I asked for most of this.
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: Microsoft Windows (reviewed), Linux
Available on: Steam
It’s a fairly simple and straightforward mission set during the time of the main campaign. Overall, it’s decent although also pretty easy to get through. I went in stealthy once more and didn’t find a lot of opposition, because there’s a generous number of vents to crawl through so I didn’t even need the cloak, despite investing Praxis points into it.
The story payoff is fairly limited and disappointing, especially since it addresses one of the characters the marketing for this game opted to focus on, the young dude clad in yellow that didn’t factor into the main game at all beyond seeing him during the introductory walking tour through the train station – if you pay attention you can see him walking by Adam and Alex a few seconds before he sets off the explosives – but it really doesn’t elaborate on the character beyond “he was some dude without future prospects based on his augmentations and thus got caught up in a terrorist organization”. Hell, when you get through the actual level it hints at more to come here when the head of Tarvos mentions to Adam that his sister – the husband of the bomber – is still in need of help and I thought that maybe this meant another change in location to tie up that loose thread, but nope, it just ends after that conversation. You get to walk out of the complex you just spent an hour infiltrating and get some ending dialogue back at HQ and that’s it.
As a free add-on to the game it’s certainly wort playing because it’s on the level of some simpler early missions of the game. But here’s the thing: This was the pre-order bonus mission and it’s so inconsequential that it represents another reason why I utterly despise this “augment your pre-order” bullshit Square tried to push on us. Hell, I would’ve respected this more if it were an actual mission during the main campaign, though it would’ve represented a step back from the chronologically earlier mission set in Golem city, which is much more involved and impressive to play through.
I liked this one overall, since it offers a bit more open-ended maps. At least at the start of the mission, when you get to explore a small new part of the city and can sequence break to your heart’s content. It’s basically another bank infiltration mission, similar to the one in the main game and it’s it doesn’t really fundamentally provide a new experience. If anything, I’d say that it’s a little bit too easy to stealth your way through. Maybe it’s just because ever since I finished the game I became much more analytical when it comes to searching for secret routes and ways to circumnavigate enemies, but to me it was a breeze going through the bank.
Overall it lasts a decent length and provides at least some narrative to flesh out the world and also reintroduces Pritchard. And I really like the angle they went with making fun of conventional cyberpunk hacker culture, people talking in nonsensical technobabble and giving themselves cringeworthy pseudonyms. The way Adam reacts to all of this kind of highlights that a lot of hackers who indulge in this kind of stuff miss the point of what they’re doing. If they could’ve gone any further with this, I would’ve loved to see them point out the inherent irony of a group of purposefully anonymous people who value their privacy trying to infiltrate a computer system built specifically to provide maximum privacy of their personal data.
What I personally could’ve done without was the final bit in cyberspace. It was already the weakest part of the main game and it doesn’t really provide a lot of enjoyment, because it just feels tacked on. Your skillset is massively reduced and there’s basically no opposition, so why even bother?
I’d also say that the price they’re demanding for this DLC is way too high for what it actually offers, but if you’re a fan like me who can’t get enough of the gameplay but you’re also patient enough to wait for a sale, it’s definitely worth it.
A Criminal Past
This one kinda makes up for the half measures the first two missions were. For one, it’s an interesting new setting with an equally intriguing narrative angle. Covert extraction of an undercover agent from a maximum-security prison certainly makes for an interesting change of scenery.
Especially because in the beginning of the mission Adam’s augmentations get disabled and you’re forced to really take in the level design and search in every nook and cranny for weapons, consumables or even just ways of traversal between locations you have to visit. I got really stumped at the start on how to infiltrate the other cell block. I got really far only to end up having to backtrack my entire way to find an entirely different solution locked away in a room that was really tough to get into. Especially given the fact that I refused the pill the game offers you fairly early on to circumvent the chip that blocks your augmentations, since I wanted to really test out the limits of what I as a player was capable. And that was great.
Though at some point I think you’re pretty much forced to take the pill nonetheless and re-acquire your augmentations and after that point, it becomes your typical Deus Ex experience again. That’s not to say that it wasn’t fun, especially since enemy density seems a bit higher than in the main game and in the latter half, there isn’t an abundance of ways you can safely sneak around everything. This also coincides with an increase in weapon and ammo pick-ups. Since I once more went for a non-lethal run I found plenty of ammo for my stun-gun and tranq rifle and I also had tons of EMP pistol ammo for turrets and cameras.
One thing that’s still kind of odd is the ability of letting you craft consumables on the fly, especially after you get to the merchant in the game and sell all that Neuropozyne for a load of cash to then invest in crafting parts. I had tons of unused Biocells and Multi-tools at the end of the game, not to mention a bunch of Praxis points since I once again relied on hacking, cloaking, jumping and the Icarus landing system for falls from a height. I’d say towards the end, the difficulty curve kinda dips compared to what the beginning of the mission promises, but that’s not really that big of a deal.
Narratively, it’s largely disconnected from the plot of the main game and only the framing device of this being a story told by Jensen to TF29’s psychologist hinting at more. But I liked the framing device because at certain points in the narrative, you can hear Adam and Delara’s voices and how they contemplate and interpret whatever the player has recently uncovered. It even goes to MGS-levels where, whenever you die, you hear Delara’s voice-over telling Adam to really focus on what he’s telling her and that he surely didn’t die during this mission.
Unfortunately, the narrative is also used to flesh out the Deus Ex universe some more with yet another organization to add to the pile of names you’re supposed to remember. There’s little to connect them to the rest of the series and the ending of the DLC mirrors the main game in a sense that it throws up more questions than it answers, hinting towards Adam having a faulty memory. An interesting way to close out the story on a contemplative note, but it’s yet another cliff-hanger.
In the end, A Criminal Past is a phenomenal DLC that really makes the most of the format and shows that the guys at Eidos, in spite of the disappointing sales of the main game, still put a lot of care and attention into this one, to the point where I’d say that for once, the $12 price-tag is in fact justified given that I just spent over 6 hours with it, when there are entire AAA-games sold at $60 that don’t offer as much content. Just a shame that this will unfortunately be the last bit of Deus Ex we’ll be getting for some time.