What happens when you put together Indiana Jones and Call of Duty? You get Deadfall Adventures, the latest game from The Farm 51. Think of this as a first person shooter with nazis and mummies mixed with archaeology and treasure finding. Oh, and don’t forget to change the name of the lead character to James Quatermain.
Inspired by classics, Deadfall tells the obvious story of an adventurer that gets sucked into a plot to find an ancient artefact before the nazis get their hands on it, and along the way, runs into an expected turn of events that will push him towards the rescue of a certain female character that happens to be an archaeologist. Deadfall is a cliché from the start to the end. The predictable plot, the familiar characters, the tour around the world to find all the pieces of the puzzle, you name it. There’s even a mine-cart chase deep within the Earth with boiling lava underneath, and lots of nazis driving around like crazy. And guess what? Explosive barrels! So everything goes by the book.
Although Deadfall is advertised has an adventure first person shooter and there is an emphasis on exploration, there is little to explore with such a linear level design. Still, there are secrets to be found in the form of treasures that can later be used to upgrade reload speed, the power of the flashlight, health and stamina, among other possibilities within the 3 main categories available, Warrior, Life and Light. There is a very useful compass that will often point the way where the treasures are located, but beware of the danger surrounding those locations, and prepare to solve some puzzles. Puzzle solving is from the most part unsatisfying and the character will get a note from his ancestor with some clues each time he needs to solve the main ones.
Gameplay mechanics, while not broken, leave a lot of room for improvement. From the ridiculous small jump, but the survival instinct to get out of a 5 storey building fall with only a small scratch, to the invisible walls, the lack of smooth handling in the character movement, and lets not forget the times we just get stuck in the environment. There are however interesting details. The flashlight can be used to temporarily blind the nazis – also works with commies by the way – and in Alan Wake’s fashion, it can be used to weaken the mummies to the point they get affected by the bullets. For a game that is set in 1938, the weapons available are what you can expect from that period, sniper rifle, machine guns, shotguns, some grenades and dynamite, and for close quarters a knife will do the job.
What captured my eye when I first knew about the game was the art style and the adventure theme set in Egypt. Although not a real representation of the pyramids surroundings, that level itself sold me the game. That is probably the best Egypt scenario created for a video game. The outside environment is stunningly beautiful. Problem is that the quality drops here and there during the game to a point where it feels like a last generation game. The environments in general lack polish and are sometimes downright ugly. The character faces seriously need more expression to bring them and the story to life. They hardly drop the poker face.
In a crowded genre like this, is hard for new IP’s to stand out. Despite some changes in gameplay and focus in storytelling the game lacks the polish that many other already offer. The promise of exploration is never fulfilled as the game sticks to a one way path, ending up being a straight up shooter that doesn’t deviate far from the roots of the genre. I can’t help but feel that Deadfall Adventures could have been a much more satisfying experience if more time had been put into the development. It ends up being a disappointing adventure, with the same flaws that haunted games over 10 years ago.