Hands-on with Deus Ex: The Fall - mobile gaming, evolved
By Mark Brown 07 June 2013
Game Name: Deus Ex: The Fall | Developer: Eidos-Montreal | Publisher: Square Enix | Format: Android, iPhone, iPad | Genre: RPG, Shooter
A commuter train rattles high above the Panamanian boardwalk. Blinking neon signs are dotted about the buildings and video billboards loom from overhead.
A high-end nightclub called Nightshade backs onto a slum. This unsavoury place is patrolled by a few gun-toting gangbangers. One glares at our hero - Ben Saxon, a cockney bloke with robotic augmentations - and barks, "You ain't welcome here".
Saxon, being the no-nonsense hard man that he is, jabs the guy in the jugular with his elbow spears. All hell breaks loose. Bullets start flying, enemies spill onto the boardwalk, and our hero is ripped to shreds by gunfire.
Next time, Mr Metal Legs will try a different tack. He'll duck into the shadows, activate a cloak, and sneak undetected into the compound. If that doesn't work, he'll take out enemies silently with tranquilliser darts. Or maybe he'll talk his way in.
"This is the next instalment of Deus Ex," Square Enix producer James Wright declares, introducing the iPhone and iPad game Deus Ex: The Fall. "It's not derivative, not a port, not watered down."
It is, in fact, a full-on 3D shooter, which looks a hell of a lot like the Xbox 360 game Deus Ex: Human Revolution, if you squint a little. And it's a proper stab at recreating the full experience for mobile, with lengthy dialogue scenes, side-quests, and that slick gold and black aesthetic in tow.
More importantly, The Fall features the core tenets of what makes Deus Ex so Deus Ex. It's got action, stealth, hacking, social interactions, and exploration. You have choices in how you approach the game, and there are consequences to your decisions.
The game is developed by N-Fusion - you might remember that name from iOS plane game Air Mail - but almost every notable name from Human Revolution has pitched in over the last 12 months to help.
That includes Jean-François Dugas, Deus Ex franchise guru, and David Anfossi, producer on Human Revolution. Writers Mary DeMarle and James Swallow, and art director Jonathan Jacques-Belletete, did their bit, too.
Mike McCann, who composed the sumptuous sci-fi score for Human Revolution has provided some custom tracks for The Fall, and recurring characters are voiced by the original actors.
"The people who made Human Revolution really special have worked with us to make The Fall special as well," Wright says.
The Fall takes place around the same time as Human Revolution. The attack on Sarif Industries has just taken place, and Adam Jensen is currently recovering - ready to have his arms and legs replaced with tin can alternatives (he never asked for that).
Instead, our hero is Ben Saxon, an ex-SAS tough nut with ties to the Belltower mercenary group, and previously the hero of tie-in paperback The Icarus Effect.
He was also a member of the paramilitary clan the Tryants, who served as boss baddies in Human Revolution proper. Those characters (like Namir, Barrett, Fedorova) will feature in the game, and you'll even work for them for a stint.
And that's where my short hands-on session with The Fall begins. Saxon is still with the Tyrants, and doing a mission with them. It will be a while before he catches on to the fact that these obviously evil bastards are evil bastards.
The Fall has a classic virtual stick setup for moving about and aiming, but you can also tap on the ground to walk, or tap on walls to get into cover. There are more control modes in the options, and you can customise the position of buttons and pop-ups.
Some bits have been streamlined to better suit the interface. You don't need a 'run' button any more (just push the stick all the way), there's no 'jump' (but you can still vault over objects and climb ladders), and you can't drag bodies (instead, bodies disappear after some time).
Also, you can tap on enemies to target them, which will help direct the camera and give you a slight aim assist in combat.
But most of the game has made the transition intact. You can still cartwheel from cover to cover, do takedowns (both lethal and non-lethal, complete with cutscenes), and duck into vents.
It wouldn't be a Deus Ex game without some vents.
The controls work surprisingly well, and give you complete access to all your strategic options at all times. I was able to sneak up on goons, score headshots, and evade capture with ease. If you play Deus Ex as a stealth game, you'll find the controls to be perfectly capable.
They, of course, fall apart when you get rumbled and the game transforms into a full-on shooter. It's serviceable, but suffers from the same problems as any attempt to graft an FPS onto a pane of touch-sensitive glass.
The game's got 24 augmentations to play with. Some come from Human Revolution - including silent running, cloak, and punching through walls - while others are brand new - stealth dash lets you tap on enemies to silently kill them.
You'll buy these with the experience points you get for completing missions, exploring the area, and finishing levels with specific methods.
Speaking of which, your inventory is also a shop, and you can buy or upgrade any of the game's 29 guns, or buy items like revive packs and energy bars directly from the menu. And, yes, you can top up your credits with in-app purchases.
The Fall fell hard when it was revealed earlier this week. The negative response was overwhelming - forums were flooded with angry comments, and the YouTube trailer was obliterated by disappointed fans.
But the spite is premature. From my brief hands-on time, it's obvious that The Fall is shaping up to be a proper Deus Ex game, even if you do play it on a telephone instead of a PC or console.
It abides by the central tenets of the Deus Ex experience, and the Human Revolution style has been mimicked with meticulous attention to detail.
So, don't pass it off as a quick cash-in before you get a chance to go play it yourself. Which will be this summer, when The Fall hits iOS for £4.99 / $6.99. An Android edition will follow later.