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Gaming Review

'Deus Ex: The Fall' review (iPhone): A faithful but broken spin-off

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Released on Tuesday, Jul 9 2013

'Deus Ex: The Fall' screenshot

© Square Enix

Taking cover.


Release Date: July 11 (worldwide)
Platforms available on: iPhone (reviewed), iPad
Developer: Eidos-Montreal, N-Fusion
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: First-person shooter / role-playing game

Deus Ex: The Fall is not quite what fans were expecting when rumours started circulating earlier this year that a new game in the series was in the works.

This is a spin-off from novel Deus Ex: Icarus Effect, which itself was meant as a prequel to Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

That admittedly starts the game off on somewhat obscure footing for anyone who isn't a diehard fan of the series mythos, but an introductory tutorial mission quickly catches players up on the necessary details.

You play as Ben Saxon, an augmented former soldier who is on the run from a group known as the Tyrants after quitting their organisation.

'Deus Ex: The Fall' screenshot

© Square Enix

'Deus Ex: The Fall' features a bright orange Blade Runner-inspired art style.



Much of the game takes place in Panama, where Ben and his partner Anna Kelso have been hiding out.

But when supplies start running low for the drug holding all of their augmented body parts in place, Ben has to trek out into the city and secure a new black market source.

Of course, being a Deus Ex game, there is far more to the story than first meets the eye, as Ben makes his way through Panama's slums and cities.
    Deus Ex: The Fall simplifies matters somewhat by providing essentially one combat route and one stealth route for each encounter, so there won't be any non-linear situations, but the core choice of gameplay style is still up to the player.
It is really quite remarkable how much of the Deus Ex: Human Revolution experience co-developers Eidos Montreal and N-Fusion were able to cram into The Fall on iOS devices.

Panama offers a multi-section city to explore, rather than the watered-down shooting gallery some might be expecting.

Hacking computer terminals reveals new plot details through email exchanges, hacking locked doors opens new pathways and you can even interact with NPCs, though very few of them will have much to say.

'Deus Ex: The Fall' screenshot

© Square Enix

Cover and stealth play a major role in 'Deus Ex: The Fall'



The series' RPG elements are also intact, as every action earns experience points to level up and unlock new augmentation abilities.

Augments can improve your hacking or aiming proficiency, give you an edge in conversations, use cloaking to become invisible, or a number of other skills.

The diversity of augments available supports the game's flexible mission structure. Like in past Deus Ex games, there is more than one way to approach each objective.

Deus Ex: The Fall simplifies matters somewhat by providing essentially one combat route and one stealth route for each encounter, so there won't be any non-linear situations, but the core choice of gameplay style is still up to the player.

Like other games in the series, you still play from a first-person perspective, swiping on the left side of the screen to move and on the right side to aim.

'Deus Ex: The Fall' screenshot

© Square Enix

Upgrading augments in 'Deus Ex: The Fall'



Taking cover switches to a third-person perspective, from which you can tap on enemies to lock-on before shooting. The lock-on targeting is designed to be imperfect though, so some manual aiming is still needed to hit moving targets or if you want to get a headshot.

A tap to move control option is also available, which is helpful for moving between cover, but less ideal for simply exploring the city.

Thankfully, you can keep both control methods active at the same time, so you can switch depending on the situation without fiddling with the options menu.

Speaking of the options menu, it is possible to reposition every on-screen button and HUD element, so if you need to adjust and make the iPhone layout less cramped, or make the iPad layout easier to reach, you can do so with little effort.


Using stealth is much easier in Deus Ex: The Fall than in past games due to the fact that both dead and unconscious enemies disappear within seconds.

Unless one enemy actually sees you shoot or hit another enemy, there is little risk that a patrolling guard will spot the body, and absolutely no risk that an unconscious guard will wake up and start tracking you again.

Not that the enemies are all that bright to begin with. In areas where guards are not immediately hostile, they will stand by and watch without reacting as you hack locked doors, safes and computer terminals.

There was one area in particular where the enemies seemed fine with you walking around, and even talking to them, right up until a security camera in that same room spots you as a threat.

It should be noted that while the intelligence was somewhat inconsistent, this was an issue Square Enix warned reviewers about ahead of time, and could be updated for release.

'Deus Ex: The Fall' screenshot

© Square Enix

Taking cover.



There was a more major issue though which Square Enix did not list as a known bug in the pre-launch code, and that was that the game crashes. A lot.

It appears that crashing is not a device-specific issue. iPhone 5 or iPad 4 users may never see any problems, but crashing was almost guaranteed to happen anywhere between 10 seconds and 2 minutes after loading up the game on any device older than that.

The worst of the crashes happened during the game's final cutscene, right after an autosave.

The autosave was put there to ensure players could start a new game, but since there is only one save file it also meant the previous save was overwritten.
    The core of Deus Ex's FPS and RPG hybrid is still very much intact though. Exploring the environment, hacking terminals, taking cover, crawling through vents and upgrading your augments all play out just like the game's console big brother.
This meant it was impossible to see the actual ending of the game without playing through it all again.

Deus Ex: The Fall says that it supports iPhone 4S, iPad 3 and iPad 2, but it crashes so frequently that it might as well not.

The only option on older devices is to save your progress constantly, and even then there is always a chance it will randomly crash just trying to pull up the pause menu to save.

For what it's worth, the pre-release code was not compatible with iPad 2, but a launch day patch is supposed to open up that compatibility.

It is possible that the update will improve the performance on other legacy devices at the same time, but don't count on it.

'Deus Ex: The Fall' screenshot

© Square Enix

'Deus Ex: The Fall' has a large world for mobile gaming.



It is a shame, because when Deus Ex: The Fall works, it works surprisingly well.

Parts of the game's design have been streamlined to fit iOS devices. For example, you can't pick up every object in the environment anymore, and you can now buy weapons and ammo at any time through the pause menu.

There is even an option to buy more currency through in-app purchases, but doing so is never necessary.

The core of Deus Ex's FPS and RPG hybrid is still very much intact though. Exploring the environment, hacking terminals, taking cover, crawling through vents and upgrading your augments all play out just like the game's console big brother.

Deus Ex: The Fall is a short but sweet spin-off for fans of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, just make sure you double check your iOS device's firmware and hardware before downloading.

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