From the makers of NecroVisioN and last year's Painkiller: Hell & Damnation comes a new FPS inspired by Indiana Jones. Deadfall Adventures, while not without a lot of design and technical flaws, still manages to be a pretty entertaining shooter.
Deadfall Adventures takes place around the WWII era and it features James Quartermain, grandson of the famous Allan Quartermain, a character who was created in Haggard's novel King Solomon's Mines way back in 1885. A variety of actors have portrayed the adventurous Quartermain on screen, so it's an understandable and agreeable decision by Polish devs The Farm 51 to use the Quartermain name to create their own adventurer. Unfortunately, James Quartermain, who you will be controlling, never develops into a character I really cared much about or even liked. He also talks to much, and what he says, while fitting for the situation, is just unnecessary and the voice acting is cringe-worthy. The same can be said for the other characters, whose personalities are predictable and uninspired.
On the other hand, the story itself is more interesting, and familiar for that matter, although not dramatically so. The lead female protagonist, whose name I failed to make a note of, convinces James to partner with her and her elderly mentor as they seek to rebuild the Heart of Atlantis. It's up to James' brawn and bravery to repel not only hundreds of Nazis who are also seeking to reconstruct this legendary artifact (which yields tremendous power over life and death), but also a variety of undead, including mummies and other ghoulish creatures. The FPS action is straight-forward and at its core, enjoyable. The AI's approach is certainly more about quantity over quality, but they do make use of cover and toss grenades at you, too. Quartermain is able to jump, crouch, melee, and also carries twin revolvers with infinite ammo, although there are several other semi-auto pistols with limited ammo available to pick up, like the P-38s. Long guns include the classic MP40, as well as the Suomi, Thompson, kar98k, FN-5 pump shotgun, as well as a Panzer Faust-like bazooka, and others. The weapons appear historically accurate, or at least reasonably so, and you can only carry two long guns at a time, keeping things somewhat balanced and realistic. Aiming is done via scope if the weapon happens to have one, or down the iron sites which makes for some satisfying action.
Fighting Nazis is one thing, but to fight the undead, Quartermain employs a special flashlight that is infused with Atlantean elements that make the light it shines deadly to the undead. You can focus this beam with a button of your choice, I used ALT, and literally watch the mummies and other supernatural beings start to immolate, making them vulnerable to gunfire. Having this second tier of enemies besides the typical Nazi foes adds an extra welcomed layer of combat. The undead/supernatural enemies you face are more challenging, interesting, and they're reserved a little bit more than the regular encounters with gun-toting Nazis.
Overall, the combat, obviously a huge part of Deadfall's gameplay, was satisfying to me. The weakest link is the AI, primarily with the enemy, but if you take a moment to watch your friendly AI fight, it can be a face-palm moment in and of itself, usually. It's not too uncommon to see the friendly AI shooting straight into a box in front of them, their bullets failing of course to go beyond that box. While their intentions are good, their execution is poor, leaving you to do all of the work, but you sort of expect that anyway in most any action game with friendly AI trying to help. The friendly AI is just a little bit more helpful with some brief verbal hints when you are faced with navigating through a dangerous Atlantean environmental trap, or otherwise trying to solve a puzzle to get through into the next passage. Quartermain carries with him his grandfathers notebook, which is accessible with the push of a button (I used 'C'). The nice thing about the notebook is that Quartermain holds it in his left hand, with a revolver in his right. So there is no break in the gameplay at all as far as the game pausing to bring up a full-screen notebook for you to look at or some other non-seamless design like that. The puzzle hints in the notebook are simple one-page illustrations. At times the puzzles were confusing and I didn't understand, for several minutes, what exactly I was needing to do, but for the most part these come down to either stepping on the right parts of the floor, shooting activator buttons and running, or rotating multi-faced switches to show the proper images (like an Egyptian-looking eye, or animal) on one or more switches in the same area.
Combat, puzzle-solving, and an upgrade system make Deadfall more robust as far as number of gameplay elements than a typical old-school style shooter, which I would categorize this as. Using a compass, and ideally the treasure map for the area if you can find it, Quatermain can track down treasures for pickup. These treasures are of three different types, or paths. These paths, such as the Warrior path, are different skill trees. Upgrades can be accessed at special, obvious, shrines located randomly throughout the game. There are a few upgrades to Quartermain's character that you can 'purchase' with the collected treasures, including health and stamina (your ability to sprint) boosts, faster reloading, increased firerate, and increased damage to the undead with your special flashlight. Finding the treasures gives players a good excuse if they needed one to explore the caves, ruins, temples, mountainsides, enemy bases, etc. There often isn't much interesting to see, but finding another treasure, or figuring out how to get to it, extends the gameplay in a meaningful way.
I did make note of a few bugs or flaws within the campaign that I'd like to bring up. First, you can't determine when to save your game. Perhaps this was developed on the Xbox 360 primarily and then ported to the PC, but having a checkpoint only save system is a shame for a PC game. Accidentally falling into the icy artic water (in one of the early levels) or dying in an environmental trap only to realize that you have to start several minutes back is a nuisance, because Deadfall becomes more of a chore to play when you aren't making steady progress. Another probably patchable bug is this odd, hard to reproduce situation where Quartermain seems to get sort of stuck to in-game structures. Not stuck in the sense that you can't move, but it's almost like there is an invisible wall near pillars and other objects that you get attached to and have to break away like a starship escaping a tractor beam (overly-dramatic analogy perhaps but accurate). Anotehr nuisance was the tutorial messages that pop-up from time to time -- actually it wasn't the messages themselves, I wanted to read them, but the fact that the disappear with the push of any button. And since they pop-up out of nowhere, there's about a 99% chance that your right in the middle of pressing a button when they appear, so they disappear instantly, with no way to see what they said. You'll certainly figure it out anyway, but it's still a goofy design flaw that was overlooked in QA.
In edition to the single player campaign, several multiplayer modes are included. An XP system is as well, with new weapons and character skins that are visible, but only usable, after reaching certain levels. Weapons are also upgraded based on the number of kills you have performed with each. Measurable stats like damage, firerate, and max ammo capacity changed with the level. Five pre-built classes are included too, those being Commando, Guard, Ranger, Sniper, and Scout, although you can create five custom classes on your own. Modes of play include Survival, up to four players can team up to take on increasingly difficult waves of enemies across five different maps set in Mayan or Egyptian themes. You can play this mode by yourself, too. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch are here, as well as Capture the Artifact, which is a take on CTF. Treasure Hunt and Team Treasure Hunt involves finding and taking treasures from other players and optionally offering them up to shrines for boosts. Finally, Last Man Standing is a team vs team mode with no respawns.
The presentation quality is mixed, but overall ok-to-good. PC users have a lot of visual options to tweak should they desire, including of course resolution as well as AA, and general toggles for Graphics/Texture/Shadow/Geometry/Lighting/Effects/Post-processing quality (i.e., Low, High, etc). The ability to toggle V-Sync and "Framerate Smoothing" is here too. On my modest gaming rig (E8400 @3Ghz, 4850 1GB, 8GB), I was able to run in full screen 1080p with all values on High with little to no framerate hiccups. As far as the sound quality, effects were fine, the soundtrack is ok but repeats itself a lot within the same area, but the voiceovers were grating. Not only do the characters talk too much, they sound unnatural and simply bad. Hearing the female friendly AI constantly yell "still think I'm a rookie Quartermain!" multiple times in a firefight that she manages to hit an enemy will make you shake your head. Quartermain's cheesy one-liners and paper-thin macho approach is a negative, too, but at the end of the day it alone shouldn't keep you from playing if you're otherwise enjoying yourself.
And that's ultimately what Deadfall can hang its hat on -- it's fun enough, often in spite of itself, to be worth playing. Granted, I have always been a fan of the FPS genre and I'm not one who believes that every FPS game that comes out has to somehow be unique, or push the genre forward, or any of that BS. I always maintain that there is room for another game that is just itself, that's just fun to play, even if just for a few days or a couple of weeks, in spite of many glaring flaws, be they AI, level design, pacing, or presentation issues, and so on, all of which Deadfall has to some degree, but none of which are game-or-experience-breakingly bad.
With that, let's get to the summary...