Deus Ex: The Fall Hands-On
At this point, the message board conversation when Square Enix teases a new game is predictable. Some implode readily with excitement, of course - spouting one form of rhetoric - but there’s the sceptics, too, where one particular complaint fills the echo chamber loudest of all: "It’ll be for mobile."
"Don’t get excited. It’ll be for mobile." They’re not real games, after all, right? Right? Well, here’s the interesting bit: Deus Ex: The Fall says no. Wrong.
If there’s a word I’d use to describe Deus Ex: The Fall to someone with no foreknowledge of it other than its intended mobile-based release, that word would be ‘legitimate.’ It’s the real deal, a fully-fledged sequel to Deus Ex: Human Revolution shrunk down to tablet size - and based on my short hands-on time with the game at E3, it works.
In a sense, The Fall could be considered just a little lazy. At a glance, it features most of the same upgrades, weapons, systems and HUD elements as Eidos Montreal’s successful Deus Ex title. It looks the same, and the scent of reused - if recompressed - assets is all over the place.
One could regard it as more an expansion pack than a sequel, in truth - but I left Human Revolution hungry for more, and so I can hardly complain.
The fact that this is on mobile actually makes the more than striking similarity to Human Revolution less lazy and more impressive. Everything has been lovingly converted to touch-based controls, from dialogue trees and inventory management through to sneaking, shooting and hacking - and it all works surprisingly well.
Many aspects of Human Revolution such as its inventory, hacking and quest interfaces actually end up working better on a touch-screen - I played on an iPad - while things that previously would’ve been on a button, such as pulling the trigger to shoot, opening items or taking down enemies, have instead been placed on context-sensitive prompts that appear on-screen. Hitting them executes whatever you ask for, be that opening a box, a lethal kill or merciful takedown.
The shooting has taken on the same sort of control previously featured in mobile outings for AAA series’ like Dead Space and Mass Effect; plop each thumb on the screen and pretend there’s an analog stick there - it’s as simple as that.
That, I admit, still leaves something to be desired. When I ended up accidentally engaging enemies, I found it more difficult to shoot them than I would have with a controller - though this isn’t exactly a surprise.
In this sense the game is making the best of a bad situation - shooter controls are never great on mobile, but it does pretty admirably around that limitation.
The Fall follows the adventures of augmented corporate soldier and mercenary Ben Saxton and takes place prior to the events of Human Revolution, offering some more insight into major players from that game, including some of those dreaded boss mercenaries who plagued Adam’s adventure.
In story and tone this feels like proper Deus Ex; there’s that now trademark black-and-gold visual flair - though at a lower, less impressive polygon count akin to a cleaned-up original Xbox title, as well as non-critical computers to hack with world-expanding emails and books you can read. There are of course also side-areas to explore. None of the areas I played were as large or expansive as those in Human Revolution, but there was still a fair amount of exploration to be done.
The sequence I played was I’m guessing from earlier in the game and was a little more linear in nature than the average Human Revolution mission - but I’m hoping that things open up later on in this release. Even then, the choice between sneaking and going in guns blazing is immediately apparent.
Much is still unclear about this game based on the brief play session I had on a noisy trade show floor. There’s a definite question about length - especially when Square Enix is targeting a low price-point of around $7 for this release. This is the first of multiple releases in this style - and one has to question how long each ‘episode’ will be in this format.
Also a concern is the ever-present mobile in-app purchase - the micro-transaction. They will feature in The Fall, though it has been promised they won’t intrude and will be unnecessary for most players; simple cheats that can be used to level-up more quickly and so on. Only time will tell here.
The most impressive thing about Deus Ex: The Fall is that Eidos Montreal has managed to cram the look and feel of a big budget AAA entry in the Deus Ex series into a tablet-based game. If you hooked up a Bluetooth pad and used the iPad HDMI out to your TV, this is akin to a cheaper downloadable - and is just as worth playing.
Deus Ex: The Fall is set to arrive for iOS and Android at some point this Summer.