Deus Ex: The Fall
Deus Ex: The Fall is set in the same time period as Human Revolution with you assuming the role of Ben Saxon, an ex SAS soldier who is now a mercenary for hire. Curiously, Square Enix chose to release what shapes up to be a full blown game released exclusively for iOS and the resulting product captures the je ne sais quoi factor that has riveted fans since the original game came out in 2000. With a mixture of mythical lore, futuristic science and conspiracy theories, Saxon’s journey is one worth spending hours glued to your iPhone or iPad.
The game begins with a flashback of Saxon’s time with a clandestine group called the Tyrants to another fugitive on the run, Anna Kelso. Saxon had been working for a mercenary for hire corporation called Belltower (think Blackwater) but being the sole survivor of a botched operation led him to become part of the outfit. The rest of the story is a mixture of Saxon finding out the truth behind his induction into the Tyrants as well as investigating the acute shortage of the drug Neuropozyne, a necessary serum required to fight human rejection of artificial augmentation. Nearly all of it takes place in a futuristic Panama City.
The Fall works because it is able to mix obstacles and action sequences with multiple solutions that are seamless and for the most part reasonable. Need to break into a guarded compound? You can sneak around, find a ventilation shaft and get in undetected. You can go in guns blazing provided you have enough ammunition and firepower to overcome the enemies. Or if you invested in upgrading augmentations, you can use the cloaking augmentation to just walk past your enemies. It’s this interplay that makes the gameplay part of The Fall so addictive. Similarly, there are multiple responses to conversations with non playable characters that yield different outcomes. Some make your life more difficult usually by putting you in the midst of a firefight. Some enable you to use charm or subterfuge to get extra rewards. For example, at one juncture Saxon needed to get into a night club. My options were either to run an errand get a card to get through club security, kill all the club security guards, or upgrade my augmentations to a level where I can hack a pretty well protected back door.
On top of that, The Fall features an engrossing storyline that can be pieced together through eBooks, pocket secretaries and computer diary entries. Some anecdotes are completely benign but often the reading material fleshes out the game world. That said, The Fall is not a big game world. This isn’t Elder Scrolls. Although most areas are unlocked and ready for exploring once you hit Panama City, the game’s main plot line will take you to all the major destinations. There are a few side quests but none that will take as long as the actual game itself. Also due to restrictions of the tablet, there aren’t any dead end game areas randomly filled with swag that are redundant to the story.
The default control scheme for The Fall works remarkably well. You use the left finger to move Saxon. You use the right to look. You can also double tap to automatically move to a specific area but I liked the direct control scheme better. There are quick usage slots for your weapons, augmentations and inventory items. While the tutorial mission is a little lengthy, you soon get a grasp of the whole interface. You can hide behind objects similar to Gears of War by double tapping on the object. You can do rolls to the other side of the wall by tapping an action button. There are a few clipping issues in the busier areas. I was stuck once rolling to a stack of crates and ended up in the crate in the midst of combat.
Speaking of combat, there are two areas of The Fall that I found wanting. The first is aiming. Combat is a bit frustrating because you can’t aim accurately. With or without stabilizing or recoil enhancements to your weapons or the use of the zoom, the aiming was just never right. When you get to enemies that wear body armor, you want to be aiming for their head to save ammunition. The developers also praised the artificial intelligence in the game. I found them to be moronic at best. You can pick enemies off one by one such that I was able to clear four of five in an opposing squad stationed in one room whilst the last opponent having exited his alarmed state would go back to casually walking his normal patrol as if his other comrades did not exist before. I also divided and conquered by repeatedly retreating back to ventilation ducts where enemies would not follow me.
In spite of these shortcomings, The Fall is still an engrossing game. Beating the patrol patterns, playing the hacking mini game and sneaking around to bypass security cameras is a thrill because it creates tension. That’s probably why the combat deficiencies are not as glaring as they should be. The game is also well designed in that every key door probably has a password lying around. You won’t ever be stuck because you never upgraded your augmentation to handle level four hacking.
Something that I found unrealistic was the ability to purchase ammunition, weapons and other upgrades at any given time even if you’re about to die (quick grab that revive pack!). Currency is in the form of credits that are found throughout the game. I need to search my trash more often because I can’t count how many hundreds of credits I found in rubbish bins. If you don’t want to spend time exploring the environment, The Fall lets you make an in-game purchase to buy credits. Thus if you really wanted to skip disabling the turret, you can spend a few real life dollars to purchase a rocket launcher. It was unused by me but I can see some people using this to give themselves augmentations and weapons to effectively buy their way to completing the game.
Unsurprisingly, The Fall finishes with an ending that leads on to another yet unwritten chapter of the Deus Ex saga. When compared to the PC and console games, I would say there is enough material in The Fall for one, or if you really push it, maybe two chapters of a typical Deus Ex corpus. The story is incredibly rich. Veterans of the franchise will appreciate the references to the NSF, Versalife, Bob Page, Gunther Hermann, etc. — so much so that any Deus Ex fan ought to check this game out.
Reviewed By: Lawrence Wong
Publisher: Square Enix
This review is based on a digital copy of Deus Ex: The Fall for the iPad from the Apple iTunes Store.