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Deus Ex: The Fall

The Only Saving Grace Might Be iOS 7

E3 has never been a hotbed of activity for mobile titles, especially as the best typically come from small development houses and not mega-publishers. Recently, Square Enix has declared its intention to dive more deeply into these waters. Unfortunately, their latest is following in the footsteps of disappointments like Final Fantasy: All the Bravest.

Gamers are hungry for more Deus Ex after 2011's fantastic Human Revolution. Unfortunately, terrible controls and a cluttered screen of unhelpful pictographic icons should stall out hope that this is the sequel we've been craving.

Even moreso than with Human Revolution, The Fall almost demands a stealthy approach. In the early part of the demo, which seemed to be the introduction to the game, things worked well. Protagonist Ben Saxon sneaks into an area with few enemies, under protection of elevation and cover.

Taking guards out with a crossbow is handled manually with a fire button, though targeting can either be completely free or assisted by a running the cursor over an enemy. The latter felt similar to a snap-zoom that you might see in Call of Duty. Once looking down the sights or through a scope though, the aim is freed up.

When I had time to place my shots, things were great. Double tapping to move into cover was a bit cumbersome, because it forced me to move my hands away from the fire icons (partially because of the terrible tangle of headphone, dock connector, and security lock cables coming off the demo unit). Even moving the icons around the screen would have been unhelpful given the travel distance from the edge to the center-focused target destination.

This encourages use of the virtual analog sticks instead of the tap-and-move mechanic. Admittedly, this is one of my least favorite things in mobile gaming. Thumbsticks work because of tactile response and pivot angle. I have never played a mobile action title that gets virtual sticks right, and Deus Ex: The Fall simply apes what has been done before.

After sneaking into a base, more icons populate the screen. These are not well explained, have no text, and feature only confusing pictograms. The camera is also tight behind Ben's back, giving Resident Evil titles a run for the money when it comes to claustrophobia. This became an enormous issue as I forced a firefight with a single guard.

Tapping on the screen to move between cover became useless because of how tightly the camera is pulled in. This left me with the faux analog sticks and the pictographic icons. Worse, by default these buttons are placed over the movement areas. As I tried to move around crates to stay in cover and take shots, I found myself shooting and crouching as my thumb moved over those icons.

Moving the fire button further away would mean having to completely remove fingers from the "sticks" in order to use weapons. It's an impossibly poor replacement for a trigger, and no movement of these icons around the screen changes that.

Thankfully for Square Enix, Deus Ex: The Fall might be saved by Apple. At WWDC this week, new support for game controllers was announced. When iOS 7 is released later this year, iDevices will finally support real game accessories. Companies like MOGA, which keeps refining its line of devices and has a new series coming later this year, are already working on integration for iPhones and iPads.

I would love to play Deus Ex: The Fall, but to do so in its current format is an exercise in frustration. Put a controller in my hand, complete with dual thumbsticks and triggers, and Eidos' return to 2027 is an instant purchase for me. Until then, I'll just keep hoping for a new console sequel.

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  • Truly a scathing preview I doubt I will get this game now. Thank you for your honesty Mike

  • Why did they do this? All those core Deus Ex Fans that have moved on to mobile devices? Or is the people who play Angry Birds and Poker that they are trying to capture? That is a total fantasy. I could have swore Human Revolution was a success and the fact that they did this instead of a real console/pc sequel really pisses me off as a fan of the series.

  • Why, why, why, why, why, why, whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy did this make this a mobile game??? Just WHY? So much effort into a mobile game... This shoulda just came to 3DS/Vita or any other platform.
  • Yeah, it sure looks like it needs some work.

  • That's a shame. Why make this mobile? Why not put in on XBLA or the eShop?
  • These comments are interesting since IGN was singing its praises. I've always been a GI guy and I have to agree with Mike's opinion, my suspicion tells me he is right on the money and he seems to be a straight shooter, something refreshing in this industry.

  • Last night I caught myself replaying HR that I nabbed for free earlier off the PSN+ and I kept telling myself, its a rarity that this team managed to capture majority of the spirit of this game. Then I realized that there is a newly announced Director's cut due soon with the DLC (which I never attempted). So I can't wait to get the re-release (I will be renting it off gamefly) and see the new improvements made to the game. I love HR but I am not enough of a sucker to pay full price for what should essentially be an update patch with DLC. I don't know what's going on with Squenix but after E3 it seems clear that the company is siphoning off its budget on to US based games in order to pay for Versus and KH3 which would explain the irrationally high profit expectation. As Jansen would say "I didn't ask for this." No one asked for any of this!!!
  • I hate mobile gaming. I really do. My uncle, who works in the game industry (and actually is developing mobile games right now), says that at this rate mobile gaming could kill off actual console gaming. I fail to believe that inferior experiences like Angry Birds can ever, EVER touch Wind Waker, Smash Bros, or Halo.

  • Hold the frack up. Did he say Ben Saxon? As in Ben Saxon From Deus Ex: Icarus Effect, one of the only good works of literature that ties into a videogame franchise? Oh god, they had to take a charcter who was really interesting and had a story that was completely done by its conclusion, No loose ends, and put him into a crappy mobile tie in. I really hope that they dont mess with him, he was a really cool guy in icarus effect, but judging by his visual overhaul alone, this is not lookin good.

  • Deus Ex fans rejoice the next installment in the world renowned PC franchise has been put on IOS instead of console/PC.

    Or burn down Square Enix in a fit of rage either would be fine.

  • I loathe mobile gaming.  It just sucks.  If I want games on the go, I'll buy a Nintendo handheld (which I did)

  • That's not gonna save it. It's already dead to me. Make a proper sequel.
  • Really in-depth, at first I was excited, but now i need to see more, good to see honesty.

  • Sounds like a perfect fit for the Vita!

  • Y'know, if their saving grace is having a controller attached to an iPad, then maybe they'd be well served to fix up the interface and release it as a PC game.

  • Really, holding a controller as big as or twice the size of you screen just to make a game playable? Pathetic. Immersive, story driven games are and always will be best on a big screen tv. Leave mobile with the  puzzle genre.

  • Why Square, why? Deus Ex has such a huge fanbase, they could easily make a full on AAA sequel and earn truckloads of money. Instead, they decide that *this* is the way to go. Incompetent CEO's are everywhere these days.