Deadfall Adventures is the latest game from development studio The Farm 51, the same folks that brought you fast-paced shooters like NecroVision and Painkiller: Hell & Damnation. However, this game is something of a departure for the Polish developer as it tries to balance exploration and puzzle solving alongside the breakneck action that the studio is known for. Deadfall Adventures deserves praise for providing a unique take on the first-person shooter genre but it has so many problems and is generally a disappointment.
As far as the story is concerned, the game is set in the 1930s and you play as James Lee Quatermain, the great grandson of legendary adventurer Allan Quatermain, which is a name you may recognise if you are familiar with the works of H. Rider Haggard. James has been making a nice living off his great grandfather's name, as folks pay good money just to say they have been on adventure with a Quatermain. However, things start going awry when James is recruited to try and retrieve an ancient artefact. Little does he know, the Nazis are also interested in the same artefact and there's a load of mythological nonsense thrown in for good measure! It's all a great excuse to do some globetrotting, blast some Nazis and steal some precious treasure along the way.
Deadfall Adventures has a premise and setting that feels fresh but the actual story doesn't hold up its end of the bargain. The weakest link is James Lee Quatermain himself. It is clear that the developers were going for the likable asshole thing that Indiana Jones and Uncharted pulled off so well, but here it falls flat; Mr Quatermain is just an asshole, asshole. He is an ignorant, impatient and idiotic soul, who loves blowing things up and spouting awful wise cracks.
Throughout most of the game, you will be with agent Jennifer Goodwin who isn't much better. She ticks all the boxes. She's British, Upper-Class and has a massive rack. She manages to be annoying in her own right as she will often rebuke the player for taking their time and exploring the environment, rather than running onto the next checkpoint.
Nothing about the story is worth paying attention to. It's clichéd, dull and it doesn't go anywhere. I wish I could say that the story is enjoyable on a B-Movie level but it's not. It's just bad.
Thankfully, the gameplay in Deadfall Adventures is more entertaining. The game almost immediately thrusts you into some combat and it's satisfying. The game has a lot of weapons, all of which feel weighty and powerful. Whether you are using a sub-machine gun or a bolt-action rifle, the shooting in Deadfall feels nice and accurate. You can only carry one main weapon and a pair of pistols, which sounds limiting but it works well as there are frequent opportunities to switch weapons and your default pistols have unlimited ammo.
While the combat has a hefty feel to it, the artificial intelligence stinks. Throughout a lot of the game, you will be fighting human enemies and these guys are so slow on the draw. They stumble around, often out in the open, shooting inaccurately at you. I died plenty of times in Deadfall Adventures but it was never because of these guys. Agent Goodwin will try and help out in combat but she is even worse, often shooting at walls instead of the enemies.
It shouldn't really surprise you when I tell you that you will also fight mummies and other ghastly creatures. Most of these guys just shamble towards you, hoping to claw your eyes out. There are some more interesting monster types introduced late into the game but they aren't given much screen time. There are big beast things that charge straight at you and there are also undead types armed with guns. Yeah, interesting is a relative term.
Fighting the undead is alarmingly similar to Alan Wake. Our hero does have access to a torch (or flashlight for the yanks), which can be used to put out an intensified beam of light which weakens foes and causes them to glow. All looks and sounds special but it's very simple... too simple. Most of these creatures once weakened are so weak that a simple melee attack will take them out. The idea of fighting mummies and other creatures sounds neat but they are so easy to take out that it sucks out any possible tension or horror the game could provide.
When you are not shooting at stupid men or stupid monsters, you are probably solving puzzles. The idea of solving puzzles in a first-person shooter will be a turn off for some but I actually welcomed the idea. If Deadfall had only focused on combat, then the game would have gotten stale after the first hour. However, the game's use of puzzles do break up the game nicely and they give Deadfall a feel that is unique compared to a lot of first-person shooters.
The actual puzzles themselves are mostly pretty straightforward. You will be sliding tiles, rotating columns and dodging traps to progress. Doesn't sound particularly interesting but the puzzle variety is strong and you will never see the same type of puzzle back to back. Most of the puzzles are reasonable on terms difficulty because the game gives you clues via Agent Goodwin and your great grandfather's notebook, which you carry around at all times. However, there were some puzzles that took me a while to figure out. One of these instances was the game's fault.
During a certain puzzle, I was stuck I didn't know what to do. Agent Goodwin gave me the advice to look up at the ceiling to see some symbols. I looked up at the ceiling and I didn't see jack. After bumbling around for twenty minutes, I finally found the symbols on the poorly lit wall behind me! I get that the developers are Polish but this isn't acceptable! While this is definitely the most egregious example, there was at least one other puzzle where it felt like I didn't have the appropriate information needed to solve it. I also spotted a few misspellings in the subtitles but seeing the term "uboot" made me laugh at least.
Deadfall Adventures also makes a big deal about exploration but it really doesn't play a big part in the gameplay. This is mostly due to the fact that the game is very linear, which is a shame as Deadfall does have intriguing environments, taking you through the likes of an Egyptian pyramid, an arctic mine and a Mayan temple. The only reason why you want to take your time and explore would be to find optional pieces of treasure. These treasure pieces generally aren't just lying there, there is usually a simple puzzle associated with them in order for you to get them.
Picking up treasure allows you to upgrade your character. Depending on what type of treasure you collect, you can upgrade several different paths. Life treasures are associated with healing skills, warrior treasures are linked in with combat and light treasures help upgrade the potency of your torch. All this upgrading stuff is well implemented but it feels unnecessary as the combat is so easy anyway, thanks to poor AI.
Deadfall Adventures took me about 8 hours to play through. I can definitely see how some players will be able to get through the game much quicker than that, depending on how long it takes for them to get through certain puzzles. Once the adventure is over though, there is no reason to go back to it.
There is a surprisingly weighty multiplayer component, though. None of it is particularly special but it is surprising how much meat there is here. All of the game modes that you would expect are here like Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Artefact and so on. A lot of the features feel like they are ripped out of Call of Duty. There are custom classes, different player ranks and unlockable weapons.
Even the action feels reminiscent of Call of Duty, as the controls are similar and the action is fast-paced. There are even kill streaks but they aren't too great in Deadfall Adventures. Being able to magically earn a rocket launcher has its charms but the highest kill streak, unlocked after achieving 11 kills in a row, allows you to play as a mummy but it was terrible! I was jumping around, swiping randomly at foes with very little success. Oh well, I can't knock them for trying.
There is also a survival mode that is exactly what you would expect. There are waves of enemies that you have to defeat for as long as you can and during intervals, you have the opportunity to grab a new weapon. The mode works as advertised but as the combat in Deadfall Adventures is so basic, it gets old after 10 minutes or so.
The graphics in Deadfall Adventures differ wildly depending on which platform you are playing on. I had the opportunity to play the game for both the PC and Xbox 360 and the PC version is definitely the way to go. All of the textures and character models are of a much higher quality on the PC and the framerate is much smoother, even on the outdated gaming PC I own. The Xbox 360 version is ugly in comparison and while the environments are still fun to look at from a artistic perspective, the hideous textures really dampen the experience. The framerate is all over the shop too and often affecting some of the biggest firefights in the game.
Deadfall Adventures also plays better on the PC, from a control perspective. This isn't a mouse and keyboard versus controller stance I am taking; the game just controls inadequately with a controller. By default, aiming is very twitchy and there is absolutely no aim-assist. Perhaps it is a good thing that the enemies are as stupid as they are, otherwise this would be a very difficult game to play. Also, zooming in with the left trigger is a toggle by default. Who would do that!?
The sound design throughout Deadfall Adventures is decent but nothing stands out. All of the weapons sound beefy and all of the sounds used in the environments work well. However, all of the voice acting is dreadful and I am really struggling to say anything about Deadfall's sound. It's just there. Oh... and the music is alright, I guess.
Overall, Deadfall Adventures is a bad game. I really want to like it though. I love first-person shooters and I have a soft spot for these low-budget shooters that no one seems to care about. I also respect the fact that Deadfall is trying to do something different in an overcrowded genre but its core execution just isn't up to snuff. The terrible AI, the occasionally frustrating puzzles and overall feeling of shoddiness lets down Deadfall Adventures. It feels like a game that should have come out 5 years ago and even that is being generous. The fact that it is being charged as a nearly full priced product is scary.
TWO OUT OF FIVE
A bad game with an abundance of flaws which outweigh its positive aspects.