Deus Ex: The Fall Hands-On Preview

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Nobody asked for Deus Ex: The Fall. Series diehards flooded forums and comments sections with angry disappointment last week after hearing that the follow-up to 2011’s excellent Deus Ex: Human Revolution was not an out-and-out console sequel, but a touch-based title made for smart devices. And now, with a summer launch approaching, developer N-Fusion has the difficult task of making a mobile game that’s good enough to convert the hardcore. TechnologyGuide went hands-on with The Fall at E3 2013 to find out if it stands a chance.

Deus Ex: The FallThe most immediately striking thing about The Fall is just how visually similar it is to Human Revolution. N-Fusion says it developed the title in conjunction with Eidos Montreal, which made the last Deus Ex, and it shows. The orange and neon color motif, the cyber-futuristic city streets, and the overwhelming array of in-building vents are all back and rendered in impressive detail. There were virtually no performance issues on TG‘s iPad 4, and while The Fall can’t look and sound quite as nice as its predecessor, the difference is slighter than one might think.

Indeed, if N-Fusion’s goal was to remain faithful to the gains Human Revolution made two years ago, it’s done about as much as it can. The Fall is set up almost exactly like its predecessor, just with some necessary tweaking for touch inputs.

This is still an action-RPG that lets players shoot, stab or sneak their way through a story-based single-player campaign. There are still lots of guns to shoot (29, to be exact), skill points to earn, special abilities and augmentations to upgrade (24 in total), walls to take cover behind and passages to slip through unnoticed. If you’ve played Human Revolution, you’ll know what to expect. It really is impressive how closely The Fall mimics its big brother at first blush.

That being said, Human Revolution was a complex game to control even with a gamepad, so some aspects of The Fall are naturally streamlined. Moving is done through the traditional virtual dual-stick setup, where one half of the screen controls the camera and the other half controls movement. Long pressing the screen initiates running, while jumping has been removed entirely. This all will work fine for those familiar with the typical setup.

Deus Ex: The FallThere are dedicated on-screen buttons for crouching, entering into cover, aiming and shooting, though players can tap directly on objects on screen to move to or interact with them too. Scrolling through the familiar maps and menus is just as smooth as one would expect on a touchscreen, and reloading is a cinch when all that’s needed is a quick tap at the top of the screen.

While The Fall does give players the choice to be as stealthy or violent as they’d like, going with the former seems like it will be the better bet. In TG‘s time with the game, lining up accurate shots was exceedingly difficult, as trying to keep the cursor on pesky, moving enemies while simultaneously pressing the fire button almost always made our hands feel like they were in pretzel knots. Players can tap on an enemy to auto-target him, but even that led to imprecision.

This isn’t surprising, since Human Revolution’s shooting wasn’t exactly smooth and good touch-based FPS controls are still a rarity. But The Fall certainly seems as if it will be more accommodating to those who controlled previous protagonist Adam Jensen quietly.

Speaking of Adam Jensen, he’s nowhere to be found in The Fall. The game is set in 2027, just a short while before the events of Human Revolution and at a time when Jensen was still recovering from prior injuries. Instead, our new hero is Ben Saxon, a gruff Brit and rogue ex-SAS agent. Admittedly, TG didn’t play long enough to get a good grasp of The Fall’s complete narrative, but publisher Square Enix tells us that the campaign will last around six hours, and that Saxon will run into multiple characters and bosses from Human Revolution.

Deus Ex: The Fall doesn’t deserve the hate it’s getting from the internet, but its attempt to essentially bring Human Revolution to mobile doesn’t look like it will be entirely smooth. N-Fusion and Eidos Montreal have clearly made a substantial effort to make The Fall look and feel like its beloved console counterpart, and aesthetically it seems like they’re on a path to success. This is definitely still Deus Ex, not some cheap cash grab — though there are optional microtransactions for buying in-game credits.

At the same time, though, a mobile game can only go so far with console aspirations, and some aspects of The Fall don’t appear to hit the mark. If the hallmark of Deus Ex is player choice, then every mode of play has to be equally responsive. And if the gunplay of The Fall continues to fall apart, it’s easy to see players feeling frustrated by their lack of control. Of course, this is just one flaw that could get easier to use over time, but TG will refrain from final judgments until after Deus Ex: The Fall launches on iOS in the coming weeks. Then, it’ll cost $6.99, with Android support scheduled for a later date.

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