Deadfall Adventures Review
Reviewed on PCAlso available on Microsoft Xbox 360, PC and Sony PlayStation 3
Where to start? The first thing I’ve had to do is take my face out of my hands such is the exasperation that I played Deadfall Adventures with. This review may have been more interesting if I had just listed the sheer number of cliches this game produces with seemingly consummate ease. But such as things are in this world of criticism I present to you some words, in traditional review format about a game that I do not like and that no-one should really care about.
Deadfall Adventures see you play as James Lee Quatermain, a descendant of H. Rider Haggard's literary hero Allan Quatermain and completely unlike Nathan Drake and Sir Francis Drake obviously. Hired by a detective agency, he aims to assist them in stopping the Nazis getting their evil hands on an ancient artefact, which is in no way a direct lift from Indiana Jones. You are pitted to work with a female companion who is smart but predictably helpless whenever the awful script calls for it, which is in no way similar to the Mummy films. Not at all. You can see the problem here, absolutely everything that is tried in Deadfall has been achieved in a more masterful way across a series of mediums. Farm 51’s ambitions for what this game was supposed to be are absolutely clear, and it is obvious what the source material was for Deadfall. But it is that knowledge of the source material that keeps reminding you how far short this game falls of any of its inspirations. Cliche after cliche rattle off at a rate, like a machinegun of mediocrity, filling your fragile body with apathy and disdain.
Deadfall wants to pit itself as a first-person shooter but with exploration and puzzles, and if anything it gives itself too hard a job of living up to what it promises. Loading screens and in-game prompts will tell you to go off the beaten path and explore for hidden treasure, giving you the feeling that there are exciting things to be found. There aren’t. What you will have is path A to B and somewhere along that path there is an obvious offshoot that ultimately is a dead end with a little trinket lying on the ground. Truly a free roaming experience. This is the same criticism I have levelled at the Uncharted series in the past but the difference there is the quality of the development team, hiding the strings and giving us an illusion of freedom. Without the resources to achieve that type of result a game will fall flat on its face, just as happens with Deadfall.
There is a real attempt to make James Lee Quatermain act as Nathan Drake, quipping in the most ridiculous of situations and being the guy that girls want to be with and that guys want to be. Again it falls flat. The writing is such that James comes across as smug rather than funny and truth be told he seems to be a tad sexist at the same time, there just isn’t the required ability or talent to make this work is just not there, and it fails time after time.
The combat mechanics are as you would expect, with the weapons feeling bizarrely light and without any of the aggression, grunt or menace of World War 2-era weaponry. But there is one small surprise in the combat mechanics and it is one that is taken straight out of the Alan Wake book of gameplay. Other than those pesky Nazis you will have to face some Mummies, and after thousands of years of internment they are a bit annoyed. As it turns out you can’t just shoot them and be done with it, you have to use your torch to shine a light on them and then shoot them to damage them. Where Alan Wake used the mechanic to creepy and chilling effect, here you just keep asking ‘why?’ It is so unnecessary a mechanic in this game that it is truly baffling, perhaps it seemed a great idea at the time.
The puzzle sections are nothing that you will lose sleep over or will have you running to GameFaqs. They are very much a lever-pulling exercise or a bouncing light chore, each able to be solved with little effort. Quatermain carries around a notepad that you can look at to help you solve puzzles but the images are so badly scrawled that you are better ploughing your way into it and working it out as you go. It is obvious that Deadfall is aiming for the Tomb Raider vibe in these sections but the reason Tomb Raider does it well is because it is not in first-person. The first-person angle does not serve puzzles well here, if I have to watch where I step as I await an arrow to the neck from a spectacularly well-preserved ancient trap, please give the player the courtesy of seeing their feet.
This has all been done before, and it’s been done better. The kindest thing I can say about Deadfall is that it’s harmless, it works well enough, isn’t overly ugly and it is playable. But that is just not enough. While you can see that Farm 51’s intentions were pure and that you can imagine the game they were trying to make, there is no reason for this game to exist. If you are going to make a game that obviously wants to be recognised alongside the likes of Uncharted or Tomb Raider you have to be realistic about what you can achieve. I would like to have played the game they wanted to make, I genuinely would, but whether it be lack of money or lack of talent they fell far too short of the mark. That’s it. Can I go play something else now?