This one was pretty much a foregone conclusion, right? It had to be Deus Ex: The Fall? It was easily the biggest iOS reveal heading into E3 2013, but could a tablet version live up to the Deus Ex legacy? In short, yes. At length, absolutely. I spent about ten minutes playing the iPad on the show floor and another 20 getting a media demo from Square Enix digital producer James Wright, and I can safely say that Deus Ex: The Fall is everything fans of the series will want it to be.
Other than it being on a console, I mean.
First, here’s what Square Enix has to say about it:
Deus Ex: The Fall is set in 2027– a golden era for science, technology and human augmentation, but also a time of great social divide and global conspiracy. Powerful corporations have seized control from governments and command the drug supply needed by augmented humans to survive. In this chaos Ben Saxon, a former British SAS Mercenary who underwent physical augmentation, is desperate for the truth behind the drug conspiracy. Betrayed by his private military employers, the Tyrants, not only is his own life at risk, but for all augmented humans, time is running out.
In other words, if you’ve played Deux Ex: Human Revolution (available for OS X from Feral Interactive), you’ll be familiar with the characters and setting. You’ll also be surprisingly familiar with controls, as developers Eidos Montreal provide numerous ways to get around. You can use virtual joysticks for precise (albeit awkward, as tablet gamers know) control, or you can directly tap the area you want to go. Tapping a wall, for example, has Ben move to that wall and seek coverage against it. There is no jumping in the game, having been replaced by a vault option when in front of something that you can jump over. In other words, no platforming.
Combat controls are equally varied. You can use the virtual D-pad to move your reticle over a target and fire, which causes a bit of damage but is easy to do. You can tap a target to fire for more precision. You can go with total D-pad control for full precision; it’s more difficult to line up a precise shot, but pretty much the only way to get head shots with any degree of regularity.
Gameplay is not linear; you’re free to explore at will and talk to various NPCs scattered about (some of whom will give you sidequests). Find a beer? Pick it up and drink it. I guess when you’re an augmented human, you don’t need to worry about germs.
It being a Deus Ex game, there are, of course, plenty of augmentations available to enhance your method of gameplay. Prefer stealth? Action? Your choice. Many of the augmentations will be familiar to gamers, but there are some made specifically for the tablet version (such as a cloaking option that makes it easier to evade detection). The developers very much understand the limitations of touchscreen controls, and are enhancing the gameplay to help you around those limitations.
A good example of this is the removal of the need to hide bodies after you’ve knocked them out. Bodies will disappear after a while, streamlining the gameplay experience, but still requiring a bit of strategy; it’s possible that an incapacitated body will be detected by another person or a security camera before it disappears, so you have to time that right.
You can also now carry unlimited weapons, for what it’s worth.
The game really shines in the visual department. You’re not looking at PS3 quality graphics, of course, but the game has the same high tech style and futuristic design that fans expect. During my time playing Deus Ex: The Fall on the iPad, I experienced no glaring visual problems or framerate issues, just the occasional odd camera behavior. James explained in the demo, however, that they’re aware of this and that the problem will be addressed before the game is released this summer.
There are still hard core gamers out there content to laugh off the iPad as a legitimate gaming device. They’re in denial. Sad, sad denial. Deus Ex: The Fall is proof that when you’ve got companies with the pedigree of Eidos and Square Enix developing a title specifically for touchscreens—a title with the rich history and unique universe of Deus Ex—you can get some pretty amazing results. I can hardly wait for all of you to try this one out this summer…and the ones beyond. James stated they don’t expect The Fall to be their only Deus Ex entry for tablets, so it looks like the gaming world better get ready to recognize us.