Well, before I even begin, there is one thing that needs to be addressed, and it’s how the experience started. After putting Deadfall Adventures in, I was prompted with an update. Yes, an update already, but it seems to be a small one that took moments to download. I thought nothing of it, as this is become a trend now in the gaming world. But, after downloading it, I reached the title screen, and the first loading icon. And then it spun. And spun. And spun some more. It spun for a good four minutes before I got tired of waiting and realized the game glitched. Fearing a broken game, I turned off my Xbox 360, turned it back on, booted up the game from the dashboard, and went through all of it again, thankfully not locking up at that same loading screen. Hopefully this doesn’t happen again, and hasn’t once since, but it definitely has me a little on edge for further down the road.
Deadfall Adventures follows James Lee Quartermain, a man hired to go into an ancient Egyptian temple along side his ex-colleague Agent Goodwin, all in an attempt to find Atlantean technology in an effort to save her country. After some character development and background information through a cut scene and in game car ride to the ruins, you’re let out to wander the entrance. This is the start of an extensive tutorial, at this point setting up the basics like pressing down the right analog stick to crouch, and how to pick up things. The title actually relies on you having played a First Person Shooter before, sticking to the common button mechanics of left trigger aims, right trigger fires, right bumper throws the grenade, and pressing the left analog stick allows you to run. Of course the b button is for close ranged attacks, a to jump, y to switch weapons, and even the directional pad plays a role, which is actually explained later on.
You’re then jumped by two armed men, and forced to find cover while dispatching them. When done you advance, but get attacked by another two gun men to get rid of. After that, you’re free to roam around and explore the exterior once more. You move up to the steps of the entrance and learn the doorway had been blocked by the raiders using dynamite to destroy a statue and have it fall on the stairs. It isn’t too big, becoming an in-game-only impassable problem, In reality, you could easily bypass this minor barricade by climbing over it, or along the edge of the staircase since it clearly isn’t too high up. But, creativity trumps loic and climbing abilities, leaving you to figure out how to destroy the obstacle in your path. You learn that any problem created by dynamite can also be resolved with dynamite, and you are instructed to pick a stick of dynamite from the box.
Instinctively you want to throw the dynamite and take cover. I did, and sadly this didn’t work at all. There’s no indication of what to do really, except for the thin lines on the fallen statue behind the dynamite box that looks more like a glitch on rendering at first. When planted, you are greeted with a cut scene of Quartermain being told to run, but smugly explains he’s done this before and has plenty of something. The explosion cuts him off, sending him flying, and finishing the statement before the cut scene establishes a growing love angle in the most blunt foreshadowing hammer possible before being told exploring is what Deadfall Adventures is all about.
Here’s a hint: Walk past the elevator and smash the clay pots and vases to find an ancient Atlantean treasure. Once this bit of exploration is done, you take the elevator, and head down to a lower level. Some more dialogue occurs, and you gain control once more. The tutorial continues as it highlights various elements of gameplay like the notepad and how it helps solve puzzles, or how the treasure map you get later shows locations of treasure. The notepad helps more than you would think, and is handy with the first puzzle by showing how to walk the path in front of you without getting hurt, showing you need to not step on the stones with the snake, but rather those with the pharoahs eye. In another room there’s two paths with large rocks that come down from the ceiling to crush you, and you’re informed to hit yellow levers to disable traps, though running through the crushing pillars works just as well.
Soon you reach a locked door. You need to take the jewel from Agent Goodwin and place it in the hole to make it open (though there’s no indication you have to do this). Once you do, the blinding light knocks both of you out, and you wake up to none other than a pack of Nazis. Yes, Nazis! You escape, but leave your partner behind. The door closes and you’re cut off. Now you need to find your way back out. This is when you come across an ancient relic that lets you use the treasure you find to upgrade your skills, and another doorway blocked off by wooden planks you need to shoot down to advance.
The notepad becomes handy once more as you enter a room with five large statues surrounding what looks like an ancient coffin. The goal is to turn the mirrors to reflect light into the large blue gems in the back of the carvings. It’s a puzzle that seems far less complex than it actually is on Normal Puzzle Difficulty, something you choose when starting a new game. This leaves you to simply observe how the mirrors are placed, and which ones to turn to best reflect the light off the mirrors for each of the five figures. The final is a bit complex, but some simple observations will help you figure out how to get to it, and open the coffin to get the heart you came here for.
But not before the Nazis come once more…
The next task is to place the heart in a contraption to activate what looks like a projector, revealing lines in the center of the five figures as if gazing at stars in the form of a planet. Sadly there’s no real puzzle here, making you press one of the two buttons repeatedly until they all line up and become more like a finger print. This causes the Nazis to trigger the collapse of the room, and The Shephard is introduced to help you escape. The cut scene ends, you gain control, and are staring at a sealed door. With no where to go you advance towards the shaking stone slab, which erupts to reveal your next big threat…
The only thing that can stop this supernatural force is your flashlight. If you miss the directions you’ll be stuck running around confused. That’s what happened to me, and I ran around the same three rooms for twenty-five minutes plowing through every explative in the book until I had to resort to making up new ones before reloading to the previous save and seeing I missed the word “hold” next to the left bumper icon in the directions. Just hold the button to make the mummy glow, as if it were on fire, then take it down. Keep going back until you both see there’s no way out but up. As you contemplate this, the floor collapses, making you guide Quartermain down the new super slide to prevent slamming into large rocks, eventually landing on your feet in a completely different room full of Nazis and mummies for you to pick off one by one…
This is just the start of your adventure, and to be honest, it’s actually really fun, though not too awe inspiring. Deadfall Adventures plays like a First Person Shooter cross between Red Dead Redemption and Uncharted, but with Nazis and mummies, and probably much more as the story plays out. The only gripe, really, is lack of direction. Some of the simplest things like picking an item up to open a door leave you feeling like a complete idiot. Granted a lot of it is obvious, but when you try to open a door without getting the key from your partner and no dialogue to hint that she has it, it feels like you just walked into a glass door on a neighbor or family members patio. It also doesn’t help your map is worthless in indicating where you are on it, and is only really helpful when you find a treasure item, making it on the map to give you some kind of idea as to where you are.
And then there’s the frame rate. When moving normally with no action, the game does flow smooth enough. However, when you’re fighting, it gets a little choppy, which is a pain when attempting to aim and take out a moving enemy. It also doesn’t help the graphics are a bit rough all around either, and the thin white reticle you use to aim with. While it’s not the greatest visually, the scenery is still rather impressive, and hasn’t even begun to be repetitive.
The biggest upside to this game right now is the notepad. You really do need to rely on this to not only find answers to puzzles, but also help navigate even the most basic of hallways. In trying to obtain a treasure shortly after falling through the floor, I fell to my death multiple times because I didn’t think to consult the notepad, or think back to what it had said in prior rooms. There’s plenty of potential for this notepad to impact the game later on, and hopefully doesn’t become a crutch that makes what challenge exists at this point non-existent as time goes on.
I’m looking forward to finishing this game in the days to come, and at this point suggest checking it out. Deadfall Adventures is now available on PC, but if you’re a console gamer like myself, you’re going to have to wait another two weeks. But, if you’re tired of the Halo 3 clones on your consoles, and don’t mind World War II-era Egyptian exploration laced with nazis and mummies with slightly gritty graphic, well it’s shaping up to be worth the wait, and more enjoyable than those on the bandwagon are claiming it to be.