Review: Deadfall Adventures: Heart of Atlantis (Sony PlayStation 3)

deadfallcoverDeadfall Adventures: Heart of Atlantis
Publisher: Nordic Games
Developer: The Farm 51
Genre: First-Person Shooter/ Action Adventure
Release Date: 10/28/2014

Deadfall is clearly determined to be the bastard child between Indiana Jones and Uncharted. It features a hat wearing rogue with a famous ancestor taking on Nazis in a race to get some mythical artifact. The hero uses his ancestor’s notebook to solve puzzles, battles supernatural forces, and even has a female companion/love interest. It’s eighties style schlock to the core. Sadly, it ends up being the low budget B movie version of those franchises.

James Lee Quartermain is the great-grandson of the fictional hero Alan Quartermain. As the story goes, James uses his famous name as a way to earn money, and is kind of a bastard. However, he’s a useful bastard. When a visiting professor and his assistant need help collecting an ancient Atlantean artifact, he’s hired on for the job. From there, the story takes the usual twists and turns. There’s the poorly written lovely story, the painfully obvious betrayal arc, and redemption of the previously thought irredeemable jackass of a main character. The game has no surprises for you if you’ve ever seen an adventure movie.

deadfall1It doesn’t help that the game is in desperate need of a likable character. James is a complete prick. He treats everyone like crap and always has some horrible one-liner to throw their way. Jennifer, the love interest, is supposedly a smart, savvy femme fatale. However, that doesn’t seem to stop her from turning into a cliché the moment James decides to praise her posterior. The villains in the story act with seemingly no motivation other than becoming even bigger pricks that James. Poorly written dialogue, predictable plot twists, and bad voice acting don’t do the game any favors either.

This is a budget game, and it shows. While the art style is decent, it’s hampered by glitches, bad models, and poor polygon counts. The world feels like it is falling apart at the seams, to the point where you might rethink trying to walk up those steps. At one point, the camera panned up to to look at the moon, which turned out to be a mass of giant pixels that would have looked bad on an SNES title. The glitches I saw included models clipping through objects, items disappearing out of James’ hand, items switching hands, and creepy rag doll physics. Finally, the models are misshapen, don’t bother to move their lips when they speak, and live in the uncanny valley. Poor lighting effects don’t help either, as they makes eyes glow orange in a rather unsettling way.

Aurally, the game doesn’t fare much better. The voice acting is all over the place. Most of the actors sound bored. The ones that do try are saddled with some of the worst accents I’ve heard anywhere in my entire life. If I were German, Russian, or English, I’d be incredibly offended. The sound effects are just odd. They are often at a different volume than the rest of the game, sound different than what you would expect, or are simply absent. For example, one boss fight ended in a quick time event where no sound effects or music could be heard. There was supposedly a brawl going on, but you wouldn’t know it just by listening in.

deadfall3Deadfall is a game that can’t quite seem to decide what it wants to be. It has elements of a puzzle-solving adventure that focuses on exploration, but it at times devolves into a shooting gallery. It has boss fights, but those fights are more about solving a simple puzzle or path finding than they are about shooting out hundreds of bullets.

Let’s start with the controls. For the most part, they’re akin to any FPS. You use the sticks to move and look around, the shoulder buttons are for firing your weapons, triangle switches weapons, etc. The more unique mechanics involve a flashlight that can be used to weaken undead foes and a compass that points the way to treasure. You can also bring up a notebook that has some notes on certain areas of the game. It’s mostly functional, but there are some times when you’ll press a button and the response will be delayed or not activate. In particular, I found that the light wouldn’t always work or my zoom function would be delayed. It’s not too bad when you’re just exploring, but it can be a pain in the middle of combat.

For much of the game, you’re left to explore. By explore however, I mean run down a linear path with a few short branching roads that lead to treasure. Along the way, you’ll find various puzzles to solve. These puzzles are usually fairly simple to work out. You might need to shoot a switch to disarm a trap, complete a slide puzzle, or match some symbols. There are some more complicated ones, but they’re usually not so bad you can’t simply figure them out by accident. For example, one puzzle involved using the flashlight in order to light up gems and solve some sort of mathematical problem. All I did was shine up some random gems and I had the puzzle solved. If you ever get stuck with a puzzle, it’s usually because you’ve simply missed a switch or some sort of interactive object.

deadfall2Combat in the game is a cinch. The enemy AI is dumb. Human enemies will stand around and wait to be killed. They can dive into cover, but they usually still leave themselves open when the do so. Your weapons are effective at pretty much any range. I was taking distant foes out with a shotgun on many occasions. There are also undead enemies that simply run straight at you. The trick with them is that bullets don’t hurt them all that much unless you use your magic flashlight on them. The flashlight has to recharge, so there are some tense moments. That is, of course, until you unlock the ability to use the light indefinitely.

Yes, like many shooters, this game has a leveling system. There’s good news and bad news here. The good news is that you won’t have to worry about grinding experience or leveling up stats. The bad news is that you can only unlock upgrades by finding treasures. Lots of treasures. There are three different types of treasures that unlock abilities based on vitals, combat, and special abilities. Each area has several treasures hidden throughout, and you usually have to solve a puzzle or explore a bit in order to find them. If you have a map handy, you can use your compass to point you directly to them. The game gets lazy towards the end though. New abilities require over a dozen treasures be found, and the treasures start getting left out in the open in veritable piles. It was an interesting idea, but they stumbled a bit on the execution.

I mentioned boss fights. There are several in the game at key moments, but only one really has you fighting it out one on one. Instead, you have to solve some sort of environmental puzzle. It sounds harder than it is. Of course, this tactic often leads to silly moments. For example, one boss was immune to bullets and explosives for no other reason than the game didn’t want me to shoot him. He wasn’t protected by magic or wearing armor mind you. He was standing out in the open and I had cover from which to fire at him. However, the game wanted me to run from cover to cover until I got close enough to initiate a quite time event. There’s just no good reason for that.

deadfall4Completing the story mode is likely to take you six to seven hours, with some more time added on if you desire to find all of the treasures. For additional modes, the game has a competitive online mode and a survival mode that can be played cooperatively online as well. The bad news is that there appears to be no one online playing this game. On my many attempts to play a match, I saw not a single soul. The survival mode can be played solo though. Basically, you fight off waves of enemies while trying to activate switches. It’s kind of like the zombies mode from Call of Duty, but without the upgrades. If you can find someone to play with, it might be worth sinking a few hours into.

In the end, this game is a major let down. Though the developer has attempted to ape some well-liked material, they just couldn’t get it to work as a fun game. It’s playable, and there are certainly worse ways to spend your time though. You just have to go in with really low expectations, and the knowledge that the story won’t entertain you one bit.

Short Attention Span Summary

diehardjack1-150x150Deadfall Adventures is a game that suffers from an identity crisis. It wants to be about exploration and puzzle-solving, but it also wants to be a shooter. It wants to be a thrilling adventure, but it also wants to be a budget game that can’t hire halfway decent voice actors. This crisis adds up to a playable, but less than enjoyable gameplay experience. The budget saps much of the game’s potential charm, and the unlikable characters steal the rest. It might be worth a look to some people who are really into the genre, but it’s an easy pass for the rest of us.

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