Upon seeing the words action and puzzle solving upon the game box, I instantly thought that I would be playing a first-person version of the highly successful Uncharted series. Being able to trek across the globe in the search of hidden and lost treasures whilst fighting Nazis and the Red Army seems like something straight from an Indiana Jones film, a genre that has been well and truly saturated in recent times. This was simply not the case however.
Based on the novels of H. R. Haggard, creator of the Quatermain universe, Deadfall Adventures puts you in the shoes of James Quatermain, grandson of famed adventure Allan Quatermain. The storyline is highly predictable but good fun to play through with some great one-liners from the lead character.
The dialogue itself is tacky and outdated though which is made far worse by the awful voice acting throughout. There is never any sort of emotion or change in tone from the voice actors which, in a time that is surrounded by games that are made by the strength of voice actors, is quite unforgivable. The game runs on Unreal Engine 3 and looks good, but at the end of a generation one would hope that games would look and feel a lot better than Deadfall does.
Standard shooting, poor puzzles
Deadfall is branded as a lively FPS with a mix of challenging puzzles and deadly traps where you must be alert at all times. Unfortunately, only the shooting part of the game really live up to expectations and even this has a way to go before being anywhere near as good as the mechanics found in the plethora of other first-person shooters. The controls feel satisfying and responsive for the most part, but can be far too jerky at times when precision is needed. Throughout the game you will be pitted against human foes and the undead – the latter of which will require you to use your magical flashlight to make the zombies vulnerable to bullets (a la Alan Wake) which is actually an enjoyable concept.
Combat is really fun if you do it right; you can either go in all guns blazing or take the tactical approach and use the well placed traps to easily defeat any type of enemy. It’s sad to say but there isn’t much variety amongst the enemies, especially with the Nazis and Red Army where there are two types of soldier: sniper and machine gunner. Enemy AI is non-existent as almost all human enemies just stand near a pillar or wall and shoot you without even thinking of utilising cover or advancing upon you.
Where the game falls down somewhat is the so-called ‘puzzle solving’ segments. Guided by a treasure-finding compass and a notebook left by your grandfather you go about hunting down conveniently placed treasures across the map. Most of the time the treasures are easily found with the compass but in some cases there is a puzzle associated with it. However, to call sprinting out of a room before the ceiling caves in a puzzle is quite baffling.
Nearly all of the optional puzzles involve shooting at something so you can walk past and none of them are in any way challenging. Another big problem with some of these puzzles is that they can be glitchy and are prone to lagging, leading to untimely deaths and a frustrating dash back to the area from a checkpoint that was not well placed.
The main puzzles fare a little better but still suffer from being either incredibly easy or infuriatingly unintelligible. Many of the notebook entries do not help in solving the puzzle so you waste time guessing until you complete it. I also found that some puzzles took far too long to complete and there were times where just jumping for long enough against a barrier would allow you to reach the next section without solving the puzzle at all.
There was one tiny portion (and I mean tiny) of the game where you carry only your flash-light and no weapons, this fleeting moment was by far the most enjoyable section as it was filled with tension and frantic running to solve puzzles without being killed by zombies.
Throughout the game you are encouraged to search every nook and cranny for treasures which will help you upgrade your character. The upgrade system is very limited, and doesn’t make a massive difference to how you play. This was rather disappointing as I would’ve liked to be able to customise weapons to forge my own gameplay style.
Fear the undead
Once the campaign is over, there is no real reason to go through it all again apart from finding treasures, so The Farm 51 have thrown in a great Survival mode and multiplayer mode. Survival pits you against wave after wave of undead creatures on maps from the campaign including Egypt, Arctic and Mayan ruins. This mode lets you utilise traps fully and can be great fun watching a horde of zombies be crushed by a falling ceiling or skewered by rusty spears. Multiplayer is your standard fare, with a wide range of modes and is enjoyable to play but nothing special – and the likelihood of it being populated for long is questionable.
Deadfall Adventures pays homage to classic adventurer movies and books with occasionally witty dialogue in spite of a disappointingly predictable story that is almost ruined by lazy voice acting. There is much to be improved on the gameplay front and the puzzles are ultimately annoying and out-of-place which really stifles the game. For a release this close to the next-generation of consoles, Deadfall Adventures should be much better and much more refined. This is definitely not the Holy Grail of action-adventure titles.