I don’t know what it is about adventure games, whether it’s the chance to explore pyramids and long forgotten tombs from all corners of the world, the endless brain scratchers left to solve or even the fact that you always play a super cool and highly intelligent hero but I simply can’t get enough of the genre. Ticking all the boxes I could ask for as a gamer.
It’s a huge shame then that while the Xbox 360 offered so many amazing games, adventure titles were a bit lacking, never quite seeing Microsoft’s contender for the Uncharted series make an appearance. This is all set to change with The Farm 51 and Nordic Games, the brains and talent behind the successful Painkiller series, having worked hard to bring us Deadfall Adventures, an FPS which blends some serious shooter elements that Nathan Drake himself would be proud of, along with puzzles that are sure to leave the most ardent Tomb Raider fan feeling right at home, but is this all too little too late? With the Xbox One just around the corner, can Deadfall Adventures really bring enough to the table this late in the generation?
Well the short answer is a rather uneasy, maybe.
Every adventure needs a hero, and who better than the infamous Quatermain? Ok so it’s not THE Quatermain of legend, but rather his great-grandson James Lee Quatermain. Make no mistake though, this guy’s just as bearded and gravely voice. Oh and he’s handy with a rifle too.
On reuniting with an old colleague, Jennifer Goodwin, Quatermain is hired by the US government to track down an ancient artefact known as ‘The Heart of Atlantis’ before the Nazi occult group ‘Ahnenerbe’ get there first and unlock its mysterious powers.
Nothing particularly fresh here then, with the shooter aspects of Deadfall Adventures again entering extremely well-known territory, sticking with an arcade feel not far removed from Farm 51 and Nordic Games Painkiller series. Controls are exactly as you would expect, although plagued with a rather odd choice of making the jump and action command both controlled with a tap of the A button, this may seem fine at first but becomes hugely frustrating when trying to disarm a bomb and instead diving head first into it. This arcade style of shooting is one of the first noticeable shortfalls that the game faces, while fighting off waves of Nazis isn’t particular difficult without a cover system in place it can become quite frustrating when your health begins to run low, covering your screen with the red stuff.
Quite often when crouching behind walls I assumed would act as cover, I was still being riddled with bullets leaving me no choice but to run into the fray and take a much more spray and pray tactic, something which felt quite disjointed from the adventure genre. The unrefined mechanics didn’t stop with everything being punctured by bullets either, often the opposite was true of any enemies in my path. No matter your skill, head shots won’t help you here as these Nazi soldiers are bullet sponges, with many taking entire clips to eventually kill, not before forcing them to dance the funky chicken as you whittle them down with machine gun rounds.
The Desperate need for a cover system and a better physics engine aside, the game’s AI leaves a lot to be desired with plenty of those out to kill me spending the best part of their time hiding around corners shooting into the wall. I guess these Nazis took the concept of simple physics too lightly.
Nazis aren’t your only problem on this adventure either, you’ll soon awaken some rather unsightly monsters along the way, most notably a cast of rather dangerous Mummies who may be killed after giving them a blast of light from your torch. This concept which Alan Wake fans will no doubt applaud, is one of the better aspects to Deadfall’s shooter mechanics, which not only mixes things up but offers you a chance to change tactics when fighting Nazis. Things really fell into place when I could turn the tide of battle by awaken a team of frozen Mummies with a simple blast of light, leaving them to eat their way through the Ahnenerbe forces.
Exploration is encouraged in Deadfall Adventures, trying its best to offer a non-linear experience, after all what else do you find in tombs and caves apart from the undead? Yep, you guessed it, bucket loads of treasure. Or in this case, small golden idles hidden in precarious locations. This attempt at enticing you to explore falls short however, with a prompt to whip out your compass appearing anytime you’re anywhere near one of these sought after idols, which while some might find handy, I found that it kind of ruins the fun of it all.
There’s a lot to be said for taking the time to step off the beaten track though as each of these idols works to build your experience until you can eventually stop off at the nearest glowing statue to upgrade Quatermain’s abilities, from ammo and stamina to health and even strengthening the light your torch can emit.
It’s not all gun fights and monsters though, with Deadfall taking more than a few queues from Uncharted and even Tomb Raider by accenting each area with some of the biggest and increasingly difficult puzzles I’ve seen in some time.
The puzzle sections are without a doubt the best thing Deadfall Adventures has to offer, while some areas offer simplistic ‘move mirror to face opposite mirror’ type puzzles, the vast majority are on a much larger scale which will take you a long time to work around, the first of the these big art attacks involves a vast room in which the floor is covered in spikes ready to impale and scar at every step. The only solution to get across this death trap involves learning the correct order in which to hit a collection of 12 spinning gold plates which will deactivate some of the spikes for a small period of time. When the path splits though, you need to move quickly as you may have gone for a dead-end.
In fact, the only complaint I found during these noggin’ scratchers involved my rather annoying travel buddies who did nothing but block important switches or consistently repeat annoying lines such as “hurry” and “we’re losing too much time here” which is a huge shame considering the puzzles themselves are so well thought out and underneath all the chatter you can hear a rather beautiful score that never fails to set the scene. Much like their enemy counterparts, your companions have a bit of a penchant for walking into walls also. Maybe theres gold in there that poor old Quatermain just can’t see?
Overall Deadfall Adventures leaves you with an awkward experience. While it doesn’t offer anything new in the realm of shooters and often doesn’t even do the bog-standard tropes well, hidden in its depths you’ll find some challenging and rewarding puzzles, even one or two enjoyable shootouts. If you can look past its lack of polish and rather lamentable AI, you’ll find some fun to be had.
Go for the adventure, stay for the riddles.