Fans of Deus Ex: Revolution are in for a treat as Square Enix is bringing the franchise to iOS in the shape of an all-new adventure for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch steeped in the DNA of the console fave.
Rather than raid the back catalogue and port the original Deus Ex titles to iPad, Square Enix and Eidos Games Montreal decided that it would be best to pick up where Deus Ex: Revolution so successfully left off, but with an all-new lead and plotline. In fact, hardcore Deus Ex fans will recognise many of the characters and themes in The Fall as it is a sequel of sorts to Deus Ex: The Icarus Effect, a novel released around the time of Revolution and written by James Swallow, an in-house writer.
Like the book, The Fall mainly follows the actions of lead character Ben Saxon, an ex-British SAS officer who starts in The Tyrants, an organisation he is recruited by in the book, but soon branches out in ways that would only contain spoilers if we were to continue. Needless to say, it involves the same cunning blend of stealth, espionage and honest-to-goodness firefights as Revolution. At least, depending on how you want to play it, that is.
Like Revolution, it is a first person shooter/RPG, and you would be hard pushed to tell the graphics apart even though this chapter is strictly designed from the ground up for mobile. And, also like its console forebear, there are multiple ways to play and consequential results for different types of actions.
Indeed, Pocket-lint was told by James Wright, digital producer for Square Enix, that it would take three entire playthroughs to see and experience every line of dialogue, every outcome and every game-changing moment. There are also alternative paths through the game - branches in story - so they are reward in itself for altering strategies. In addition, you are encouraged to play it through more than once as a new mode is unlocked once it has been completed for the first time, one where you can opt to start again, but with all the augmentations you've levelled up throughout the first play.
Speaking of which, while much of the structure and gameplay style has been borrowed from Revolution, developer N-Fusion Interactive has added extra gameplay features. There are new augmentations to power-up your character and, because of the touchscreen and the fact that The Fall has been designed specifically to make use of it, there are new mini-games and controls. For example, you can either move through a virtual joypad - left thumb controls movement while the right allows you to look around, as with all tablet/smartphone FPS games - or you can tap the screen on the position you want to go. A double tap on cover will send your character scuttling to hide behind it, essential for fire fights or to hide from guards, etc.
Some mini-games are actually slightly easier to control. Pocket-lint found that hacking, while still difficult, was a much nicer user experience thanks to touch controls. In Revolution, you had to move a cursor using the gamepad to each node to unlock it, in The Fall you just tap on them. That's not to say they are easier to complete, just more intuitive.
There are also options in the menu system to adapt the controls, including the ability to turn on or off auto targeting - which makes things much more easy or more difficult depending on your skill level.
Other additions include unlimited weapons slots, you don't have to worry about choosing one weapon over another as you can carry as many as you like, and you no longer have to hide your fallen enemies as they will eventually disappear naturally - as if you have squirrelled them away. It's to keep up the pace of the game on a mobile device - you don't want to spend the best part of a train journey dragging bodies into nooks and crannies. There's still a stealth element to this though, as the bodies will remain visible for a while, other enemies will still spot them and act accordingly, so you will have to work around that.
From our playing session, as with most first person games, it takes a little getting used to initially, because of the absence of physical controls, but is easily mastered. We played the demonstration level on a fourth-generation iPad and it looks stunning: smooth, responsive and, dare we say it, more crisp than Revolution. It will work and no doubt look almost as good on non-Retina display iPads from iPad 2 and up, including the mini, iPhones 4, 4S and 5, and fifth-generation iPod touch devices and above.
Voice acting throughout is amazing, even from the brief levels we've seen so far. Whenever a known character pops up from a previous Deus Ex game, the original actor has been employed to provide the voice. It ties the franchise together nicely. Expect some swearing though: this is a gritty sci-fi drama, and Ben Saxon does sound like he comes from the East End of London after all.
To be honest, there is so much to talk about that it would be best to wait for when we get a chance to review Deus Ex: The Fall for real when it comes out in the "summer". Although we had a good 15-20 minutes play in our hands-on session, we feel we've only scratched the surface. And that is a mighty good thing.
Also good is that Square Enix is not adopting a freemium model for The Fall. Pay your money - which might be £4.99, but is yet to be confirmed - and you get the entire game. There may be in-app purchases to unlock the hardcore mode or something like that, but we have been told that every single in-game element is available through play. In-game credits buy weapons, for example, and are earned during play. It is a refreshing stance from a major software publisher these days, and justifies the initial outlay.
Pocket-lint has also been told that an Android version is in the works, but is not expected soon. Other platforms might be considered in the future - we get the idea from our chat with Wright that this is more PlayStation Vita than Windows Phone 8, but we'll keep you informed.