of my view, it is impossible to make out targets, and firing from the hip sprays bullets all over the place. It is frustrating.
The unique mechanic to the combat is the flashlight. Obtained in the first tomb, this item is imperative to taking down the supernatural baddies. By holding down a button, Quatermain can shine the light on enemies to weaken them, allowing him to pelt them with bullets. It is novel, but grows tiresome before the first level ends. The bright side is that enemy variety keeps things interesting, so I wasn’t just walking through a mundane shooting gallery.
The upgrade system also drove me nuts. It is based on finding collectibles, which is just poor design. In order to upgrade abilities, I had to hunt down treasures within each tomb. I understand that this is part of the idea behind the game, but the actual act of hunting them down is more in line with monotonous collectible fodder, as opposed to treasure hunting. It usually involves taking a various path, which is not always clearly marked as a side area. Sometimes the main path felt like a side path, and I got locked into a cut scene unable to go back and explore. Locking the skill tree points behind this mechanic simply frustrated me.
Puzzles are the highlight of the adventure, but still fall short at times. There are light bouncing, button pressing and reading symbols much like I expected, but the latter became frustrating on 360 due to the poor textures. I could barely make out symbols more often than not, making me repeat puzzles time and time again. When it works though, this is the more interesting portion. Pulling out his grandfather’s notebook to highlight paths and translate objects really pushed me into the role of a treasure hunter. It was the closest this game got to making me feel like Dr. Jones.
In addition to the campaign there are challenge modes and even an online component. While the modes sounded unique and original, I was unable to test most of them due to an extreme lack of players. I managed to get in one match that was simply standard deathmatch. It is no shock considering the leader boards are barren. Now granted the game wasn’t out at the time of this writing, and we will revisit it after it hits shelves this week, but I sincerely doubt the online community will even make a blip during this season.
I played through the entire game on 360 and it definitely has some rough patches. The frame rate is inconsistent throughout the campaign, which is odd considering this is not the best looking game. Areas are massive in size, but also feel similar in design. Bland textures and abysmal character models are littered throughout the game. The only bright side was the enemy variety, the rest feels lacking.
As I mentioned earlier the spoken dialogue is embarrassing at times. It feels like the actors really didn’t want to be doing their parts. There are some exceptions, though not many. Music is decent at best mixing in some epic pieces that try to drudge up that adventure feel, but most get lost in the overpowering sound effects blasting through each level.
Deadfall Adventures is a great idea gone wrong. The campaign has moments where I loved it, mostly the puzzles, but the mundane combat drags it down at every turn. The story is stale and everything about it simply falls flat. I wanted to like it a lot more than I did, but in the end this is one title that does nothing to help itself out of a bind. I found no reason to keep coming back to this entirely mediocre shooter.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.