The opening location of Deus Ex: The Fall would feel like a sublime daydream were it not for the rate at which you’re bombarded with information. Playing as ex-SAS soldier Ben Saxon, your HUD is inundated with mini-tutorials and pop-ups from the offset and you must quickly put the required actions to good use. It’s immediately apparent N-Fusion has condensed as much of the Deus Ex experience down into this mobile game as is augmented-humanly possible.
The narrative premise is that Saxon’s body is rejecting its enhanced augmentations and you need to obtain a steady supply of drugs to offset the effects. Standard. This craving takes you to Panama City, where you undertake missions over several levels and locations. Quests are largely fetch, infiltrate and assassination missions, which can be completed using either stealth or ballistic means, but with a constant reminder that you should explore and fully take in the surroundings.
Exploration is encouraged and rewarded via exposition, XP and useful items. Although the distance-to-objective counters are displayed onscreen, they can be deactivated at your discretion, but if you’ve spent enough time in Master Chief’s boots, you’ll probably be bombing towards them like a bloodhound that’s picked up a scent.
Thankfully, despite some cramped level-design, some of the cityscape vistas are stunning. Overshadowing the slums with authority, the city’s skyscrapers bring to mind both Blade Runner’s Los Angeles and modern-day Shinjuku. There’s tangible atmospheres to experience in locations such as the bustling bass-thumping Nightshades club and the intimidating slums, which feel like a throwback to 90’s gangster FPS, Kingpin.
Complementing the levels is the tension-building soundtrack, which is one of the game’s assets – a brilliant exercise in composition at times evocative of Mark Morgan’s work on the early Fallout games. Despite this, the fact it’s always present can be an issue, as there are moments, during conversations and whilst in safe zones, when it should fade away in order to preserve its impact.
As you plunge through the city, wreaking havoc or leaving none the wise of your presence, you acquire XP which is converted into praxis points and can be spent on augmentations (improvements to your skill-sets). You’ll have to engage in plenty of side-quests should you wish to acquire enough XP to max-out your skill trees.
The control system is varied, which is a plus as it gives you adequate scope to adapt to the method most suited to your style. Movement is assigned to the left thumb; you can either tap a desired location onscreen to automatically move there or instead use a mini joystick for greater accuracy. The camera is controlled by moving your right thumb in a circular motion. Targeting can either be toggled to auto-aim or manual, but auto-aim is preferable given the potential for mishaps mid-shootout.
Combat either takes place through straight shoot-outs or via stealth attacks, with the option to kill or render your quarry unconscious. Fire-fights can be frustrating in terms of the controls but you’ll quickly overcome the identikit enemies’ educationally-subnormal AI with simple ambush tactics. The pistol will serve you well throughout the game, dropping enemies with a headshot even at long range. This is somewhat unfortunate, as there’s a whole upgradable arsenal at your disposal should you be inclined to acquire it. You just don't really need to do it.
It's all decent enough, but there are far too many small problems that weigh the experience down. The prompts that appear above interactive items, for example, can be both a help and a hindrance. For instance, if you’re taking cover behind a desk or wall with items on it, the prompts are liable to flash up and impair your line of sight. It would’ve been preferable if once an item had been ‘used’ the associated prompt became inactive.
Although the action becomes tiresome, working your way through the narrative mean it's almost worth enduring the shoot-outs. Presented through cut-scenes, NPC dialogue and a range of written information, The Fall’s story, which is a sequel to the Icarus Effect novel, takes several violent turns through corruption, conspiracy and carnage, and is well nestled within the world it occurs.
The Fall is at times rewarding but, unfortunately, often frustrating. It’s certainly ambitious and a step towards progression in mobile gaming, intending to deliver a comprehensive blockbusting experience. Ultimately, it falls short of the mark.