James Lee Quatermain is a man that is not too impressed with the legacy of his great grandfather, Allan Quatermain but not above using the illustrious name to his own advantage either. While he followed in the adventuring footsteps of his forebearer he isn't exactly a believer in the fantastical tales associated with the expeditions of Allan Quatermain. This all changes when he is hired by a former colleague to escort her to an Egyptian temple for simple artifact retrieval.
The game is set in 1939 and inspired by the Quatermain universe created by H. R. Haggard so it should come as no surprise that the artifact has magical properties and some Nazis are very keen to get their hands on it as well. James is plunged headlong into a globe spanning adventure that takes him from the temples of Egypt to the cold wastes of the Arctic and the humid jungles of Guatemala. The storyline immediately conjures up memories of Indiana Jones, Uncharted and indeed the adventure novels by Sir Haggard.
Deadfall Adventures is played from a first person perspective but it is more than just a straightforward shooter. The exotic and dangerous locations are not just filled with enemies and traps but some puzzles as well. Every once in a while James will have to take a break from all the gunplay to solve some conundrum that is hampering his progress. These sections make for a nice change of pace and while many of the puzzles are rather straightforward there are a few that can leave you scratching your head. You can set the puzzle difficulty before starting the game and James has a handy notebook that can be whipped out for clues so nobody should be stuck on these puzzles for too long. Your companion, Jennifer Goodwin is also fond of providing hints if you are really stumped which is helpful but a little annoying.
The highlight of the game is the visuals with some striking digital representations of ancient temples and exotic locales. The three main areas that you explore in the game are very diverse and each was created with painstaking attention to detail. Everything from how the light filters through trees or cracks in the ceiling to the flickering torches and ancient statues inside the temples contribute to the excellent atmosphere of the game. It is not just eye candy either as those stalactites in the Arctic can be shot to drop on to unsuspecting enemies while the deadly traps can be activated with a well timed bullet in order to catch your foes in the crossfire.
Unfortunately there are a few issues with the visuals as well. The game uses the Unreal engine to great effect and the texture detail is incredible but there is also a bit of texture pop-in that is by now synonymous with the engine. It doesn't detract from the stunning looking locations too much but it is quite noticeable at times. Enemies range from typical video game baddies like Nazis, Russians and Arabs to more supernatural foes like mummies and temple guardians. The human enemies look rather generic but the supernatural ones are pretty cool. The problem with the humans in the game, which is especially noticeable during cut-scenes, is the awkward, puppet like animations that they all have. It is not a deal breaker but definitely an area that could have used a bit more polish.
James has a selection of weapons fitting to the time period that he can use in battle but has a carry limit of only three. This is usually not a problem as the weapons dropped by your enemies are plentiful. His default weapons, a set of pistols have unlimited ammunition which can seem a bit odd but is necessary due to some of the puzzles that require you to shoot switches from a distance. While none of the weapons, apart from the sniper rifle are what you would call memorable they do pack quite a punch and get the job done. The enemies are not exactly the smartest foes that I have encountered in a first person shooter and most of the humane ones were content with taking pot shots at me from behind cover. There are usually some exploding barrels nearby to flush them out and tossing grenades or dynamite also causes them to scatter like cockroaches. Using the environment to your advantage is the most fun however as you can activate traps that burn, impale or crush your enemies. You can even goad enemies into fighting each other while you pick them off from a distance if encounter areas with opposing factions.
The supernatural enemies are the highlight of the show and unlike their human counterparts they don't go down easy. Your guns are useless against at first but fortunately they have an aversion to light. You can use your flashlight, lure them into sunlight or set them on fire with the traps to weaken them before putting them to rest permanently with a few well placed bullets. The flashlight as a weapon tactic has been used before in games such as Alan Wake but it is still a nice touch and provides some variety in combat. Later in the game you get mobbed by undead foes leading to epic battles where you have to make full use of the environment in order to stay alive. This includes activating traps and using reflecting lenses, usually reserved for puzzles to fry your foes like ants under a magnifying glass.
The levels undoubtedly look good but are a bit more linear than what I would have liked. James has a magical compass that points him towards the nearest treasure but you can also find treasure maps that mark all the treasure locations. These treasures are usually not too far off the beaten path and when found can be used to upgrade your skills. Skills are divided into "Warrior," "Light" and "Life" paths with upgrades such as more health, stamina, less recoil, shorter reloading times and more. The treasure hunting is a nice touch but I would have liked to see larger skill trees with abilities that make a bigger impact on the gameplay. Another issue that is worth pointing out is that the game uses a checkpoint based save system. This generally didn't bother me too much but the checkpoints are spaced apart quite far at times and dying can set you back a bit. This can be annoying as the game doesn't save the treasures you already collected and if you are not paying attention you can blunder straight into a trap spelling instant death. It definitely made me watch me step and pay attention to my environment so that I don't accidently trigger a trap and become part of the temple decor but I know not everyone appreciates checkpoint based saves.
The audio is good with some suitably stirring music but the voice acting is a bit of a mixed bag. The voice actor for James definitely has the right type of voice but not all his lines are delivered with conviction. Sometimes he nails it and sometimes it sounds like he is just phoning it in. The uneven voice acting extends to the other characters as well and while it adds to the cheesy B-movie feel of the game it could have been better. The awkward animations just add to the problem making some of the cut-scenes lose their impact. I didn't have any issues with bugs or crashes and managed to complete the game without any hiccups. The game also has quite an extensive multi-player component that I was sadly unable to fully test due to the lack of players. It is definitely something that I will return to if there is a larger player base.
Deadfall Adventures isn't perfect and if you are going to nitpick there are plenty of faults to find. On the other hand it is definitely not as bad as some reviews might have you believe and well worth checking out if you enjoy the genre.
TAGS: Deadfall Adventures, Quatermain, Egypt, Arctic, Mayan Ruins, Jennifer Goodwin,
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