Review: Deadfall Adventures

Deadfall Adventures

Unlike Shackleton, who set off into the arctic armed with nothing more than some tweed and a moustache, fictional adventurers have to contend with significantly more lava and giant rolling boulders than their real-life counterparts.

It’s a sad fact in gaming these days we are less likely to shoot down ravenous bears with a bolt-action rifle than shoot old ladies with an auto-focus camera. James Lee Quartermaine, however, is an adventurer straight from the pages of fiction.

His world, Deadfall Adventures, is a homage to the real nineteenth-century novels of Allan Quartermaine and the pulp action-adventure stories found in the twentieth-century magazines. It’s a classic tale, where a reluctant hero finds himself embroiled in a quest to track down an ancient artefact of terrible power – in this case the Heart of Atlantis – to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

Players find themselves transported from the trap-filled catacombs of Egyptian tombs to the snowy wastelands of the arctic, before crashing into the Guatemalan jungle during the game’s eleven hour campaign.

Visually, Deadfall is beautiful. The levels are more like vast arenas, beautifully designed with hidden treasures scattered in locations that the game actively encourages players to seek out. The spirit of adventure is palpable with the soundtrack swapping between the adventurous swell of a John Williams-esque score and the exotic twang of an Egyptian melody when creeping round dark corners.

When Nazis (of course there are Nazis) appear, the tension is irrefutably cinematic and when Mummies (of course there are Mummies) wrench themselves from their sarcophagi, players would be forgiven for playing from behind the cover of their sofas.

On the surface then, Deadfall gets a lot right. The Nazis play perfectly into the traditional lost world tone, with much “zees ees zee end for you Meester Quartermaine!” and occult lunacy, but overall the dialogue is clumsy with the occasional gem of a pithy one-liner as rare as the treasure we’re trying to find. Quartermaine’s relationship with British agent sidekick Jennifer is particularly strained. She exists only to fire the occasional half-hearted shot at homicidal, machine-gun-toting maniacs, get kidnapped or to exchange convoluted banter with Quartermaine.

Deadfall Adventures

The tone of their conversations is teeth-grindingly painful, established early on when a stick of dynamite sends Quartermaine flying, landing between Jennifer’s legs who quips “Comfy, Quartermaine?” The more dodgy lines could have been carried off by more accomplished vocal actors, but their amateurish deliverance strips the characters of any likeability. Instead of being drawn into this lost world of pulp fiction imaginings, we get rom-com clichés and eyewateringly insulting gags like “You had me at ‘well-shaped ass'”. It’s like taking Raiders of the Lost Ark and replacing half the lines with scenes from “When Harry Met Sally”.

Combat is more suited to the point-and-click method of PC gaming than on the console. The crosshair is far too sensitive, making lining up a shot akin to threading a needle. Strangely, it’s also designed so that pressing left trigger to aim is a toggle rather than a snap on and off, resulting in Quartermaine’s gun pitching around the screen as the extreme recoil forces players to painstakingly reposition the camera after each shot. The AI drafted in to help you is also clearly on minimum wage, because they won’t do much apart from hide behind some scenery and occasionally find the time to lob a grenade in the mummy-trying-to-chew-your-face-off’s general direction.

The puzzle sections could have been a real triumph for Deadfall, but the game’s reliance on overly familiar tropes makes them more of a nuisance than intriguing enigmas. Mirrors must be moved, keys picked out of rubble and switches stepped on, but “Press A to pick up Puzzle Piece” prompts are hardly brainteasers.

It seems that, ultimately, despite its best efforts to stand up with the lost world greats, like the pulp magazines that it emulates, Deadfall Adventures is sadly rather disposable.

(First published in  Gamereactor 15/11/2013)

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Official PS4 unboxing video is a Daft Punk tribute

After months of rumour, intrigue, and ceremonious dropping of pennies into the piggy bank, peeling off the wrappings of your all-powerful next-gen console against the backdrop of a dowdy office just doesn’t have enough….oomph, does it?

Instead, when the time comes this month to unsheathe your mighty PS4, track down your nearest space-age server room and get creative with some spotlights, rather like Sony Worldwide Studios presiden Shuhei Yoshida handily demonstrates in the unboxing video above.

Sony’s marketing team don’t walk the fine line between creativity and insanity so much as cartwheel down it, setting off party-poppers whilst whistling kumbaya. The PlayStation 2 was first promoted in a terrifying dreamworld of moody monochrome, then a few years later they tried to persuade us to buy a PS3 by plonking a murderous-looking baby doll in front of the gleaming console. Perhaps realising that forcing customers to live out their worst nightmares this side of Elm Street isn’t the best marketing tactic, the team toned it down for the practically family-friendly “Perfect Day” PS4 ad.

This latest video, however, starts tip-toeing back down the tightrope towards crazy, taking an ordinarily normal unboxing format and transforming it into a Daft Punk parody.

The official unveiling places the much-anticipated console under the same spotlight that once revealed Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” album in its own unboxing video.

A pair of hands, gloved in exquisite brown leather, gently inspects the PS4 box’s contents: A network voucher, an English quick start guide, a DualShock 4 controller, an HDMI cable, an AC chord, a mono headset and a USB cable. Finally, the PlayStation console itself is held aloft above Yoshida’s head into a shard of light. The only thing missing is Mufassa and a bowing herd of zebras.

The network voucher will give users 30 days of PS Plus and Music unlimited for free, whilst the mono headset gives gamers immediate access to an immersive online multiplayer experience.

The gloves, sadly, are not included.

(First published on ITProPortal 11/11/13)