Face Off pits two gladiators against each other as they tackle gaming's most perplexing conundrums. This New Year's Eve edition is a chronological throw-down: which decade gave PC gaming the most? Podcast Producer Erik Belsaas says it was the '90s—the origin of modern PC gaming. Executive Editor Evan Lahti insists it was the '00s, with its speedy internet, better PCs, and shinier graphics engines.
Evan: The 1990s had the CD-ROM and the McRib sandwich. The ‘00s had Windows XP and two terrible Star Wars movies. I think the latter birthed better games: the Battlefield series, Crysis, Company of Heroes, BioShock, Dragon Age: Origins, Guild Wars, The Sims, Rome: Total War, Star Wars: KOTOR, and the best Civilization games happened then. What've you got, Erik?
Erik: Lucasarts, id, Ion Storm, Interplay, Blizzard: the iconic names that created franchises that we still discuss today. “RTS,” “FPS,” and “MMO” had no meaning before the pioneers of the '90s came along with some-thing other than sequels and rehashes: Baldur's Gate, Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem 3D, MechWarrior, Unreal Tournament and every LucasArts adventure game from Sam & Max to Grim Fandango.
Evan: This is going to devolve into who can name-drop more game titles, isn't it?
Erik: Pretty much.
Evan: Cool. In that case, let’s put the best we've got on the page. What are the top three games from your decade? Mine: WoW, Counter-Strike, and Half-Life 2.
Erik: Just three? How about X-COM, Fallout, and The Secret of Monkey Island. Timeless classics that we still play today.
Evan: Is that the best that the decade that gave us the Spice Girls has got, grandpa? The innovations of the '00s will last far longer. Half-Life 2 wasn't just the basis for the way modern action games tell stories, it’s the technological foundation for the most ambitious mods we have today and the preferred canvas for machinima creators. World of Warcraft’s meteoric rise brought PC gaming into popular culture, ruined innumerable marriages, and earned its own South Park episode. Top that.
Erik:Your great games are all parts of established franchises that began in the '90s. For that matter, the original Counter-Strike mod came out in 1999, before Valve turned it into a retail product! Take away the names that began in the '90s, the '00s would've created very little of their own.
Evan: Megabyte for megabyte, I’d rather replay Half-Life 2 than its predecessor. Likewise for Diablo II, Warcraft III, Fallout 3 and other major franchises that began in the '90s but matured in the '00s. I really think that the tech of the '00s (better operating systems, fast internet, faster PCs) produced better gaming experiences. EVE Online couldn't exist in the '90s. Team Fortress 2's dozens of free content updates couldn't have streamed down our wimpy modems—the same goes for 25-man WoW raids or a heavily modded playthrough of Oblivion or Morrowind.
Erik: You've got a short memory. EverQuest allowed 72-man raids. And before Oblivion and Morrowind came Daggerfall, which was amazing and heavily modded. Doom, the father of modding, came out in '93.
Evan: I’ll play your game, Belsaas. Here's my ace: Deus Ex, our most favorite game ever, happened in 2000.
Erik: Deus Ex is a good game...but how about StarCraft? Has any other game absolutely defined its genre or rallied an entire nation behind it like a sport?
Evan: I was worried you’d play the Korea card. What can I counter that with? The 100-million-selling main-stream success of The Sims? The booming popularity of independent gaming? ...Peggle?
Erik: Peggle? Well I’ve got...you know...uh...Carmen Sandiego. Fine. Peggle wins.
For all its crazy cyber-conspiracy narrative and superior voice acting, Deus Ex didn't ride its Unreal Engine tech gracefully into the visual standards of the present. Still, its neon-lined cyberpunk locales are close to many a gamer's nano-heart, which makes the release of the final version of David Watts' "New Vision" mod for Deux Ex just another good reason to reinstall it.
"I'd like to sincerely thank everyone in the community for their support over the years; without you, I wouldn't have had the motivation to continue working on this project for five years of my life," DaveW stated. "I hope you all enjoy the mod and I wish you all the best."
Just like popping out your organically inferior eyeballs for a pair of tri-vision photoreceptor sensors (with optional strobing laser accessory), New Vision enhances every single non-character texture in a hefty 1.2GB data package. The ghost in the machine whispers "reinstall," and New Vision makes it tough resisting another bout behind JC Denton's so-cool-I-wear-them-indoors shades. And hey, at least you can admire the soft torchlight bouncing off the domes of snazzier-looking skulls as you get absolutely lost once again in that labyrinthine Paris Catacombs area.
Grab New Vision from its Mod DB page, or check the gallery for more comparison shots.
There are two Deus Ex games. The original classic, and the brilliant recent sequel, Human Revolution. Sure back in 2004 there was an ill advised follow up called Deus Ex: Invisible War, but shortly after its release we all agreed that it never happened, and we would never speak of it again.
Warren Spector apparently didn't get that memo. Speaking to IGN during a preview of Epic Mickey he said he regretted listening to the feedback of focus testers when making the game.
“We focus tested concepts." he said "and I was told, ‘Set the game further in the future and put the guy or the girl in a purple jumpsuit; people like purple jumpsuits. Why did I listen?”
Who on earth answers a focus test with 'put the guy in a purple jumpsuit?' What kind of questionnaire even asks that? Who could possibly think that was helpful or relevant advice? The mind boggles.
Thankfully Deus Ex did eventually get the sequel it deserved, years later and without Spector's involvement. You can find out why it works in our Deus Ex: Human Revolution review.
"Cheap as chips" is a throwaway UK saying for something that has plunged straight through the realm of "inexpensive," surpassed the grotty lands of "surprisingly good value" and come to rest in the sugary sands of "tat." Few things in this world are cheaper than the pots of oily polystyrene packs of potato shifted from small shops on street corners up and down this country, but thanks to Steam, one of our favourite games ever, Deus Ex, is cheaper than a small pile of fried potato. How has this happened? It's best not to ask. Instead, just head to Steam and grab yourself a copy if you don't own one already.
Eidos Montreal's excellent 2011 follow-up, Human Revolution, is also a steal at £5 / $7.49. If you already own that, Human Revolution's DLC pack, The Missing Link is also available for £2.24 / $3.74. Alternatively, you can buy all things Deus Ex (including Invisible War) for a bundle price of £9.99 / $14.99. The deal's set to last all weekend.
Save some money this weekend by shopping smart. Learn how to get 50% or more off all things Tomb Raider, Hitman, Deus Ex, every King's Quest, a 48 game Sega Genesis collection and how to get Batman: Arkham City for just $10!
STEAM The biggest deal around Steam this weekend has got to be The Great Square-Enix Cost-Cutification of 2012! You can get all the available Hitmans, Deus Exes, Tomb Raiders, Dungeon Seiges, Just Causes and much more bundled together for just $75! They can be picked up separately, so we've listed a few of those in addition to other Steam highlights below. Deals are on 'til Monday!
75% off Square-Enix Hits Collection - $74.99 75% off Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light - $3.74 50% off Deus Ex: Human Revolution - $14.99 50% off Deus Ex Collection (2 games) - $9.99 50% off Just Cause 2 - $4.99 75% off Hitman Collection (3 games) - $6.24 50% off Dungeon Siege III - $14.99 50% off Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days - $7.49 66% off EVE Online: Crucible - $6.80 BIG 24 HOUR DEAL: King's Quest Collection (7 games!) ENDS 9AM PST Saturday!
ORIGIN Sadly, it looks as if EA's Origin deals aren't going to be as regular as we thought. Almost every discount from last week has evaporated, save for the pretty great deal of getting Arkham City for $10!
Buy Mass Effect 3 and Get Batman: Arkham City for $10
AMAZON It's Sega's turn in the Amazon deal barrel this week and several great titles are now $7.49 or less. And yes, you can activate them on Steam.
75% off Total War: Shogun 2 - $7.49 75% off Sonic Generations - $7.49 75% off Sega Dreamcast Collection - $7.49 50% off Sonic 4: Episode 1 - $4.99 50% off Renegade Ops - $7.49 BIG DEAL: 90% off the Sega Genesis/MegaDrive Collection (48 games!!) - $7.49
IMPULSE Impulse is still rocking the 2K Ultimate Bundle pack, which includes BioShock, Civilization III, IV, V, Mafia II, Duke Nukem Forever, Borderlands, the entire X-Com series and more for $69.99! You'll also find a ton of stuff from Paradox Entertainments steeply discounted right here.
Over 75% off the 2K Ultimate Bundle - $69.99 50% off Serious Sam 2 - $4.99 75% off D&D Anthology: The Master Collection - $7.49 75% off D&D Anthology: Neverwinter Nights Complete - $7.49 75% off Europa Universalis III Chronicles - $7.49
Know of any more game deals this weekend? Be a dear and add 'em in the comments.
This feature originally appeared in PC Gamer UK 230.
Most gamers have a secret shame. There’s always one classic title everyone raves about that you never quite got around to playing at the time – either because nobody was raving about it back then, or because you played the first level and couldn’t make head or tail of it.
It’s a quirk of PC gaming: a lot of our true classics, particularly the old ones, are baffling or intimidating to play. It’s their complexity that makes them so great, but it’s also what makes them off-putting if you don’t immediately grasp how they work. A game that gives us a great amount of freedom also gives us the freedom to miss what’s good about it.
So we moan at each other, endlessly, to play the things we love. Graham, how have you still not played Deus Ex? Rich, why would you skip Morrowind? Craig, you like crosshairs! Play IL-2 Sturmovik!
It’s time to find out what we’ve been missing all this time.
Graham Smith - Deus Ex
What is it? A first-person RPG set in a cool, trans-humanist future with nanotechnology, robot arms, vast government conspiracies and people who wear shades indoors. How late? 11 years. Excuse for lateness: I was obsessed with Half-Life and Counter-Strike at the time, and paid no heed to what seemed like another shooter.
Deus Ex has been at the summit of PC Gamer’s annual Top 100 for the last two years, and in the top five for most of the time before that. I’ve also played the opening chapter of its second sequel, Human Revolution, twice. Yeah, it’s kind of ridiculous that I haven’t played the original.
The first thing I notice is the game can’t run at 1920x1200. Tom recommends Deus Ex Launcher to fix that, so I download and install it. The second thing: all the characters sound like a Dalek with a heavy smoking habit using an electronic voice box. I turn off Direct Sound in the launcher and try again. It works! Enter JC Denton, super-agent.
I skip the opening cutscene – I’ve seen the edited version on YouTube, so I’ve already got the gist. Electronic old men, whatever. I also hop past my brother Paul on the docks of Liberty Island, leading him inland before starting our conversation. When we’re done, I’ve got the crossbow and there are four terrorists waiting to kill us. Paul takes them all out while I hide and loot their bodies. I’ve now got a pistol, a knife, a baton and some cigarettes. I love this game already. And then I die, and die, and die and die.
The enemies are totally incomprehensible. Sometimes I’m directly next to them and they can’t see me. Sometimes they psychically know I’m behind them when I’m sneaking. They’re so stupid that I can’t predict their behaviour.
Eventually, I reach some crates piled next to the base of the Statue of Liberty and start to climb up. It’s an alternate route! Everything I’ve ever heard about Deus Ex is true!
I fall off near the top, but succeed on the second attempt. I shoot and stab my way to the terrorist leader. He surrenders, so I pepper spray him in the face. He runs back and forth across the room while a UNATCO soldier arrives and tells me they’ve killed all the terrorists; they were right behind me the whole time. Hey, doesn’t that make my role totally irrelevant?
Back at UNATCO HQ – also on Liberty Island, making the whole terrorist thing pretty embarrassing – I meet Manderley, Gunther Hermann and Anna Navarre, the latter two of whom are instantly great. I hear the orange soda conversation. I access Gunther’s emails and read about his idea for a skull-gun. I’ve never played this, but it all feels familiar, as if I’m visiting a famous PC gaming tourist destination. I spend another 30 minutes in UNATCO headquarters, stealing and chatting and being told off for going in the ladies’ toilets.
When I’m done, Anna Navarre and I head to Manhattan. I remember hearing something about her being evil later in the game. Is there enough freedom that I can kill her now? A few moments later, when I’m dead, I discover the answer is no. I also find that there are no auto-saves, not even when you start a new mission, and not even when it says ‘Saving’ on the screen. Crap.
I’m back on Liberty Island, and this time I shoot the terrorist leader in the head before even starting a chat. Manderley tells me off for it, but Anna is impressed. I think this time I’ll try not to kill her.
I’m hooked. All these years later, Deus Ex is clunky and in a lot of ways old-fashioned, but its style, sense of humour and impressive ability to make the player feel inventive mean it’s still totally worth playing.
Craig Pearson - IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946
What is it?WW2 flight sim. Pilot mechanical marvels as they hurtle through the clouds battling for sky-based supremacy How late? 5 years. Excuse for lateness: I’m terrible at flight sims. Whenever I step into a sim’s virtual cockpit, bad things happen.
When most people flick the virtual switches of their cockpits, they imagine getting the kill count of German World War II fighter pilot Erich “Bubi” Hartmann (352). Me? I just want to be PC Gamer’s resident flight-sim expert Tim Stone (0, hopefully).
When IL-2’s training chocks are, er, chucked it’s clear I’m no Tim Stone. Even the menus are terrifying. Where he can gracefully ascend this rickety tube of metal into a sky full of Nazis and return with his cup of tea unspilled, my sorties suck.
The training seemed to go well. I’m methodically walked through the surprisingly simple series of switches to flick to get the gleaming Ilyusha into the skies: start the engine, fix the flaps, put the throttle up… I was up in the air before you could say Marmaduke Thomas St. John “Pat” Pattle (51+ kills).
It was a little too easy. Where was my usual veering awkwardly off the runway into neighbouring fields? Why wasn’t I crying and on fire right now? That’s how it’s supposed to go with me, joysticks and complex flight models. Either reading Tim’s words had somehow imbued me with the skills of Theodor Weissenberger (208 kills), or something was wrong.
Ah. Turns out I wasn’t in control – IL-2’s training missions aren’t interactive. It was all in my head.
Outside of my mind, things are as they should be. I grasp the AV8R-01 stick sat in front of my keyboard and go through the pre-flight conditions that I wrote on a post-it note during the tutorial. Except I scribbled them.
Is that a ‘B’ or a ‘D’? What am I pressing ‘V’ for again? I just want to move! I’d give my cockpit for WASD controls! Then, somehow, the engine’s thrum moves from ‘limping bee’ to ‘orgy of vacuum cleaners’, and beneath me the plane rumbles into action, aching to meet the clouds. Soon, my pretty.
Even though I’m not moving the stick, my Ilyusha is careering down the runway and curving steeply off to the right. This is why I keep away from these things: even not doing something can lead to picking bits of plane spotter out of your hair. It turns out that single-engine planes simply do this during take-off. That seems like a cruel joke to me, and I blame Einstein. The only way out of this twisty physics puzzle is to compensate with the rudder. A twist of the joystick starts to right the plane, before sending it away to the left. I end up drunkenly snaking off down the runway as if I’m dodging invisible traffic cones. I believe this is known as ‘over-compensating’ in flight schools. I over-compensated the hell out of that take-off.
What would Jesus (Antonio Villamor) (4 kills) do? He’d probably yank back on the stick, thinking that being in the air is preferable to being on the ground, where people have left a lot of inconvenient buildings and fences. I yoink. I’m airborne! I’m up! I’m up! I’m UPSIDE DOWN! All of Hans-Joachim Marseille’s (158 kills) life flashes before my eyes and I pile into the ground.
That was fun. Not the crashing bit; the taking off. It was hard, but it felt responsive. Each climb got easier, the subtleties of stick control became less cloudy. I learned to put distance between me and the ground before performing complex manoeuvres, such as daring to turn. But that first successful take-off had got me hooked. I’m already considering getting a better joystick and I’ve downloaded the sequel. Now, I just need to learn how to land the dambusting thi… KABOOM.
Rich McCormick - Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
What is it? Openworld first-person fantasy RPG set on a weird dark elf island. A blight is mutating the locals, and you’ve got to stop it. How late? 9 years Excuse for lateness: I was between PCs when it was released, and the Elder Scrolls’ ultra-traditional fantasy struck me as being a bit too twee.
I’ve been told so many stories of Morrowind’s opening few hours that I catch myself expecting a consistent rain of falling mages and colourful giganto-bugs. I’m a little disappointed to find my first port of call – after waking up on a boat, as a prisoner – is a little muddy fishing village.
I’m invited into a house, where I’m given a pardon and pushed out into the wider world. Wait. There’s no overarching threat here? Morrowind the continent seems to be ticking along nicely, so why thrust me into the middle of it to get all hero-ey?
For a while, I can’t decide if this utter freedom is liberating or terrifying. As I pootle around the foothills surrounding the starting village of Seyda Neen, I get a secret third emotion: boredom. The world is expansive, but imagined by a person who counts ‘beige’ among their favourite colours. My character shuffles at a pace so gentle I develop a fear that he’ll curl up and go to sleep. Morrowind’s journal is horrible, the latest patches of info – however meaningless – taking the place of more pertinent stuff from a few hours ago. I begin writing things down on real paper. This is either the most engrossing RPG of all time, or just terrible design. Hint: it’s the latter. After some successful perusal, it becomes clear the game sort of wouldn’t mind if, maybe, I went to the town of Balmora. There’s a giant flea monster that will take me there if I climb on its back, but it’s a giant flea monster, so I don’t want to climb on its back. Instead, I walk.
It’s a slow and trudgy journey. The draw distance leaves me peering into soupy fog at medium range, and the only things to distract me are small doors set into hillsides. I wander through one and am met by a woman brandishing a dagger. “I’M GOING TO KILL YOU!” she screams. Help, I think she’s trying to kill me. I spin on the spot and slam the door behind me. I open the game’s menu – a series of windows that work with a pleasing simplicity – and arm myself with the best weapon I’ve got: a rusty dagger that I found next to some cheese.
I charge into the cavern and bring the tiny sword crashing down on her head. It passes straight through her. I try again. Another miss. I’m being perforated by a woman with a fervent desire to kill me for intruding on her cave-bound solitude, she’s not moving – and I still can’t hit her.
Quickly, I’m killed. Morrowind’s save system is, I discover, unforgiving. I come to life back in Seyda Neen. This world is crueller and uglier than Oblivion’s, the hard RPG under-skeleton showing through clearly. But it has the same kernel of directed freedom that drew me so deeply into that game, mixed with an implied weirdness that Oblivion lacked. Morrowind’s too clunky and ugly to prefer over Cyrodiil, but having exhausted that world, I want to play more in this one. This time, I resolve to take the giant bug into town. But I’ve learnt now – better start small.
Owen Hill - League of Legends
What is it? Free-to-play topdown competitive action RPG. You’re a powerful champion, fighting other players amid a constant battle. How late? 2 years Excuse for lateness: I was initially put off by the art style and learning curve. Over time, I’ve learnt to embrace bright colours and difficult things.
Exciting! League of Legends is patched and installed. Now, I sit in a queue of ‘over 9,000’ players with an estimated wait of 22 minutes.
After staring at the screen for eight minutes, I begin to overanalyse. The menu has the style of a sexed up World of Warcraft, which I don’t find sexy. It doesn’t help that the patch screen has already teased me with a bunch of Riot Points. I don’t know what Riot Points are. No sale LoL. Lol.
Only 2 minutes, 50 seconds to go now and I’m 5,243rd in the queue. Coffee time. When I return, I’m going to kick a tutorial’s ass. Finally, it’s on. Colourful, responsive, fullscreen, native res in a free-to-play game, I didn’t expect this level of polish. There’s a gentle-voiced lady explaining what to do, too.
The devs have attempted to hide anything too confusing, but the greyed out features on the HUD make me suspicious that things are going to get very complex. I speed through the basics of movement and killing, while playing as an archer lady. I can heal, teleport back to my base and launch arrows. Eventually, I wade into battle behind a rabble of AI minions, push into my opponent’s base and wail on a pink stone until it pops. ‘Congrulations! Battle Training is available to guide you through Champion Selection and serve as an introduction to Summoner’s Rift’.
Typo aside, lock and load Legends. I’ve got three champions to choose from this time. I go for Ryze, a snazzy-looking Mage, and select the noobest-sounding spells – Heal and Revive – before levelling them up with a tech tree. I click ‘Lock In’.
Now this is proper. The other players are bots, but look real enough. I spend my starting gold and begin looking for stuff to blow up. How naive. The lady explains that before I kill other Legends or think about stones, I should explore the map for minions to kill to get extra XP. I beat up a few wolves and wraiths before downing a lizard monster. I’ve unlocked five skills, including Sithstyle electro bolts and a Half-Life 2-like balls of plasma. I catch glimpses of my fellow Legends taking a beating in the tug of war battle and decide now’s the time… to shop.
I choose the recommended items – gem stones and new boots. I’ve killed bosses, levelled up, and restocked my inventory before it’s even kicked off. I escort my minions down the central lane, blasting anything in my path. I’m a comparatively high level and I make a terrible mess of the enemy’s base, Alt+Tab out and begin emailing friends the download link – if they get in the queue soon we’ll be ganking noobs by midnight.
Tom Francis - System Shock 1
What is it? Sci-fi first-person shooter and RPG. Rogue AI SHODAN has taken over a space station, and you’re the cyborg hacker trying to stop her. How late? 17 years Excuse for lateness: I played the demo a bit at the time, but the cursor-driven interface and awkward combat scared me off.
After a surprisingly decent intro cinematic, my mind is slightly blown by a feature I’d forgotten any game had. I don’t have to choose a difficulty level: I can scale every element of the experience. Combat, Puzzles, Cyberspace and Mission each have four levels of challenge to choose from. I leave them all on normal, which is probably why no one has bothered with this system since.
In-game, I remember why I bounced off Shock 1 when it came out: it’s ugly, complicated and fiddly to interact with. But now that I give it a proper chance, it’s not hard to cut the interface clutter and enable the mouselook. Suddenly, it starts to feel like my kind of game. It’s still weird; the interface has an extraordinary control panel thing that lets you position your body in any one of nine contorted leans and squats. It’s awesome, and I’ll never use it.
The early levels are about bashing mutants with a pipe until they split, then double clicking their corpses to drag drink cans and human skulls to your inventory. I’m fine with this.
48 sweet wrappers and beakers later, I find an actual gun. A dart gun! It has only five shots, so I’ll never use it. Good find. That’s when I meet my first real enemy: a cyborg assassin. I remember these guys from such games as the next one in this series! They’re ninjas! They’re horrible! It’s killing me! I’ve changed my mind, I want to use the dart gun now! I have to bring up a ‘General’ menu to switch to it, and when I do, it still won’t fire. Fire, dammit! I saved those five shots specifically for a situation like this!
I’m dead. There’s a hilarious cutscene in which you’re revived, your eyes roll back into your head, and you’re dangled from a giant pair of robotic legs to serve the evil SHODAN AI – which frankly seems preferable. And that’s when I remember it’s right click to fire.
I’m a long way back when I load my last game, and every direction looks the same. I’m lost in the bewildering corridor spaghetti. That’s when I find a Sparq gun. That’s new. No ammo count? I will always use this. It has a whole control panel to configure its power level and monitor heat levels. I set it to maximum kill.
Suddenly, the game is easy. It’s more about scouring the levels for ammo than combat skill: most guns fire as fast as you can click, which mows anything down in a second. The main challenge is that enemies frequently appear from confusing angles or hidden alcoves, which is weird for a game that makes looking up and down so awkward.
So I end up enjoying it, but it doesn’t have the same magic that Shock 2 did for me. The best bit is the audio logs, which are the same as in the sequel. These garish, twisty corridors don’t feel like a real place the way Shock 2’s decks do, and I don’t have the same sense of exciting possibilities to develop my character. It’s a party I definitely should have showed up to at the time, but this late, after a better one, it’s not essential.
With the Deus Ex: Human Revolution Missing Link DLC out next week the nice chaps of Square-Enix have given us some of Human Revolution to give away. Not just any copies though. No, we've got three Collectors Editions. Each one comes with tons of bonus material, in game items and even an Adam Jensen action figure. He definitely asked for this.
Check inside to see exactly what you can win, and how to enter.
The Deus Ex: Human Revolution Collector's Edition contains:
A poseable Adam Jensen action figure DVD featuring a 44-minute “making of” special, 30-minute game soundtrack, motion-comic (adapted from DC Comics’ official series), E3 trailer and animated storyboard. 40-page art book. The Explosive Mission Pack, featuring the 'Tong's Rescue' mission In game weapons: Automatic Unlocking Device, M-28 Utility Remote-Detonated Explosive Device (UR-DED), Linebacker G-87 multiple shot grenade launcher, Huntsman Silverback Double-Barrel Shotgun, SERSR Longsword Whisperhead silenced sniper rifle. 10,000 extra credits to buy or upgrade weapons.
Plus some gorgeous box art:
To enter, answer me this question in the comments below.
If you had the chance, what cybernetic enhancements would you have, and what would you use them for?
The cleverest, funniest, smartest or most moving entries... basically whichever ones I like most, will win the prizes. Once again this competition is for European readers only (sorry rest of the world), if you win you'll be notified in This Week's Winners.
Human Revolution was brilliant at letting you play the way you wanted. Its boss fights were terrible for not doing that. When it emerged that they’d been outsourced to another developer, you had to wonder: what would they have been like if Eidos Montreal had made them?
Here’s one they did. I won’t spoil anything about the plot of the new Missing Link DLC, but I’ll tell you how I took out its boss.
After ten minutes of methodically stalking and knocking out the guards patrolling the area, I hacked a turret. Bulletproof glass separated the room the boss was in from the larger open area I was clearing out, so I couldn’t make the turret shoot him directly. But I could get beneath that room, and when I did, I found an open doorway at the back. Too high to jump to, even with my augmented legs, and no crates nearby to stack. But there was that turret.
Avoiding the gaze of a well-armed heavy on a high balcony, I snuck out to grab the gun emplacement with my strength aug, carried it beneath the boss room, and climbed on top of it. Using X-ray vision to see the boss through the floor, I waited until he turned away from the opening, leapt up through it, and grabbed him from behind in a sleeper hold.
It was tense, tough and brilliant, and this whole enormous mission is tense, tough and brilliant. It inserts itself into the timeline of the original game, between leaving Heng Sha on a mysterious boat and arriving in Singapore. Rather than sleeping soundly in a stasis pod, as the main game implied, you’re discovered and wake up in captivity.
You’ve lost your items and all but the basic augmentations – punching and level one hacking – but you’re soon given a generous windfall of praxis points to buy new ones. Starting from scratch, using what you find, and trying new options in a hostile environment – it’s all an intentional nod to the excellent prison break in the original Deus Ex.
I assumed that was the whole thing – an exciting escape section on a prison ship – but that’s just the intro. The bulk of it takes place after you dock. It’s a huge mission with masses to discover, and Eidos Montreal have given it an almost hub-like structure. A lot of the later encounters take place in areas you’ve already cleared out, repopulated with guards and hastily set up defences – like that turret I used for a boost to take out the boss.
It’s not like the main game’s cities, Detroit and Heng Sha. This isn’t a friendly area, and despite a few sidequests, it doesn’t have that same sense of open exploration. But there is a surprisingly in-depth story, and some tricky decisions to make.
While the backtracking is necessary for the story to make sense, the way it’s handled isn’t ideal. There are no loading screens, but you have to sit through a suspiciously long ‘bioscan’ between each area, during which the game is obviously loading the chunk of level you’re about to enter. When objectives lead you back through two or three areas you’ve already visited, it means a boring walk through covered ground with several painfully long waits along the way.
It’s not a big deal. The levels themselves are magnificently rich with alternate routes, plot detail, and subvertible security systems – including a new turret that fires Typhoon mines. The structure makes it possible to complete later objectives before you’ve been given them, and it’s handled elegantly – you can even steal the boss’s personalised weapon before you fight him. And the whole thing is just massive. It took me five hours to play through, with a quick and brutal stealth combat style, exploring the levels but not scouring them.
The excellent boss fight and a satisfying story conclusion end it on a high note, with a strong hint at more to come. It’s rare for DLC to live up to a great game, rarer still for it to fix that game’s biggest flaw.
The Missing Link is priced at £8.99 / $14.99 / €10.99, and it's out on Steam next Tuesday - October 18th.
Eidos Montreal have released the second part of their walkthrough for the Deus Ex Missing Link DLC. Like the first part it's about five minutes long. which means they're only show the first ten minutes of the game. Those who fear spoilers might want to avoid watching, but keep in mind that The Missing Link is going to be five hours long.
The Missing Link will be out this month, for more details, check out our Deus Ex: Human Revolution Missing Link preview.
Often, the bit where a game takes away all your weapons and abilities sucks. The main exception is Deus Ex: you wake up in a cell, a hacker lets you out, and you're forced to use anything you can find to break out of a high-security Majestic 12 facility. It worked because the game itself was so good: there were clever uses for something as simple as a fire extinguisher.
The Missing Link is a very obvious reference to that section. It takes place during an event that's skipped over in the main game: you sneak aboard a cargo ship bound for Singapore, and we cut to when you arrive. The Missing Link sees you waking up a captive on that ship, all your items gone and your augmentations disabled. You've got to escape, or you'll be transferred to a Belltower prison on arrival.
The good news is, it feels a lot more like Deus Ex's improvised escape section than the clumsy equivalents in lesser games. There isn't really any bad news.
The opening section of Missing Link is tough: you have nothing except your augmented arms and level 1 hacking, and the place is crawling with guards. It's hard to get any of them alone, and if you're going non-lethal, it's harder still to knock one out with time to nab his weapon before his friends show up and revive him. You do have to improvise: I liked to find alternate routes, make a lot of noise going through one, then double back and take the other while the guards rushed away to investigate.
Once you get out on deck, the level opens up significantly: you've got free roam of a large section of the ship while the waters churn nauseatingly around you. I had an achingly tense moment on a high balcony, crouching behind a patrolling guard and praying he wouldn't turn around before the security camera above looked away.
Because you're stuck without high-level hacking abilities, there's more focus on finding the right keycodes for locked doors. It's never the only way forward, but often knocking out a guard and reading his improbably convenient pocket secretary is the short route to a new area.
Eventually you find your equipment, the most important benefit of which is putting on a goddamn shirt. You also get 7 praxis points to upgrade yourself with - the idea being to let you experiment with augs you haven't tried before. I experimented with the Tag-and-Track aug, which usefully confirmed my suspicion that it's not as useful or cool as seeing through walls.
Below decks, the mission gets very quiet, thoughtful and puzzly. You're clambering among huge cargo containers, uncovering the weird secrets of the ship, and figuring out how to get deeper into it. It's an impressively big place, and it's actually lovely to have an extended break from combat in a new and interesting place.
This version ends shortly afterwards: pull a certain switch, and the credits roll rather unceremoniously. I haven't heard back from Square Enix yet, but I'm guessing that isn't the intended climax of the mission. The loading screen plot summary suggests I'm on stage 2 of 5 at that point - and that's after two hours of play. It already feels fresh, substantial, challenging and fun.
Dotted throughout, there are a curious number of references to a floating 'pirate towns' off the coast of New Guinea. If that's a hint at a future DLC, one with an explorable city hub like Heng Sha: yes please.
The Missing Link is out in October.
Update: Square have sent over a few extra official screenshots of The Missing Link, which you can see below.