Deadfall Adventures is an FPS action game with big ambitions. It tries to ride the mining cart that Indiana Jones and, more recently, Uncharted have shoved down the never-ending mine shaft. Being a fan of both of those series, I want to emphasize how big these ambitions are. For nearly everything that this game gets right, there’s something else that it gets wrong. The protagonist is James Quatermain, an adventurer and scoundrel who’s rough around the edges but has a wit as smooth as butter. Well, he tries to anyway; therein lies Deadfall’s major problems.
Deadfall has some impressive visuals, especially with its environments. The character models are detailed and look like what you would expect from an Indiana Jones movie. The weapons and equipment are also detailed and quite nice-looking. You can tell which gun is which by looking at them. The game is, however, plagued with awkward character animations and pop-in in both the environment and the characters. In one instance during a cutscene, the camera zooms in on Quatermain’s face, and his expression instantly pops in from one to the next. While these occurrences happen more often than I would like to admit, it isn’t a constant thing and could very well be overlooked. The special effects in the game are hit and miss. Gunshots look nice, but grenades aren’t anything to write home about. However, scripted events where you have to blow stuff up look cool. The hit detection is virtually the same as any other FPS, with blood splattering on the screen from the direction you are being shot. One really cool thing I’d like to note, as gimmicky as it is, is that if you are gaming on an Alienware computer (which I am on an M15x laptop), Deadfall takes control of your AlienFX. So if I take damage, all the LED lights on my keyboard and vents flash red with every hit. If you hit a primary objective, it flashes green. When you find a treasure, everything lights up gold. It’s a little touch that I would not mind seeing again.
This game has some of the most atrocious voice acting I’ve ever heard in a video game. Watching the cutscences are like trying to watch one of those really bad b-movies whose only real entertainment value is having a good laugh. The writing doesn’t help this very much. When Quatermain isn’t directly quoting our beloved fedora-wearing archaeologist, he’s trying to lay down some not-so-sweet moves on Goodwin, his attractive red-headed partner. The rest of the sound department is actually quite good. The music isn’t very memorable, but it feels appropriate. The sound effects are crisp and clear, and yes, the grenades sound better than they look when they go off.
This is where Deadfall comes together and starts to shine. The shooting mechanics are solid and familiar. It’s a bit slower paced than games like Call of Duty or Battlefield, but it feels good. You don’t strictly fight Nazis like any good Indiana Drake adventure, but there are some supernatural aspects to the game, complete with undead, mummy, zombie, monster things that are weak to light for some reason. This brings in a combat mechanic similar to Alan Wake, where you use your flashlight to focus on the enemies to weaken them before you can damage them. Gameplay is more or less split in the middle between combat and puzzle solving. While a good bit of the puzzles aren’t mind-bending, I was pleasantly surprised to find some genuinely tough puzzles to solve. The game even works puzzles into combat every now and then, which are very fun to play. For instance, there is a section where you are in a big open room with a bunch of mummies, and you have certain sections that you can lead them into and shoot a switch to light them all up simultaneously as opposed to individually with your flashlight. There are also some cool set-piece moments, including a mine cart sequence straight from the Temple of Doom that had me smiling the entire ride.
For all the positive gameplay aspects, there are several negative as well. Ally and enemy A.I. are very dumb. Half of the enemies seem to think that simply crouching anywhere is good enough cover, and the other half simply don’t care and stand out in the open. When they do finally start moving, it’s either in a set pattern back and forth, or they’ll just bum rush you. Your allies are useless other than killing about one out of every 10 enemies you face and telling you over and over that you should probably find a way to progress through the level, which can be extremely frustrating to figure out sometimes. The game not only does a very poor job at explaining what’s going on with the story but also mostly fails at giving you any sort of direction on what you’re supposed to be doing. There is a fine line between not hand-holding the player and just throwing you in a level with no direction whatsoever, and this game tows that line almost constantly. Sometimes it’s clear what you need to do and the game isn’t going to help you, but other times you just trace over the map for 20 minutes desperately trying to find something you can interact with. I didn’t experience much problem with performance, but a few times puzzles that lead to optional treasures would break, with no way to fix them — nothing game-breaking but severely annoying if you want to collect all of the treasures.
Considering how lackluster the story is, I don’t really see much replay value in the campaign unless you really like finding all the collectibles in games. There is, however, multiplayer spanning several modes like deathmatch and capture-the-flag. There is also a survival mode, which is basically a horde mode where you and a friend try to survive against waves of enemies as long as you can. At times I had great fun with the game, but I honestly don’t see myself picking it back up anytime soon.
Deadfall is a troubled experience. It tries so hard to appeal to Indiana Jones and Uncharted fans that it fails to tell a story worth paying attention to. It hinges on the successes of those franchises to carry it through a troubled plot by invoking feelings of nostalgia. There is some fun to be had with solid mechanics and some pleasing sequences of combat and puzzle solving. If you aren’t a fan of Indy or Uncharted, however, you may have trouble getting into this one.
- Developer: The Farm 51
- Publisher: Nordic
- Platform: PC, XBox 360
- Release: November 15th, 2013