Deus Ex: The Fall Review
You never know what you're going to get with a Deus Ex release. Whether it's the amazing original, the not-to-be-spoken-of sequel, or the recent and surprisingly good console effort, the games bearing the Deus Ex name always seem to catch people off guard.
The original came out of nowhere and blew everyone away; the highly-anticipated sequel did not even come close to living up to expectations, and 2011's Deus Ex: Human Revolution was not only a heavy redesign, but also one that was better than fans were expecting. When it was announced, Deus Ex: The Fall stayed true to this formula and managed to catch everyone by surprise being a mobile-only game (albeit one that looks like it should be on a console).
But can you really enjoy a game as interactive, deep, and complex as the Deus Ex series on a tablet? After spending some serious time slinking around the corridors of Panama City, I can safely say that the answer is definitely a yes.
As fans might be able to tell from the look of the game, the events of DX: The Fall take place right around the time of DX: Human Revolution, which introduced golden hue as its aesthetic (as part of its console makeover). The two main characters, Ben Saxson and Anna Kelso, are characters from a Deus Ex novel that served as a prequel to Human Revolution. But you don't have to be familiar with the book in order to enjoy.
That brings us back to the original question, "How much can you really enjoy a complex game like this on a tablet?" I, for one, was not looking forward to having to deal with the challenge of moving around the DX universe, which is far more interactive and complicated than your average first-person shooter world, while having to awkwardly try and balance shooting things with manipulating the world around me. I was expecting the controls to be a nightmare.
However, developer N-fusion has done a great job of getting DX: The Fall to exist on mobile devices and not take away from the gameplay. They have combined both the destination tapping and dual-stick virtual controls in such a way that you feel like you can easily move between shooting action and stealth/exploration, without things getting too muddled or confused.
There are also nice little mobile touches as well, with convenient buttons you can press to complete more complex tasks. And the more you augment yourself, the more buttons you will have at your disposal. It's smart and simple, but full of depth at the same time.
I have to say that I struggled while trying to put this game into context. While playing, I found myself not only comparing it to the original Deus Ex games, but also to other first-person shooters that are in the App Store. Two fair comparisons to make, but also two very different perspectives. Obviously, it's a challenge for any mobile game to stand on its tippy toes and try to see eye-to-eye with its big brothers in the PC and console worlds. But while trying to do so, that game also has the potential to tower over its peers.
This is certainly the case with DX: The Fall, as I think it's already one of the best FPS games you can play on your iPad. I mean, just look at the game. Visually, it's one of the best-looking iOS games out there. At the same time, and perhaps this is because it's good enough to warrant a disconnect, I would forget that I was playing it on a tablet and gripe at some of the missing features or lack of immersion that you have come to expect from the other Deus Ex titles (yeah, even the crappy sequel). It's the double-edged sword of pushing the limits of what is possible with mobile gaming.
Taken on its own merits as an iOS product, DX: The Fall is pretty amazing. Much like its older brothers, to just call it a FPS would be way off the mark. In addition to the shooting action, there's the trademark stealth and role-play elements that DX fans have come to love -- complete with a hefty amount of story, dialogue, and moral choices that you have to make. But it also suffers a bit from its ambition.
For fans of the DX series, it will be impossible not to notice some of the sacrifices that had to be made for the mobile platform. And for more casual gamers, the giant file size and system requirements, not to mention the intimidating complexity, might even keep them from trying it out in the first place. It all adds up to an impressive effort, albeit one that's noticeably flawed as well.