Release Date: July 11, 2013
Genre: First Person Shooter/Action/RPG
MSRB Rating: Mature
The Good: Great graphics, deep gameplay that emphasizes player choice, well-done upgrade system, rapid save anywhere system, strong level design, high replay ability
The Bad: Only one save slot, results of story-based decisions aren’t seen in this first part, sometimes terrible voice acting, enemy AI could use some work, controls can be difficult during firefights
Final Score: 8 out of 10
As a long-time Deus Ex fan, I was sincerely worried when I heard that this latest entry in the series was being developed for iOS. Human Revolution was so deep and painstakingly detailed that I didn’t see how it could possibly be translated to iOS without losing some of the things that make the series so excellent. Apparently, I didn’t need to fear.
Deus Ex: The Fall picks up near the end of Human Revolution and follows Ben Saxon, who was introduced in the well-received Deus Ex book Icarus Effect. Like Revolution’s Adam Jensen, Saxon has been augmented with mechanical parts which give him many super-human abilities that players can upgrade throughout the game. The Fall is the first part of a much larger story that will be released one section at a time, much like last year’s The Walking Dead, and this first part details Saxon’s experiences in Panama as he attempts to simultaneously uncover the secrets behind an outbreak of illegal drugs and obtain the drugs he and his colleague need to survive.
From the outset, the graphics and music are excellent. The Fall’s world has the same gritty-but-futuristic feel of all of its predecessors, and there’s plenty of it to explore. Shining advertisements float above dirty streets, a gang has set up barricades and defends its territory, a dance club throbs with music and people dancing, boats float in a harbor, and trains run on monorails overhead. Everywhere players turn they’ll find something new to see, and, for an iOS game, it all looks spectacular. Even more impressively, the environments are fairly large and, no matter what I did, I never ran into any slow-down issues. The whole presentation is sharp, slick, and a Deus Ex game through and through. It even includes an open-world hub and the ability to fight through almost every area before the story requires you to go there.
On the gameplay end of things, like its predecessors, The Fall allows players to approach any given situation through stealth or gunplay. Every area is carefully crafted so that players can sneak through completely undetected without ever touching an enemy if they’re smart and careful. If that’s not to a player’s liking, they can perform stealth kills or use tranquilizer darts to maintain stealth, but move a little faster. If that still doesn’t suit players, there’s always the option of going in with guns blazing. No matter how you choose to play, The Fall encourages your play style and doesn’t punish players for making their own choices for every given situation. Not only does this make it an extremely engaging and fun game to play, but it adds a lot of replay ability for players who want to play through again and see how using different tactics plays out.
The controls work surprisingly well for an iOS game. When playing stealthily, I had no trouble with the controls at all and was actually extremely impressed at how easy the design made it to do what I wanted to. The game allows you to use cover effectively, move smoothly, explore and pick up items in the world, talk to NPCS, and work with a variety of equipment and weapons all without having to spend much time in menus. When playing the game as a shooter however, the controls were a little more tricky and it was often difficult to aim during a straight-up firefight. Saving is instantaneous and can be done anywhere which is awesome for those players trying to ghost a level and needing to frequently re-load.
The upgrade system is another area in which The Fall shines. The store can be accessed from anywhere in the game to buy new weapons and ammo, all of the weapons can be upgraded and customized, and the player can select from any of a large set of abilities every time they level up. There is a real money section of the store, but it is never necessary to the game and only offers players ways to get money or experience faster. Without using it, I never felt that Ben’s growth was slow or that I wasn’t prepared to handle the next challenge. In fact, I often felt I was receiving abilities too quickly and by the end of the game, I felt somewhat overpowered. Luckily, there’s a new game plus feature that raises the difficulty for players who are up to the challenge once they’ve played through the game initially.
For all of its excellent design choices, The Fall does have its flaws and things that had to be sacrificed in comparison to the PS3’s Human Revolution. The biggest offender is the enemy AI. Like the controls, it isn’t bad when you’re playing stealthily, but in firefights the enemies are outright stupid and usually fight by running straight for you with their guns blazing. They also tend to forget about you awfully fast if you were spotted or you killed one of their friends and then got to a good hiding place. Secondly, dragging and hiding bodies was too much for iOS, so the developers made a smart compromise and made bodies disappear shortly after you’ve killed them. This gives other enemies time to see them, so you still have to think about where you’re shooting someone down, but it does feel like a step back from Revolution. And finally, the game uses a one-slot save system. This is good in that it makes you really consider your choices since there is really no going back later, but if you accidentally save just before you get shot down, you’d better hope you own a revive kit or it might mean starting again from the beginning. It also means you can’t share the game with family or friends.
Oh, and some of the voice acting is really rough. The main characters are well-done, but everyone else sounds terrible or at least has a strange accent.
Despite all of these faults, The Fall stands tall as the best iOS game I have played to date. It’s the closest anything I’ve seen has gotten to a true console experience on the iPad, and the story was thoroughly engaging even if the results of my choices didn’t show up in this particular episode. It’s a great setup for what is still to come, and with at least five hours of gameplay to offer, it’s a bargain at $6.99. This is one that no iOS gamer should miss, and Deus Ex fans will be happy to know their franchise is still going strong.