“We didn’t ask for this!” came the cry of PC and console fans, angry with the revelation that the next Deus Ex game would be an episodic mobile adventure. They don’t want to play it on their phones or tablets. It’s a pity, really, because The Fall is nearly every bit the Deus Ex game Human Revolution is.
Instead of Human Revolutions’ Adam Jensen, we have a pair of characters from James Swallow’s novel, Deus Ex: Icarus Effect — mercenary Ben Saxon and his unplayable partner, federal agent-turned fugitive Anna Kelso. Ben sounds just like Chef Robert Irvine, star of Food Network’s Dinner: Impossible.
Both are suffering from a debilitating condition caused by their bodies rejecting copious amounts of cybernetic augmentation, so Saxon sets off on a mission to score some increasingly hard-to-get medicine in the gold-and-neon world of 2077 Panama.
As expected from a Deus Ex title, instead of the medicine he needs, Saxon uncovers a corporate conspiracy, one tied to a shadowy military organisation of which he was once a member.
As with the other games in the series, Deus Ex: The Fall is a compelling blend of role-playing mechanics with first-person shooting and stealth, offering the player multiple means of navigating obstacles placed in their way. If a trio of armed thugs stands between you and your objective, you can be sure there’s a way to get around them — hacking, sneaking, etc — that doesn’t require pulling out your pistol and painting the amber alleyways red.
If one prefers not to get their hands dirty, navigating the backstreets of Panama is a breeze, thanks to unexpectedly fluid virtual analogue sticks or, should one choose, an option to tap on the ground to move to that location. Having struggled with the virtual stick option in many a mobile FPS, I was pleasantly surprised at how good movement felt in The Fall.
Shooting? Well, they did what they could, while the solution the developers came up with isn’t nearly as effective as good old analogue controls, it could have been a lot worse. Enemies can be tapped to targeted, and then you’ve got to line your crosshairs up just right before firing. With two shooting buttons on the UI, I found it best to use my right thumb to control the camera and the left to shoot. In fact, if you have any desire to go stealthy at all, open up the UI customisation option and get rid of the right-side fire button entirely. Too many times my slinky silence was ruined by accidentally discharge of my service weapon. It’s all a bit clunky, but not so much that it cause me undue frustration.
There are augmentations to slot, of course, giving the player the ability to fine-tune their play style through careful application of Praxis points. Want to be a master hacker? A super-soldier? A ghost in the machine? It’s all here — well, except for jumping. There is no jumping at all. I miss it, sometimes.
The other major difference between The Fall and its console cousin is the store.
Credits earned during normal gameplay can be applied on-the-fly to restock ammo and supplies, acquire more powerful weapons, enhance the rate of experience gain or develier some extra Praxis points to augment Saxon’s abilities. You still find these things scattered about the environment mind you — there’s just a better way now.
I say better, although really it’s a bit of a disconnect. Where are these items coming from? How is Saxon magically reloading his pistol? It seems unfair to the game’s enemies, but it’s the price we pay to make the ability to purchase more credits with real money appealing to the player.
Hell, I nearly bought some myself during the closest thing the game has to a boss fight, until I realised that — unlike Human Revolution‘s bosses — I could completely bypass the battle using stealth. In that one instance, The Fall fulfilled the promise of Deus Ex better than its console counterpart.
The Fall doesn’t play quite as well as Human Revolution. It certainly doesn’t look as good…
…but all of the elements that players love about the console and PC title are present here, from the golden-hued environments that feel simultaneously futuristic and lived-in, to the all-important power of choice — the hallmark of the series. Well, that and the clever Easter eggs.
There may only be four or five hours of gameplay between the main mission and side-quests in this first instalment, but with so many ways to attack situations and the glory of a New Game+ option, there’s plenty to do as we wait for the next chapter in the story.
Should fans be upset about Deus Ex‘s mobile debut? Only if they don’t own a device capable of playing it. The Fall is a worthy addition to the series that should not be missed.
Deus Ex: The Fall
Genre: Shooter RPG
Developer: Eidos Montreal / N-Fusion
Platforms: iOS, Android (coming soon)
Price: $7.49, $6.99
Get Deus Ex: the Fall on the iTunes App Store.