When Deus Ex: Human Revolution came out it ended up being one of my favorite games of 2011. I loved everything from the look of the world to the story being told, and even the one-note side characters. There was a lot to be appreciated about that first game. I was one of the many people screaming for a sequel game immediately after and Eidos-Montreal took their time announcing Deus Ex: The Fall, an iOS sequel, or rather counterpart, to Human Revolution. Deus Ex: The Fall is kind of a strange beast and a mix of a lot of great and awful things all in one package. On one hand it’s great to take a trip back into the cyberpunk imagined world of Deus Ex, but on the other it’s so irritating to play that it may not be worth the trip. The first thing to point out is that this is a first person game exactly like Human Revolution and everything you can do in the console game you can do here as well. The hacking mini-game, the cover and shooting mechanics, it’s all pretty much the same but with touch based controls, but if you are looking for more Deus Ex, than The Fall is certainly that, but not without hindrance.
The story of Deus Ex: The Fall actually ties in with the novel Icarus Effect that was written by James Swallow. You play as Ben Saxon, a former mercenary trying to get revenge on the Illuminati and other factions in the world of Deus Ex for the death of his former squad. As you’d expect, Ben has an augmented body and, unlike Adam Jensen from Human Revolution, he actually experiences the withdrawals and rejection going on between his normal body and the augmentations. Unfortunately this really doesn’t play into the story, and mostly just creates some interesting dialogue in some places. That’s one of the bigger problems of Deus Ex: The Fall: the story just really isn’t that interesting. The one thing I do give it credit for is diving into the Illuminati story a lot deeper than Human Revolution ever did. This is a game that could really have benefited from some cinematic flourish but receives none due to the limitations of its home device. What actually does work with Deus Ex is the hacking and conversation portions of the game. You can still read a lot of emails and try to intimidate people in conversation and this is really just the best part of any Deus Ex game. Learning about the world, sneaking into offices and reading emails, or even just picking up books, these are the best parts of Deus Ex and it’s impressive that the dev team was able to cram this all into an iOS game. There are even side missions within the story that pop up and while it is nice to see that kind of depth, they hardly ever pan out as anything interesting to play.
The gameplay is where everything falls apart. Moving around the world is fine but as soon as you enter a combat situation you better hope you can stealth everyone because if you engage in an open gun fight it’s pretty much game over. The combat is very frustrating with touch screen controls and almost always ensures a quick death. The immediate issue is that there’s just so much to do that everything is really taking up a lot of screen real estate. They crammed in every ability from Deus Ex: Human Revolution and all of those controls need some kind of button. Right away you notice that almost the entire screen is covered with just button controls and action prompts. With all of the stuff on the screen, when you place your thumbs on the controls you automatically can’t see anything going on. This really gets in the way of the fun of the game. Because of this issue I really only had fun when there was no combat going on at all. They did their best to make the shooting work by letting you tap the enemies to auto-target them and then tapping one side of the screen to fire but it’s just clunky and it’s easier to just sneak up on someone and tap the prompt on the screen to knock them out. Action really brings the game down so it’s best to just be sneaky as much as possible. It’s safe to say that this is more an iPad game than a phone game because the screen issue may not be a problem with a bigger screen. It’s also worth noting that the full upgrade system is there, once again allowing you to spec your character how you want and play the game any way you choose.
What the game lacks in the control department it sure makes up for with the visuals. The Fall is a stunning for a mobile phone game. The visual representation of the console game is completely brought to fruition here, and it’s worth noting that while the game may be hard to play, it sure isn’t hard to look at. The black and gold color scheme is ever present and while the textures can look a little muddy, the environments are well realized and fit right in with what the look Human Revolution established. Since as an iOS game they are working with less memory, the environments that you travel through are shrunk down with more load times breaking them up but they still manage to feel like sizable areas. The music is also one of my favorite parts of the game. It’s a different composer than the console game but it fits so well that you would never notice. They even reuse some of the score from Human Revolution, which is one of my favorite video game scores so that’s not a problem for me.
Deus Ex: The Fall is a very ambitious game that pays off in some significant ways but fails in some fairly key areas. While the game might be fun to explore and look at, the actual action of the game just feels clunky and sometimes just plain broken. For hardcore fans looking for just a little taste of some new Deus Ex action, The Fall might be worth checking out but if these issues are enough to keep you away then you are probably right to just wait for the next proper sequel. Deus Ex is an amazing concept for a game and I’m willing to accept this as a stepping stone to a proper sequel but if this is all we ever get then I will be thoroughly disappointed.