The problem with RPGs is that you need to complete them at least twice to get the most they have to offer. Wondering which way Deus Ex: Human Revolution's plot would have turned had you equipped Adam Jensen with invisi-skin rather than plate armour? Sorry chum - there's a few dozen hours and a couple hundred blown-apart security guards between you and the answer.
And that's why we're pleased as punch that Jensen managed to stow away on the wrong transport ship shortly before the events of the game's first DLC pack, The Missing Link. The ship in question belongs to Belltower, everybody's favourite seedy private military corporation, and the first thing they do on discovering the hirsute hitman is strap him into a chair with EMP arm-rests.
Result: goodbye to all but your entry level augments, and hello to the opportunity to re-customise your Jensen from scratch without labouring through the campaign's 20-odd hours.
Accessible straight from the main menu, the Missing Link has enough to do with the events of Human Revolution to be worth the attention of backstory-mongers, but those who've only dipped a toe in the wider plot should find it perfectly digestible.
At five or six hours in length (your mileage will surely vary), the pack's a fully fleshed-out miniature campaign. There's a new villain to rock the socks off, a handful of bystanders to shoot the breeze with (our favourite's the so-typecast-it's-brilliant Irish weapons merchant), a fancy rocket launcher to assemble, a smattering of Big Decisions to make and a stack of guards, turrets and robots to shoot at, KO, stab, hide, gas, electrify, flat-out confuse or avoid entirely.
Jail broken by a "Mr X" figure whose laryngitis rivals his own, Jensen must drag his bleeding carcass upward through the ship to a neighbouring facility, scavenging the means for survival en-route. It's hardly a gradual return to form: you're given seven Praxis Kits and a bunch of weapons around half-an-hour in, and the XP flows like water whenever you complete an objective.
By the final encounter, we'd transformed the fortified thug we completed the campaign with into a stealthy keyboard whiz, with maxed-out cloak and hack capturing functions besides a few points on dermal armour and the Typhoon for close encounters.
We were expecting the Typhoon to come in handy during boss battles, definitely Human Revolution's weakest links, but you won't need the overkill to defeat the Missing Link's solitary heavyweight. In fact, once you've disposed of the cloaking elite troopers and deactivated the turrets, all you'll need is a handful of bullets. The Missing Link's solution to the problem of incongruous boss fights is to nerf the feature entirely.
Belltower's ship and facility offer the usual Deus Ex playpen of air ducts (many cheekily hidden behind crates and fridges), laser grids, hackable door controls, gangways and security hubs. Most of Human Revolution's play styles are well served, though those who smooth-talked their way to the credits may feel a little stifled: this isn't a sociable open world like Detroit, but an Arkham-Asylum-esque linear sandbox where the idea is very much to sneak, blast or trick your way from A to B.
Among the other mild downers, dialogue animations are as bizarrely spasmodic as ever, though the dialogue itself is very good, and the plot, while graced by some entertaining characters, is a predictable tale of corporate skulduggery. The game's big card - human trafficking - might have been played with more edge.
Still, it's more than a match for the average DLC plotline - more than a match, in fact, for many full-priced solo action releases. As opening gambits in a DLC strategy go, The Missing Link is a hard act to follow. Here's hoping this is but the first link in a solid gold chain.
An enjoyable ocean getaway
- Stealth, combat and hackers will be happy
- Lots of meat on the bone
- A chance to do Jensen differently
- Story could be sharper
- Nothing all that new