When we previewed Deadfall Adventures a couple of months ago, we were promised by the publisher that there was a lot of work to be done. Some graphical elements would be cleaned up, the gunplay would be tweaked, and framerate fixes would be put in place. In short, the normal last-minute polish and clean-up work would be done in order to prepare the game for release.
It would be kind to say that they were being optimistic about how much work could be done in such a small amount of time. The final product – as we feared it would be – is unpolished and lacking in almost every area. Taking seemingly every single one of its cues from Naughty Dog’s fantastic Uncharted series, Deadfall Adventures puts you into the boots of on James Lee Quatermain, a reluctant hero employed by some archaeologists who are looking to find a treasure by the name of the Heart of Atlantis. Dressed every bit as if he’s been plucked out of Red Dead Redemption, Quatermain roves through various landscapes – all of which feel identical – taking out Nazis and Communists who are also trying to obtain the same treasure, and gunning down the undead, who seek to stop anyone from getting their hands on it. The undead need to be weakened using Quatermain’s flashlight before they’ll take any damage from bullets, so there’s a big old hefty nod to Alan Wake there for you, to go along with the Uncharted theme.
This is all well and good, and the basic premise puts you instantly in mind of an average sort of FPS adventure game that could go either way. It could be brilliant. It could be dire. Unfortunately, Deadfall Adventures falls closer to the latter, rarely drawing you in and frequently breaking even the slightest sense of atmosphere with negative aspect after negative aspect.
The game’s introduction, which comes complete with frequent slowdown and which is apparently voiced entirely by the 2013 class of the Wooden Ham School for Bad Voice Acting, doesn’t exactly whet the appetite. The voiceovers are so terrible that they’re almost bad enough to recommend a purchase, just for yucks. The actors frequently place emphasis on the wrong words, making the fortunately enabled-by-default subtitles an absolute necessity.
From the get-go, the game instantly feels like a chore that you may as well persist with, given that you’ve already handed your money over. That feeling doesn’t last for long, as the game almost fights against you at every single turn. On our first trip through the game’s very first level, we got to a point where we couldn’t go back due to a locked door, and couldn’t proceed due to the TNT that we needed to blow the door in front us being on the other side of that locked door. We had wandered past it without any thought of picking it up, and had hit a checkpoint just as the door closed behind us, meaning that our punishment for being so remiss was to start the entire level again. This sort of thing happens a lot. You’ll find a stat-boosting treasure at the end of a corridor and wander towards it, only for – apropos of nothing - the floor to give, causing you to plummet to your doom. It’s an instant death, too. There’s absolutely no way to get out of it, and you’ll find yourself reloading the last checkpoint.
When you’re first given a gun, you’ll notice that aiming is next to impossible, as well. The slightest touch makes your aiming reticule jump around wildly, so turning down the controller sensitivity will probably be the first thing that you’ll need to do. On the upside, the undead creatures aren’t fans of your human enemies either, so there are times when you can crack open a tomb and stand back to watch them go after a bit of Nazi blood. To be fair, this is a genuinely entertaining thing to do, and affords you with a shard of tactical nuance that goes beyond the usual mechanic of hiding behind cover and peeking out to take shots when the AI aren’t.
But that’s about as good as it gets. The only other thing that sets Deadfall Adventures aside from every other FPS ever made, is that it sets itself up as a game that features swathes of puzzling action for the thinkers amongst us. This falls flat when you realise that a very large percentage of the puzzles involve simple combination locks or avoiding stepping on the wrong symbols on the floor. An interesting puzzle involving light and mirrors appears fairly early on in the game but, just like everything else in the game, is overplayed and becomes a repetitive chore that takes far too many steps to complete. We get it. We have to position the mirrors to reflect the lights onto the backs of the statues. Why make us do it six times when the fun was in actually working out what to do? Completion of this section would have been more rapid if Quatermain was able to jump any higher than the tops of his own boots, but he can’t, meaning that even the smallest of boulders need to be walked around, which only adds to the frustration you’ll feel whilst playing.
And frustration is about all you’ll take from Deadfall Adventures. The game has its heart in the right place, but the lack of any cohesion or feeling of freedom in a game world that apparently – according to the publisher and some of the in-game tutorial text – rewards exploration, is enough to lock this one into a tomb of its own making.
Deadfall Adventures actually contains some pretty fun ideas, but they’re so heavily buried in the incompetent and unconvincing gameplay that players will never really appreciate how much fun they could be. As it stands, the game isn’t one that we’d recommend at all, especially given how many other puzzlers and FPS titles are out there that actually get the very basics right.