We were pretty impressed when earlier this year Square Enix released Deus Ex: Human Evolution. The game was striking, both on the PC and on the Xbox360. So it was hardly a surprise that developer Eidos Montreal set about producing new content for the title, in order to whet the appetites of the franchises’ many fans.
The downloadable content pack, Deus Ex: The Missing Link, is the latest installment in the Deus Ex story. Content packs are always a little tricky to review. On the one hand they provide a simple, and effective way of continuing an experience that many have enjoyed. But add-ons always run the risk of feeling like, well, add-ons. Dues Ex: The Missing Link falls somewhere in the middle of this continuum. Its not a waste of time (and money) but its hardly an imperative play-through.
The title begins with Jensen being repeatedly punched in the face. For reasons that are not explained he’d been captured attempting to bomb a cargo ship into oblivion, and the ship’s captain - along with his ‘loyal’ lieutenant - are going to town on his finer features. Its an interesting, but somewhat obscure start.
The rest of the story is similarly confused, but perhaps intentionally. It turns out that the cargo ship is not all that it seems and Jensen, along with some unlikely allies, begins to investigate just what the hell is going on.
Along the way, major plot characters from Human Evolution are at the centre of the story, firmly embedding Missing Link into the universe that we are accustomed to. However, there are interesting plot twists and - just like Human Evolution - characterisation is strong, even if the title still hasn’t managed to break its way out of the cliched clutches of an “evil corporation” gone wrong.
Eidos clearly haven't attempted to rock the boat; the Missing Link is typical cyper-punk fare, following in the strong tradition set by its parent title.
In fact, there is not much to Missing Link that we have not seen before. The game-play mechanic is identical to its forebear, mixing first-person shooter and stealth combat elements together. Earlier problems are still present, such as dodgy AI and small inventories, but the core gameplay still offers a satisfying experience.
However, the title’s mise en scène does subtly change the way the action happens. Gone are the open world spaces and side quests that were characteristic of the August title. In its place are narrow corridors, stairways and hangers. Unfortunately for stealth fans, narrow corridors and ninety-degree turns lend themselves more appropriately to gun play. While the stealth elements are still there, Missing Link is easy enough to get through with just a bullet and a nine.
It's a little disappointing that more was not made of the title’s interesting setting. One of the most majestic parts of the game is when Jensen travels below the surface, into a secret underworld laboratory hidden under the ship. In a BioShock kind of way, this descent into the depths ramps up the drama. But this downward dive is only fleeting. Pretty soon the action returns to the surface, leaving behind any subterranean tension.
Its also unfortunate that any drama that there is, isn't around for very long. The Missing Link can be completed in a reasonably short space of time. Earlier media promised over five hours of gameplay, but for those wanting to power through it for the story alone, it will be around two hours before you are pitted against that game-ending boss.
That being said, completionists will want to work on every challenge, talk to every character, and there is always the option of increasing the difficulty. As a result of this customisation and choice, for those willing to put in the time, Missing Link does offer some rewarding experiences.
Deus Ex: The Missing Link is a middling add-on that ticks all of the commercial boxes that Square Enix were aiming for. It offers a complete narrative experience, based off the winning success of its parent title. But its an add-on and not much more. It just gives just a bit more of what came before, and that undermines its urgency.
While The Missing Link does present an intriguing cast of mysterious characters, none of them feel particularly imperative or tug at your heartstrings. There is no intimacy in this title, and it shows. As a result The Missing Link lacks the drama and the intensity of its forebear. How much you get from it is reliant on how immersed you are in the saga. For those who enjoyed Human Evolution, and are chomping at the bit for more things for Jensen to see and do, then this downloabale add-on will be a welcome addition. But for those without a strong link to the series; it’d be prudent to give this one a miss.