For a short time after Deus Ex: Human Revolution came out, I was a weird Deus Ex completionist. I finished the game in eight-hour stints without showering, then went back and started it again. Did you know there was a Human Revolution comic? I read it. So when I heard about Deus Ex: The Fall, a mobile game set in the Human Revolution world, I went to Square Enix's booth at E3 to check it out. The Fall is probably as close as you can get to a straight mobile port of a major, recent AAA shooter: You can access most of the same upgrades, modify your weapons, and run through dialogue trees, all in a world that looks like Human Revolution shrunk down to iPad or iPhone size. The story follows tie-in novel Deus Ex: The Icarus Effect, so instead of playing Adam Jensen, corporate mercenary, you're Ben Saxon, traditional mercenary.
Deus Ex: The Fall is far from the first mobile shooter, and Square Enix has learned what makes a good control scheme. You use on-screen twin-stick controls or double-tap a direction to move, with dedicated buttons for firing and jumping between cover. Human Revolution — with its heavily signposted controls and minimalist inventory — was in some ways an incredibly natural fit for mobile. The hacking system, in particular, is actually better on touch. The Fall captures that delightful feeling of methodically sneaking around corners trying to get close to an enemy, picking a squad off one by one. In an apparent concession to mobile ease, you can take down even an alerted goon with a one-button move, as long as you wait to recharge your takedown. The E3 demo level I saw seemed very close to the beginning of the game, so it was possible to simply soldier through while shooting, but it wouldn't allow you the same level of satisfaction.
The problem is that while it's a good shoot-and-sneak game, The Fall didn't really feel like Deus Ex. Not quite Human Revolution, and certainly not the original, highly open-ended title. The mission I played had all the elements of Human Revolution: the ducts, the world-building books and emails, the experience points, the stylish leaping between pillars. When you looked out a window, you saw the same billboard-covered skyscrapers. But I rarely felt like I was uncovering secrets. You can evade enemies or take them down, but I didn't end up feeling the eureka moment of having cleverly found something — though E3 is rarely the best environment to play a game.
It's possible the game gets more complex elsewhere, although Human Revolution dropped you pretty much immediately into a large map full of alternate paths. What I saw was definitely more than a series of corridors, but my choices tended to boil down to finding a short duct or taking a door. The admittedly attractive graphics required long loading times, though that was also one of my complaints about Human Revolution.
Holding a 10-inch tablet isn't a recipe for free and easy motion
More fundamentally, I'm wondering if I would have been able to get that feeling of exploration even if there were more to see. Holding a 10-inch tablet isn't a recipe for free and easy motion — The Fall does a good job of creating simple, intuitive controls, but moving in 3D space is still just not as easy with touchscreen navigation. There was an urge to just try to head through on rails, rather than try to find everything, though with time, I'm hoping mobile games can beat that instinct into submission. The Fall will arrive this summer first on iOS and later on Android for $6.99, where it will be the first of multiple planned episodes.