Developed by the studio that recently brought Painkiller to modern videogame markets, Deadfall Adventures is an original concept by a team that built its reputation with the PC exclusive series NecroVision. An understated cult hit, NecroVision and its subsequent prequel were considered innovators within the kill-all-or-be-killed template, giving credence to Nordic Games’ decision to have them develop Painkiller: Hell & Damnation. Deadfall Adventures however, is an entirely different prospect: a different kind of first-person shooter (FPS) and a different kind of audience.
While the run-and-gun FPS is seen by many as an ancient relic – a design template from a bygone era – there are plenty who would argue that there is still room for such an experience. Electronic Theatre has in fact stated this in many occasions, but of course that doesn’t mean that the occasional cerebral challenge is welcome also. This is where Deadfall Adventures comes into play, mixing puzzling with combat in a fashion that’s more appealing than it may sound.
The central conceit of the videogame is that, after a run in with some less then helpful Nazi’s, you must escape from a tomb in which the undead have arisen. Beyond this the player will travel to jungles, ruins, the Arctic and Guatemala, indiscriminately killing while hunting for treasure. The plot is delivered as if James Lee Quatermain, the protagonist of the piece had written a book and was now reading it aloud. Chapters are punctuated with his narration while the core story revolves around Quatermain and his financier, Agent Jennifer Goodwin from some US government agency, attempting to prevent some bad guys getting away with the treasure that they wanted.
It’s not a particularly sophisticated plot – Deadfall Adventures isn’t trying to be BioShock – but the strength of the gameplay far outweighs the lack of investment in the story. Deadfall Adventures keenly combines combat and puzzle challenges in a well paced adventure that doesn’t suffer from the blanket structure design that many modern FPS titles seem to. Combat and puzzling aren’t necessarily exclusive – there are often times when the player will have to outmanoeuvre the enemies in order to solve a logic challenge – and the balancing act between could so easily be overweighed on one side. Thankfully, throughout Deadfall Adventures dozen-or-so hours of gameplay, this is rarely the case.
The mental taxation in Deadfall Adventures come in a variety of forms, from simply disabling traps in order to allow you to progress unscathed to moving mirrors in a typical light beam puzzle. The most interesting aspect of the videogame is its treasure system; there are three types of treasure each related to a specific set if character upgrades but also acting as the in-game collectables. Unlike most videogames however, Deadfall Adventures doesn’t hide all of its treasures in areas that demand you explore every corner, instead placing many of them in clear view. While finding them is easy, getting to them is the real challenge as each features a self-contained puzzle. The player can ignore them of course, and simply continue without them, but engaging in these puzzles is a great deal of fun for those so inclined.
The puzzle design becomes even more impressive when you reach climactic points in the videogame where there are multiple possible solutions providing the player with different rewards depending on the path they take. There is of course a number of helping hands for those who don’t wish to get stuck on a puzzle for too long – a compass that will guide you to treasures and a notebook that offers hints in-game – but also the player can set the difficulty of both puzzles and combat separately when beginning the videogame. Sadly Deadfall Adventures offers no frame of reference for what a ‘normal’ difficulty puzzle might be (or the equivalent fight, for that matter) but at least the option is there for those finding the videogame too easy/challenging on one or both respects and don’t mind restarting their adventure from the beginning.
The combat in Deadfall Adventures is also surprisingly inventive, though not quite to the same degree as the puzzles. The weaponry feels meaty and the impact of bullets is weighty, however the combat takes a on a life of its own when the environment comes into play. Much like the recently released Alien Rage (which The Farm 51 are said to have had a hand in) players will often be able to cause a reaction within the levels to aid them, for example shooting free a block of stone hanging from a crane with a well placed shot or causing a ceiling to cave in with appropriate use of dynamite. It’s a very interesting, opportunistic style of gameplay that Electronic Theatre has quickly developed a fondness for; those seconds spent in cover waiting for your to recharge are no longer idle time, instead scanning the walls for an area where your crosshair may turn red indicating that your bullets will initiative some kind of interaction.
The enemies themselves do add plenty of variety also, with basic troops backed by armoured units and heavy gunners, and then the undead enemies who – in homage to Alan Wake – require a focused beam of light from your torch to make vulnerable. The boss fights are arguably a low light of the experience, unnecessary and unfairly balanced, but this is only a small issue for in otherwise highly entertaining campaign.
Deadfall Adventures’ single-player action is supported by both competitive and co-operative multiplayer gameplay modes. Survival is a co-operative gameplay mode for up to four players on a variety of maps and a selection of increasingly difficult settings. Playing through wave-after-wave of enemies players will have ammo drops appear mid-wave and a vault with superior armaments open at specific intervals. It’s an enjoyable take on the now commonplace endurance mode. Sadly it was here that Electronic Theatre experienced a hugely problematic glitch in which an enemy got stuck behind a wall, preventing the match from progressing any further. Hopefully The Farm 51 will deliver a patch to rectify this.
It’s a shame Deadfall Adventures’ multiplayer modes are limited to online play and no split-screen option has been included, as while the variation of traditional gameplay modes included is enjoyable, it’s unlikely that the videogame will develop an enduring community. In fact, Electronic Theatre worries whether or not many gamers will invest enough time in the multiplayer to make it the selling point that The Farm 51 have clearly invested much time into trying to make it, given its launch has fallen so close to some of the year’s most popular titles. This in itself could be Deadfall Adventures’ biggest problem, as while it’s an easy recommendation for it’s single-player gameplay, convincing FPS fans to step away from Battlefield 4 or Call of Duty: Ghosts could prove difficult.