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Deadfall Adventures

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: The Farm 51
Release Date: Nov. 15, 2013


PC Review - 'Deadfall Adventures'

by Dustin Chadwell on Feb. 4, 2014 @ 2:00 a.m. PST

Deadfall Adventures is a thrilling and immersive action adventure that seamlessly combines the first-person shooter experience with puzzle-solving and exploration, taking players across the globe.

Deadfall Adventures is a first-person shooter with action-adventure elements developed by The Farm 51, who previously worked on Painkiller: Hell & Damnation in 2012. Deadfall Adventures puts you in the boots of James Quatermain, the rough-and-ready descendant of the fictional pulp-novel hero Allan Quatermain from the late 1800s. The game is set against the backdrop of the late 1930s and features a globe-trotting adventure where Quatermain embarks on a quest to obtain the pieces of a legendary artifact across the world while fighting off Nazi and Russian soldiers.

That premise doesn't sound half-bad, but Deadfall Adventures fails to capitalize on any of it. Most of the time, it feels like a dull Indiana Jones knock-off that's attempting to cash in on public domain works to achieve some level of marketability. Very little attention is given to developing any character beyond paper-thin ambitions and pithy one-liners. James Quatermain is seen as a rough-around-the-edges, reluctant explorer with dubious goals, but he's rarely given time to reflect on his past or surprise the player in any significant way. Instead, he remains a prototypical action hero throughout. The voice acting, along with the dialogue, is so poorly handled that you'll have a hard time caring about what little motivations he expresses early on.

Likewise, the villains and supporting cast of Deadfall Adventures fail to impress. The poor voice acting applies to everyone, leaving little desire to keep the volume on past the sub-par, generic soundtrack. The actual plot that involves traversing the Arctic, Egyptian ruins and Mayan jungles is decent in an over-the-top pulp adventure sort of way. Everything else surrounding that overarching plot, however, is executed poorly.

Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn't hold up, either. There's a solid mix of gunfight-fueled action, exploration and puzzle-solving, but none of these elements really excel. Enemy A.I. is absolutely brain-dead, and on the Normal difficulty setting, James Quatermain plays like a bullet-absorbing superman. While the idea seems to be that you should use cover to avoid damage, you can walk into the middle of a firefight and mow down enemies with little regard for your own safety, and still emerge virtually unscathed. You'll take damage, sure, but it takes a hefty amount of damage to actually hit a "load last checkpoint" screen.

To go along with the brain-dead A.I., you'll often see enemies rush around the screen without attempting to stick behind cover, making them easy targets to hit. When they do use cover, it's as if they're stuck in a trap, often not moving away from cover even when you're standing right next to them. There's also very little weight or reaction when you fire back; they'll often drop to the ground without their stagger animation being triggered. You'll encounter a number of scripting bugs that will see enemies ducked behind invisible cover, running endlessly into nearby walls, or occasionally floating in mid-air.

The only standout moments of combat in Deadfall Adventures involve fighting the undead enemies you'll infrequently encounter. For these instances, you'll need to use the flashlight in Quatermain's left hand. With the flashlight, you can focus a beam of light on one of the walking corpses, breaking through a shield of sorts and making it susceptible to bullets fired from the pistol in your right hand. Sure, the concept is derivative of Alan Wake, but it breaks up the monotony of fighting the Nazi and Russian enemies.

While Deadfall Adventures seems to pride itself on exploration and puzzle-solving, neither element fares well across the various stages. Some areas are pretty open but generally devoid of anything interesting to interact with or discover. Treasure can be hidden across stages, and you'll use a compass to guide you to secret goods. Treasure also doubles as a way of upgrading James and his abilities, but the upgrade trees are awfully generic, offering up increased health, stamina, reload speed, etc. You can also get by without focusing much on the upgrades, making the whole system feel somewhat irrelevant.

Deadfall Adventures also tends to box you into confined spaces a lot, despite the open-world appearance of the stages. You'll encounter lots of knee-high obstacles that mask invisible walls and spaces that you should be able to move through but mysteriously cannot. There's an illusion to most of the above-ground areas that feels akin to a movie studio lot with a detailed backdrop. It looks very pretty from a distance, but upon closer inspection, it's little more than a well-painted wall.

The puzzle element is also a half-baked mishmash of puzzle concepts found in countless other video games. You'll position mirrors around a room to direct a beam of light, step on floor panels in a precise order to avoid blowing darts, and match rotating symbols with corresponding symbols positioned on the wall. None of these puzzles feel unique, especially within the world of video games, and rarely do they require any pondering or head-scratching. There's even handy access to a journal that essentially tells you how to solve a puzzle, and if you ignore that, A.I.-controlled companions provide such obvious clues that you'd need to have subtitles and volume turned off to miss them.

Beyond the tepid single-player campaign, Deadfall Adventures offers two different multiplayer modes. The first, competitive multiplayer, is essentially dead in the water from what I can tell. Whether I attempted to join ranked matches or public servers, I couldn't find a single soul online through Steam. I saw some effort on Steam forums to organize online matches, but those seemed to be few and far between and never materialized during the review period.

I can't really speak for how fun the multiplayer portion is, but it's worth noting that if you decide to check out the game despite this review, I wouldn't do so solely for the multiplayer. There seem to be a number of modes for competitive multiplayer, along with pre-made and custom character slots, unlockable weapons, and different character skins. Alas, none of that means a thing if you can't get a single match started.

The second multiplayer mode is Survival, which mimics the standard Horde mode popularized by the Gears of War franchise. In this mode, you'll take on wave after wave of undead enemies with up to three friends, and you attempt to last as long as possible. There are a series of traps that you can guide undead enemies into, making this more interesting than just shooting them down. However, just like the competitive multiplayer, I couldn't find a single person to play with through matchmaking during the past couple of weeks.

All in all, Deadfall Adventures doesn't have a lot of positives. I can appreciate that The Farm 51 made some effort to evolve this beyond a standard FPS experience with the exploration and puzzle-solving elements, but it feels like they spread themselves too thin concept-wise, and the entire game suffers for it. The best thing I can say about Deadfall Adventures is the environments look absolutely fantastic, despite not offering a great deal of variety. At the same time, the level of quality in the stages triggers your imagination in way that the game never fully manages to engage, and that makes the disappointing aspects of the gameplay stand out even more. I certainly can't recommend Deadfall Adventures; there are far better experiences available to PC gamers than this.

Score: 4.5/10

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