Deus Ex: The Fall PC ReviewMarch 27, 2014
About a year ago, excited rumors and rampant speculation began circling around the web when Eidos, one of the development teams behind the successful Deus Ex franchise, teased a new title in the series, called Human Defiance. However, the hype was short lived, as the Canadian game studio soon revealed that the whole thing had been an April Fool’s joke, centered around a tongue-in-cheek 8-bit rendition of the Deus Ex universe. Fast-forward a few months, and the same studio, in collaboration with the Square Enix mobile development team, announced a portable entry in the series – Deus Ex: The Fall (this time in all seriousness). After playing the recently released PC port of said mobile game, I’m sure that some people are currently wishing that this, too, is all just some kind of bad joke.
Now, I should really preface the meat of this review by stating that I have a more or less unshakable, intense love of the Deus Ex franchise. I came to the Deus Ex party late; while I was in college four or five years ago, I picked up the first game in the series for a few dollars during one of Steam’s notorious seasonal sales. I then spent the next few days sinking hours upon hours into an enthralling, near-perfect game, in spite of its Etch-a-Sketch era graphics. This first foray into the dystopian, machine versus man future that is the Deus Ex franchise, left me wanting for more corporate conspiracy, espionage action. Since then, I’ve played and beaten the other two titles in the lineup, as well as read James Swallow’s Human Revolution tie-in novel, The Icarus Effect. All things considered, I can confidently say that The Fall is the weakest entry in the franchise, yet I’m not so sure that it’s as bad as the rest of the world seems to think it is.
Taken on its own merits, and in isolation from its more critically acclaimed big brothers – as I suppose it should be, in all fairness – Deus Ex: The Fall is an extremely short, budget priced third person cover shooter. What little narrative there is follows the story of Ben Saxon, a former British SAS commando turned mercenary turned Illuminati operative turned fugitive, as he tries to keep himself and his American companion Anna Kelso out of harm’s way. Sound confusing? Well, to be honest, reading Swallow’s Icarus Effect novel is something I would strongly recommend if you want to catch any semblance of a plot during your time with The Fall. The game does what it can to catch the uninitiated up on the goings-on of Saxon and Kelso’s story, but ends up only convoluting things more as events and characters from the novel are constantly being referenced. For those who haven’t delved into The Icarus Effect, or at least read the Wikipedia summary, this game is going to make about as much sense as a Call of Duty title.
Considering its price, which at the time of review is a scant ten dollars, I find it hard to pile unreasonable, next-gen worthy expectations on the game. Especially considering the fact that Deus Ex: The Fall is, at least for the moment, being bundled with the previously lauded Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition. That being said, I was expecting a bit more than the uninspired three-to-five hour romp that the average user is going to get out of the title. Furthermore, the brevity of the game is not helped by the empty taste that is left in your mouth once the credits roll. I couldn’t help but wonder what had really happened over the past few hours, other than some menial fetch quests and a decent amount of running to and fro through Neo-Panama.Graphically, we’re looking at an iOS/Android port here, so expecting anything more than bland would just be silly. However, the Fall does retain some of Human Revolution’s golden-yellow charm, as the constant night of the DE universe contrasts sharply with the vibrant, neon cityscape. Unfortunately, the cityscape in question looks like it was just lazily copy-pasted directly from Human Revolution. Continuing, this trend of asset-recycling applies to more than just the graphics. The same combat animations and seemingly the same music have been utilized here, so don’t expect to experience anything new and innovative beyond what we already saw from Adam Jensen nearly three years ago.Moreover, Deus Ex: The Fall is certainly subject to its fair share of glitches and hiccups. Walls and other game objects frequently pop in and out of existence, and the camera can be pretty touchy when you are working with the cover system. I also noticed some weak AI on the one or two occasions I accidentally managed to get myself into open confrontation, as heavily armed militants would simply throw grenades about, killing themselves and their allies without a second thought.Regardless of all the negativity though, I still found myself enjoying my time with Deus Ex: The Fall. Perhaps I’m too easy to please, or maybe I let my feelings towards the franchise overwhelm the reality of the game’s shortcomings, but either way, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t fun to return to the futuristic, Matrix-esque world of Deus Ex. Sneaking around like Sam Fisher’s cyborg counterpart and busting up cholos in the grimy streets of Panama gets me every time!