Few gamers know who Allan Quatermain is, but most have probably played a game or two that owes him a debt of gratitude. The protagonist of a series of 19th-century adventure novels, Quatermain inspired a genre of film and literature that includes the likes of Indiana Jones, which in turn inspired numerous game series like Tomb Raider and Uncharted. Deadfall Adventures expands upon the lore of Quatermain, but tracing the genre back to its source material doesn't help this puzzle-infused shooter overcome its myriad, frustrating problems.
You play as James Lee Quatermain, Allan Quatermain's great grandson, who goes on a globe-hopping quest to find pieces of an ancient artifact called the Heart of Atlantis. Along the way you run into Nazis, Russian soldiers, and Arabian thieves, plus a legion of undead mummies. Quatermain is unwillingly accompanied by a sidekick for most of the adventure, the buxom Jennifer Goodwin, who serves as the Elena Fisher to Quatermain's Nathan Drake. Just don't expect any witty repartee between the two, as the wooden character models are incapable of conveying any kind of chemistry, and the writing is horrible. Most of the dialogue involves Quatermain making derisive cracks about the cliché story and repetitive puzzles, which don't make them any better. At one point, Goodwin quips, "If only I had a nickel for every bad joke..." If the player did as well, he or she would be able to buy a better game.
Ultimately, the gameplay is what's important, and it doesn't fare much better than the story. The gunplay proves that not all first-person shooters are created equal, and aside from regenerating health, most of the gameplay mechanics are unforgivably outdated. The game features no aim assistance whatsoever, and the controls aren't tight enough for precision targeting. The frame rate is erratic, hanging completely every time a checkpoint is reached. The checkpoints themselves are poorly placed, often saving before a big battle but not after, forcing you to repeat boring firefights should you die from a random booby trap after the action is over.
The environmental traps are a lot deadlier than your enemies, who exhibit some of the worst AI I've seen in a modern shooter (apart from their pinpoint accuracy, of course). They stand like statues out in the open as they plug away at you. When they do take cover, they endlessly pop out in the same location for ineffective potshots. Occasionally, they attempt to shoot through objects, or just sit stationary, as if they forgot you were there. Undead mummies provide the only change-up to combat, requiring you to shine your flashlight on them before finishing them off with a volley of shots or a knife swipe.
Deadfall Adventure's other gimmick is its plethora of puzzles, which could have been a welcome change of pace. Unfortunately, they alternate between obvious clichés (matching tiles to symbols or shooting whatever shiny object needs shooting) and impossibly obscure (like blindly spinning a magic celestial map until it's oriented the way the game wants it to be). Regardless of the puzzle, your inexplicably omniscient journal usually tells you what to do. No puzzle is clever or unique; I have solved every one before in better games. These puzzles reward you with treasure that unlocks upgrades, but they're all boring incremental improvements like a little more health and slightly faster reload times. Since dying at the hands of a booby trap often sets you back to an unforgiving checkpoint, I eventually stopped searching for the treasures altogether.
Quatermain's adventure isn't just boring – it's also buggy. During one shootout, I came across an invincible soldier who was immobile and holding an invisible gun. Later, I shot a bad guy whose leg flattened out and wrapped around railing, suspending the rest of his body in the air. At one point, my character reloaded the pistols he was dual-wielding with an inexplicable third hand. Walking too close to any uneven geometry causes the screen to shake and controller to vibrate – the first time it happened I thought I had triggered a scripted earthquake.
Despite the lack of polish in the single-player campaign, the game features a fairly robust set of multiplayer options, including a co-op survival mode and a variety of 12-player competitive and team modes. Unfortunately, I was unable to test them because no one else was playing the game online, despite it being out for nearly a week. Given the game's shoddy quality and the complete lack of awareness for the title, I don't expect that to change.
Deadfall Adventures tries its best to mix first-person shooting with the puzzle solving of adventure titles. Unfortunately, the gunplay is buggy, the puzzles are hackneyed, and the story is hopelessly bad. If you're expecting anything remotely fun, prepare to be disappointed.
Deadfall Adventures expands upon the lore of Quatermain, but tracing the genre back to its source material doesn't help this puzzle-infused shooter overcome its myriad, frustrating problems.