I heard all the warnings. I read the Steam forums as this game was getting ready to launch. Everyone warned me and anyone else who would spend the time reading not to buy this game and that it would be terrible. And yet I couldn’t help but think their reasoning was flawed. It seemed that everyone had shot the game down because it was a port from iPad, rather then even look at the game itself. I suspect most people complaining had never even played the game in any form before they started bitching.
With this in mind, I took the plunge with the intention to play, review, and report to you all if the game actually is any good. And as I finish it, I find myself disappointed. It was not the doom and gloom that the always complaining Steam forums made it out to be, but it definitely wasn’t good either.
Story: You are Sam Axton, and you are on the run from a group of mercenaries known as the Tyrants, and the reason for this is very simple. You were one of them once. But after you found out just how badly they betrayed and lied to you, there was simply no way you could stay with them, and you went AWOL. As a result, you are now hiding in a safe house and with the help of a hacker who calls himself simply JANUS, you and a fellow abandoner are now off the grid and safe.
Still, you have another problem. You are both augmented and running low on the drug you need in order to remain healthy with your cybernetic upgrades, Neuropozine. As a result, you are running out of time to make plans, and without anyone else you can trust, you turn to Janus for help. And with a world-shortage of the drug, there isn’t a lot of help he can give you, especially in any way that will not expose you or him to the Tyrants or worse. But he is able to give you a contact nearby who might be able to help. So, asking your friend to stay in the safe house and out of trouble, you step out into the world, seeking the drug you both need to survive.
From this point, you will quickly find yourself dragged into conspiracies involving a new “alternate” drug that is being tested for release to compete with neuropozine, but somehow is getting to the streets and sold by gangs before it’s tested, refined, and ready for release. But sadly, just as this story gets interesting, the game ends.
You see, The Fall was apparently not made to be a complete story, but the first episode of a much bigger picture. And while I may enjoy episodic games from time to time (Ask me about Sam & Max some time), generally, this is a format that doesn’t work unless you can either give me the whole “season” all at once and/or divide up your game so that each episode has it’s own plot that ties to the main one. Deus Ex: The Fall does neither, and in fact it looks more and more like the rest of the story may never happen. The game originally released on iOS 9 months ago, and not even that version has any DLC to continue the story yet. Suffice it to say, this is a major disappointment.
Graphics: [System Specs: AMD Phenom II 6X 1100T (6 core) processor running at 3.3 Ghz, 4GB RAM, Nvidia Geforece 760 GTX with 2GB VRAM, and Windows 7]
While the graphics serve the purpose of the game, from the first moment you load up and watch the two characters the entire “story” focuses on talk, it’s rather blatant that this is not the most advanced looking game you have ever or will ever see. Nor should you expect this. This game is a blatant port from the iPad tablet, so without the power available on last gen consoles available on the original system, this game was never going to be as pretty as the game it was designed to emulate the play of. (Deus Ex: Human Revolution)
Still, most of the things and even the environment in this game don’t look so much bad as just a lot simpler then we usually expect from a company like Square Enix. You will play this game from mostly a 1st person perspective, zooming out to 3rd when using the cover system and overall, the game looks good, but very dated. It also ran perfectly smooth, which considering that low-tech look, would have been really disappointing if it didn’t.
The world itself takes a slightly futuristic motif that will be instantly familiar to fans of the franchise: everything looks modern, but weapons, armor, and cloths and of course augmentations take a sci-fi look that is meant to look like it just might be possibly where things go 20-30 years from now at the latest, and it takes this idea and runs very well with it.
However, for all the work, care and even the detail the game puts on individual characters and the weapons/armor they may have, any nameless person who lets you see their face is a disaster. They literally all have the same faces, one for guys and one slightly differently shaped for girls. They show no emotion and have the dead-eyes and lack of detail to look more like puppets, reminding me more of the way people used to look in most games during the Xbox/PS2/Gamecube days. And the fact that almost no one opens their mouths during cutscenes (and those that do, its just a bland slow animation of moving the jaw without adjusting anything else) this kind of issue is basically what will kill the graphics for you.
Suffice it to say, I do not recommend talking to anyone you do not have to, but that get’s even “better” and we will talk about that in a moment.
Sound: And this is where the game gets really dicey, you know, before throwing you out just as the story starts to get interesting. Music and sound effects actually are not so bad. Often, the background music is either forgettable or not there at all, but clearly by design, existing (when it does) only to enhance the mood of the moment. Again, while this results in music that does not stand out and you will likely not remember, it is honed to it’s purpose and really perfect for it’s job.
Sound effects, on the other hand, are a very standard affair. Nothing sounds particularly good, but nothing sounds particularly bad either. If you are expecting your weapons to sound meaty and enhance the feel of the kill, you are probably playing the wrong game, but if you are ok with them just being a means to an end and to feel as much, this will do.
The real “treat” here (and yes, the quotes are necessary) is the voice acting. Again, where care was placed, it’s actually really good. Sam and every main character he talks to actually sound believable and you can see the conversation happening by the sound alone. It delivers, and delivers well. It’s nothing exceptional, but if you heard it in a TV show you were watching, you likely wouldn’t bat an eye. Sadly, though, this was also blatantly half-assed in other ways. I'm sure there were more as I did not finish all the side quests, but I ran into recordings that when I played them, half the voice portions were missing. The ONLY reason I knew someone was supposed to be talking in that recording was the subtitles kept rolling well after they stopped. This is a shameful display of lack of care for a game you created.
And just like with the graphics, ANYONE who doesn’t have a name and is only there to populate the world is GOD awful. Seriously, I think I heard the voice actor (or maybe it’s actor? it’s actually a tough call) stuttering over their accents in a couple of the lines they will repeat without variation or end anytime you talk to the same “character type” in various places. And by voice actors, again, I mean maybe 2 or 3, tops. EVERYONE has the same god damned voice.
Gameplay: Ok, so we have (with good reason) beaten the shit out of this game for some very lazy choices in graphics, sound, and only giving the player basically the introduction to what could be an awesome story, but how does the game actually play? Well, I think I can sum that up with five words: “not great, but not bad.”
As I said in the graphics, Deus Ex: The Fall is basically played in a 1st person perspective in which you will explore the maps, complete your objectives (usually use an item once the story says to in place X, Y, or Z), and fight/hide/takedown enemies along the way. You will choose how you handle each situation, though sadly there are no real brainteasers in this game (but there are actually multiple ways to handle several situations the game will throw at you).
The maps themselves are generally not very big, resulting in a lot of loading screens as you wander the city this will take place in, but to it’s credit, the world is not linear and will let you explore most of it as you will and when you will if you desire. Some maps will have aggressive enemies who will attack you on sight, while others have enemies that will show up on your radar, but remain green as you have either not done something to set them off yet, or this is a public place and the game is just offering you a chance to cause trouble if you desire to.
Also to it’s credit there are points when enemies by story-line will be added to a map, and if you look around, everything you’ve done remains done. It doesn’t just replace one map with another, giving the impression of a world you have interacted with and caused something to change permanently, even as the situation has also changed.
However, that doesn’t help to disguise how formulaic these maps are with their combat. Anytime you enter a map with enemies, you will walk in, secure a place, and maybe fight 6-12 enemies on the entire map, and that’s if you choose to wipe them out. Assuming you do not let them all gang up on you and keep a place secure to hide in while your health regenerates, there is nothing in this game that will give you any issues at all.
The controls behind all this are well designed, but awkward. Since the game was originally designed for a tablet, there are several control options (like iron sites or jumping) that the original version just could not do, and so they are not here. However, the developers saw the buttons usually used for such things were open now for others (like taking cover with the right mouse button instead of iron-site or alternate fire). The end result is something you will have to get used to, but actually works pretty well once you do. But it also shows again how lazy this port was, as one of the key things almost every PC game has is not available here: you can not change the controls at all to suit you better.
Bugs: I have read the Steam Forums and heard the horror stories of just how buggy this game is on PC, but I have to admit, I didn’t find as many as you would think for the reputation this game gets. That isn’t to say there was nothing wrong, however. Most of the issues I found were in the audio of the game.
- Stuttering Sound: This happened fairly often as I played. The game would play perfectly smooth, but the audio would stutter, as if the two were not in sync. This becomes all the more the likely cause I found this happened pretty much only while in cutscenes that would occur in the middle of the game.
- Missing Voices: As I mentioned in the sound part of this review, I found there were times when voices should have played, that just did not. There is no explanation, and really no excuse for this.
- Skipped Subtitles: To go with the above, it seems like the timing to some of the subtitles were off. Rather then being there long enough to read, when the voice was missing, some subtitles would flash up long enough to show they were there, but not much else before skipping to the next. There are entire conversations I had to go without due to this.
- Suicidally Stupid AI: Normally, I would rate this as a design flaw and not a bug, but when I had at least 4 different enemies commit suicide (and I did nothing to try to make it happen) on their own mines or even grenades they themselves just threw, there is a serious issue here.
Overall: I find myself very conflicted when reviewing this game. On the one hand the core design is pretty good, but there isn’t a single category in this review where I can not see lazy corner-cutting that just does not have to be… and most of that is BEFORE the game got ported! I don’t understand how the iPad version got the high reviews it did considering this, and as a result, I do not believe I can recommend this game for anyone but the hard core Deus Ex fans who is absolutely craving something from the franchise while they wait for the next entry. Everyone else should probably steer clear of this one.