Sometimes you may find yourself playing a barely functional game, with awkward controls, glitches aplenty, and terrible graphics, and you’re having a miserable time, but aen you invite some friends around and it can suddenly become sort of fun to go through the pain together because it’s so bad. But consider a game that functions passably so you can at least make it to the end of the story, but it doesn’t have all of those little flaws that makes some bad games a joy to spectate. It’s just, well, dull. Deadfall Adventures: The Heart Of Atlantis is one of those games.
The Polish game developer The Farm 51, are obviously big fans of classic action adventure games and movies, like Indiana Jones, Uncharted, or Tomb Raider. Deadfall Adventures doesn’t so much pay homage to elements and moments from these titles, as it does blatantly steal from them.
Before I get too far ahead of myself though, let’s take a look at the plot. Taking place in 1938, a year before the start of World War II, you play as famed treasure hunter James Lee Quatermain (not Quartermain for some reason); descendant of adventure writer H. Rider Haggard’s creation, Allan Quartermain. Visually, James is a curious mix of various action adventurers – think Indiana Jones meets Nathan Drake via John Marston. James’s goal in the game is to travel across Egypt in search of three pieces of the mystical Heart Of Atlantis hidden in ancient ruins, and is accompanied by English archeologist Lara Cro… sorry, Jennifer Goodwin. All while having to confront armies of Nazis (with the most stereotypical of German accents), Russians and mummies buried in the ruins.
It is never clarified at any point in the game what the Heart Of Atlantis actually does and why it’s so important to these characters, therefore right from the start it does a dreadful job of motivating the player to complete their main objective. Not even the Nazis or the Russians have a clear purpose for obtaining the Heart Of Atlantis and they’re sort of forgotten in the last third of the game. So throughout the whole adventure I was asking myself, “why am I doing all of this? What am I achieving?” Meanwhile, after you go through the fifth level in the Ice Temple, Quatermain’s German companion (who strangely doesn’t have a name, so I will give him the title of ‘Head German’ throughout the rest of the review) betrays him and acts as the primary antagonist for the remainder of the main campaign.
The controls work as you expect them to, though the PS3 version uses L2 and R2 to aim and shoot, instead of the more common L1 and R1. Going into the game, I thought that the scenery would at least be visually interesting and have a similar look to the underwater city of Rapture from Bioshock, but for a game subtitled The Heart Of Atlantis, there aren’t any Atlantis or water-themed environments. It’s the same generic brown, grey, green and orange set pieces and ruins that we’ve seen before, including the conveniently placed chest high walls and flares. There’s a real sense of “been there, done that” when conquering these places and I was getting drowsy just looking at them.
The so called “puzzles” are equally as shallow. It’s your basic ‘press this button’, ‘flick this lever’, and ‘put this here’, but there’s little to no thinking required on the player’s part as the puzzles have a shockingly primitive layout. Inspired by the Uncharted games, Quatermain can look at sketches from the notebook of his grandfather, which provide very little guidance to solving these puzzles, though it does highlight what in the environment you can interact with. You can turn this off by turning the puzzle difficulty to hard, but then you’re stuck with vague scribbles for hints. Even with the highlighting, a lot of the puzzles involve a bit of guessing and occasionally trial and error when it comes to traps (that oddly stop after Quatermain clears through them, giving Jennifer an easier time), all of which unnecessarily drags the game to a further degree, especially while searching for the treasures.
Talking about treasure hunting, scattered around each level are trinkets that act as the game’s currency and can be spent at an upgrade statue that’s also found in various locations. These can be used to give you special skills and abilities like taking more damage, sprinting infinitely or a longer battery for your flashlight, which I’ll get to later. Hunting for treasures can actually be fairly enjoyable at times, as it requires a bit of exploring. Treasure maps can be found in certain parts of the level, and if a compass icon appears in the bottom left of the screen this indicates some treasure is nearby. You can then use your compass to locate it, and all you have to do from there is solve a simple (and I mean simple) puzzle or trap to obtain it. After a while though, it gets dull along with the rest of the gameplay, but completionists will have a lot to collect.
Despite the promises by some text during the opening section that it’s an exploration game, there seems to be very little exploring, focusing more on shooting and some awkward looking quicktime events. For these moments, you’re given a standard variety of weapons to choose from: pistols, machine-guns, shotguns, rocket launchers, grenades, etc. Quatermain himself does not take much damage when he’s hit by a bullet, even by video game standards. The enemies pose no serious threat, as they are incredibly easy to take down. In general the AI isn’t very smart, doesn’t often take cover, can only take two or three bullets before dying, and I’ve even seen one get stuck while climbing stairs. Enemies can be staggered by shining your flashlight on them which can also be used to somehow make the mummies in the game light up and become vulnerable to your gunshot, making them almost just as much of a pushover as the Nazis and Russians.
You mostly fight the same types of enemies from start to finish. The Nazis and Russians are idiotic, generic goons, and while there are a few different mummy variations, they are all defeated the same way. Shine the torch on them until they burn, spread a few bullets, done. There are a few “boss fights” as well, but they’re not at all well developed. The first boss you can’t even kill for some contrived reason, and the second, a Russian leader that captures Jennifer, should be easily sniped through a window, but the glass is inexplicably bulletproof. The final boss against the betraying German is also anti-climactic, being very easy to defeat.
As simple as the gameplay sounds, there are a few quirks that hinder the experience little by little. Your bullets sometimes miss their targets, particularly if they’re far away. Textures pop in all over the place, the frame rate is terrible, and there are a ton of graphic glitches. This includes enemies rag-dolling and clipping through objects, bullets being fired but no gun shown on the screen, the action button sometimes not appearing, and some of Quatermain’s skin texture coming out in front of you with his hands off of his wrists and floating next to the guns. Lack of animation means that sometimes rather than climbing or stepping over an obstruction, characters will just hover over them.
Bugs can also sometimes appear, such as Quatermain getting stuck in a small gap or a wall, being unable to use or pick up a gun while rescuing Jennifer, and oddly no music playing during the credits, even though apparently it should have, leaving me feeling empty as I finished the game. The audio in general is very quiet, even at the highest settings, but the sound design isn’t that great anyway. The sound effects and the music can sometimes drown out the dialogue, and the music itself is mostly painfully generic orchestral pieces.
Your companions seem like they’re supposed to be programmed to help you fend off enemies and give you hints to solving puzzles, but they do nothing to assist. All they do is stand around and watch you do all of the work, occasionally even flat out admitting that they’re just going to lay back and do nothing. To further emphasise their uselessness, they are awful at shooting enemies, almost always missing their targets and most of the time they can be seen cowering in the corner during the firefights. Nobody likes an escort mission, but these are some of the worst companions I’ve ever been obliged to bring along with me in a game.
These one-note personalities are cardboard cutouts who are about as interesting as cereal. Quatermain is the cocky American one with a lust for adventure. Jennifer, with her obligatory English accent, is the intelligent one who is kinda sorta romantically involved with our hero, and the Head German is… well German, therefore he must be the villain, because as popular culture has taught us, all Germans are evil. The acting is also just as atrocious as these stereotypes of stereotypes, with some horribly written dialogue. It can’t seem to decide if it wants to use minor curse words or not and as a result, we end up with lines like “son of a pork”. Huh? Quatermain also steals quotes from other films, such as Al Pacino’s “hooah” and Arnold Schwartzenegger’s “come with me, if you want to live”, to further add to the unoriginality. He does come up with lame quips of his own however, but they’re not funny or clever and they’re repeated constantly.
The character models also look horrendous, with robotic animations including mouth movements that are barely in sync. Certain details are lazily animated as well, like the water and crocodiles instantly killing you without a splash or a chomp. The kettle that’s seen in the ending cutscene also produces solidified, squiggly-lined steam, looking like something out of a PS2-era game. The PS3 version of Deadfall Adventures that I played is overall just not a very pretty game.
For a game about exciting things like investigating ancient ruins and fighting mummies, it’s utterly boring. The only part I somewhat enjoyed was a mine-cart segment, which of course is ripped off from Temple Of Doom. It’s quite literally an on-rails section as you’re shooting Russians while Quatermain has absolutely no reaction and, strangely, the mine-cart makes very little noise. The main campaign will take the average player around 7-10 hours to finish, but if that wasn’t enough action for you, Deadfall Adventures also has a multiplayer and survival mode if you’re still not sick of all the shining of torches onto mummies and shooting of Nazis and Russians.
Deadfall Adventures feels uninspired, unoriginal, ludicrously tired and cliched, and is just an all-around bore. It has had to steal elements, quotes, and even puzzles from other games, like Uncharted 3’s light portrait puzzle, right down to one pictured man stabbing another pictured man. Far from being engaged and entertained, I just wanted to get it over and done with as fast as possible.
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