Deadfall Adventures Preview (PC)

There are a few things developers can do if they want me to like their game. There could be a gripping plot with interesting, likeable characters, an intriguing world with interesting places to explore, brain-teasing satisfying puzzles, exciting action, fun gameplay, that sort of thing. Or they could just say “you’re Indiana Jones”, in which case I’ll immediately pre-order the expensive box-set with the statue and a DLC Season Pass. I don’t know what it is about that certain fedora-wearing archaeologist but I’ll play any game that lets me feel like Indy. With LucasArts closed down, the last non-LEGO Indiana Jones game was a piece of rushed Wii cack, and a PS3 never appearing in my Christmas stocking for my Nathan Drake fix, I’ll take what I can get... and Deadfall Adventures seems to have my prayers answered. Yes, all of them.

The best way to describe Deadfall Adventures in gaming terms is Uncharted combined with Portal. Wise-crackin’ stubbley adventurer who’s handy with a gun and is a descendant of another famous adventurer (in this case Allan Quatermain) goes with strong witty female type on a search for some ancient treasure, in this case a MacGuffin called ‘the Heart of Atlantis’, while solving numerous and occasionally lethal puzzles in first-person. I think I described it pretty accurately. And the Indiana Jones connection, aside from the obvious influence on Nathan Drake? Nazis, of course. This is a first-person shooter/puzzle solver – in between shooting an army of Nazis (that’d be the German Army then) there are ancient puzzles to suss out and treasures to find. And the best part? It’s all done really well from what I’ve played so far.

“Hi, I’m James Quatermain. You may remember me from ‘The Greatest Story Ever Tomb Raided’, ‘Nathan Drake Goes To Summer Camp’ and ‘They Came To Burgle The Temple of Doom’

I’m not kidding when I say there are literally two types of gameplay. The first-person shooting sections against Nazi soldiers and occasionally the undead punctuate each puzzle and play like a modern FPS. With the dual-wielding pistols combined with one larger weapon, along with the search for hidden treasures in-between shooting and the historical feel, it reminds me most of Ubisoft’s recent Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (which I was playing alongside Deadfall Adventures so it particularly struck me). Handling, aiming, and enemy AI isn’t quite at a fully-polished standard yet, and enemies still occasionally can suddenly pop into (or out of) existence from an area that you cleared, but there’s still over a month for developer The Farm 51 to work these things out perfectly. What’s there is fun already though, which is not surprising considering the developer’s mostly made up of guys who worked on the original excellent Painkiller, and especially the fact that you can lure Nazis into Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider-style traps.

There’s also the added bonus of the aforementioned undead, which are killed in a manner very similar (let’s not mince words here - identically) to Remedy’s Alan Wake. You have a torch, you hold down a button to “focus” your beam on a supernatural enemy until they seemingly burst with light, then you shoot them. It may be outright theft but it at least adds a neat extra dimension to the combat, and Nazis Versus Zombies is something that absolutely never gets old. Apart from the flashlight James Quatermain’s other equipment includes a Jack Sparrow “magic” compass that points to nearby treasures (which are used to buy skill upgrades) and a notepad which you can look at for clues regarding puzzles sketched by his ancestor Allan Quatermain, who clearly worked for BradyGames.

The shooting and the traps are entertaining enough but it’s the puzzle rooms that are my favourite. Granted I’ve only played the first couple of hours and so far I haven’t had the level of challenge I got from Portal, but I personally like FPS' where there’s a time-out from shooting in which you have to apply your brain. Puzzles so far have ranged from simple asides like “stepping on the right floor tiles” like the Word of God challenge in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade to huge room events like the “direct a beam of light around a room using mirrors” as seen in most Legend of Zelda games. Sadly on the second “chapter”, the Mayan ruins, the actual puzzle rooms have seemed to drop off a little in favour of trap avoidance. However there may be more taxing ones later, since I’d only just started venturing into the zombie-infested Mayan temple itself and got completely stuck either by not spotting something or from a show-stopping bug, and felt that was a good place to call the preview to a halt since the game’s only out next month.

According to my compass, there should be a pyramid around here somewhere

Graphically it’s lovely, pushing Unreal Engine 3 to lovely Serious Sam 3 levels as well as producing good physics and some nice sandstorms. The design of the levels, which so far consist of Egyptian and Mayan temples, seemed pretty authentic and yet were still curved through a 1930s serial adventure lens, meaning The Farm 51 successfully aim the levels to feel real but aren’t afraid to exaggerate in the name of fun. One bizarre omission though is the use of an ‘X’ instead of a Nazi Swastika on the armbands and flags of SS troopers. I’m not sure why this is the case but presumably has something to do with selling the game in Germany, but it’s a shame since it ruins the whole Indiana Jones Nazi-killing feel and the pathetic ‘X’ substitute really stands out. I’d rather the developer had used the German Iron Cross, the traditional swastika videogame replacement, instead. Hell, I’d rather have a skull and crossbones – if you’re going to say “screw authenticity” I’d rather you be badass instead.

Aside from the slightly iffy voicework and the lovely every-tomb-raiding-adventure-in-a-big-bowl theme tune there’s not much to add about Deadfall Adventures, other than it’s looking quite amazing. It’s out on 27th September for PC and Xbox 360 so there’s not long to wait. If you’ve got an Indiana Jones itch that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Staff of Kings didn’t satisfy (I think “unsatisfying” sums up both of those quite well) Deadfall Adventures should absolutely be on your Most Wanted list for next month. Unless bloody Rockstar have added a tomb raiding section to GTA5 of course. Wouldn’t put it past them.

Most Anticipated Feature/Element: Seeing how many traps and pitfalls I can get Nazis to stumble into.

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By nocutius (SI Elite) on Aug 13, 2013
The thing with the iron cross is that it's not a Nazi symbol at all and using it as a replacement is kinda insulting but I'll agree that a generic X is not a good replacement either.

The game sounds interesting I'll try to keep an eye on it.

+1 for the captions :)
By The_Tingler (SI Core) on Aug 13, 2013
Sorry, didn't mean to insinuate that it was a Nazi symbol, I think it's actually more WW1-era Germany am I right? Nevertheless it has been used as a somewhat historically-accurate replacement for the swastika in certain places, including Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings despite every single other Indiana Jones game having the swastika.
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Aug 13, 2013
I didn't mean that you're insulting anyone, I meant those cases when developers in general use it as a replacement.

The symbol is even older actually, the Teutonic Knights used it first I think, it's been redesigned to be used by the Prussian army after the Napoleon wars.
By the_fourth_horseman (SI Veteran Member) on Aug 13, 2013
Yea it's a Prussian distinguishment. Pretty old.