This writer’s reputation for revelling in mediocre games is well regarded around the Push Square office, and Deadfall Adventures: Heart of Atlantis is another one of those middling titles that’s ingratiated itself to this strange scribe. An updated version of last year’s Xbox 360 and PC release, this Indiana Jones-inspired romp from Polish developer The Farm 51 is mildly compelling in a budget kind of way – even if it's never going to set the world alight.
You play as James Lee Quatermain, the great-grandson of H. Rider Haggard’s famous fictional character, whose sharp tongue and penchant for adventure is reminiscent of a certain other PlayStation protagonist. Armed with dual-pistols and myriad other 1930s artillery, your primary objective is to scour the world in search of The Heart of Atlantis, with a buxom British archaeologist your primary source of company.
The story’s certainly not going to win any prizes for originality, and the introduction of Nazi, and, later, Russian adversaries will definitely prompt you to roll your eyes – especially when the inevitable double crosses come thicker than another cringe-inducing one-liner. That said, you definitely get a sense that the game isn’t really trying to take itself too seriously, and so it’s easy to roll with the bad voice acting in order to get to the next set-piece.
None of these possess the pizzazz of an Uncharted or Call of Duty, but there are some neat sequences scattered throughout the campaign; there’s a mine-cart ride, for example, that’s particularly enjoyable, and, honestly, looks surprisingly spectacular to boot. The game’s largely inconsistent, though – presumably as a consequence of the developer trying to go toe-to-toe with franchises that have much bigger budgets – and that makes the low points stand out.
For the most part, however, this is much more deliberate than its immediate first-person contemporaries, and so you’ll spend just as much time solving puzzles as you will climbing cranes with a grenade launcher in your hand. You’re equipped with a notebook throughout the majority of the game which comes furnished with hints, each helping you to turn cogs and push buttons in the right order so that you and your red-headed accomplice can progress.
The conundrums are actually considerately designed, and while they often fall into similar patterns, they succeed at delivering real ‘a-ha’ moments at times. They’re also complemented by some moments of exploration; while the game’s still largely linear, it will give you opportunity at points to wander off the beaten path to collect treasure. Interestingly, unlike other games, this loot enables you to upgrade your abilities, giving it a much greater purpose than a tick in a checklist.
The problem is that the balance isn’t quite right a lot of the time: there’ll be sections where you’ll be confronted with puzzle after puzzle, and be desperate for something to shoot. The gunplay’s never necessarily outstanding, but there’s enough weapon variety to make you crave a little more of it – and battles against supernatural enemies, which require you to burn them first with a supercharged torch, demonstrate some good ideas.
The inclusion of a new co-op survival mode – exclusive to this version of the game – is a welcome addition, then, as it allows you to enjoy more of this action uninterrupted across a variety of maps. A sparse online population means that you should probably progress with caution if you’re eager to play this with other people, but find a few likeminded treasure hunters and you’ll have some fun here offing waves of differing foes.
The competitive multiplayer follows a similar blueprint, but due to near empty lobbies, we were unable to setup any proper games to get a feel for the mode. A lot of work appears to have been invested into this portion of the game, with the familiar experience points progression system employed to unlock new weapons and character skins. We especially like the inclusion of traps across all elements of the package, which are satisfying when used at the right time.
Unfortunately, the abandoned lobbies days after launch deliver a damning lesson for the developer of this game: unless you can guarantee a significant playerbase, then the effort may have been better invested elsewhere. With the likes of even Killzone: Shadow Fall struggling to step out of the shadow of juggernauts like Battlefield and Call of Duty, it’s hard to understand what space there is for a game like this to succeed.
With a bit less time spent on the competitive modes, then, the company may have had the budget to spruce up the production values in the single player campaign, which are average at best. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a reasonable looking release, but the Unreal Engine 3 powered visuals – which have never played particularly nicely with the PlayStation 3 – are filled with shimmering, pop-in, and other flaws. The audio mix is also disappointing, with speech barely audible at points in the game.
Deadfall Adventures: Heart of Atlantis has got its heart in the right place, but in trying to compete with bigger budget brands, it comes out with mud on its face. A slower take on the first-person shooter, there’s fun to be found in its fusion of puzzle solving and outright action, but with less than stellar production values and a deserted multiplayer suite, this is not exactly hidden treasure.