Unless you’re one of those weirdoes that consider pre-order trinkets and extra guns to be actual content worth paying real money for, The Missing Link is the first proper piece of DLC for Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Set during a point in the game’s storyline where protagonist Adam Jensen disappears off the grid for three days, The Missing Link is a self-contained side story that shows what exactly happened “off-camera” during that time.
Our story begins after Adam Jensen has been caught stowing away aboard a ship en-route to a secret Belltower mercenary facility in thePacific Ocean. Wisely taking no chances the Belltower mercs have stripped Adam of his equipment, secured him in the ship’s brig and reset his augmentations to their “Factory Zero” settings with a powerful EMP device. Adam soon receives a stern thrashing from the facility’s sadistic commander Pieter Burke before being interrogated by Burke’s second-in-command Netanya Keitner, in a short but sweet bout of interactive verbal sparring that establishes what kind of weapons you’ll get when you eventually track down your equipment. Give a hostile response and you’ll get suitably aggressive firepower, while playing the pacifist eventually kits you out for a non-lethal approach. After Burke and Keitner leave, Adam is contacted over his infolink by a mysterious figure who frees him from the brig and instructs him to infiltrate the Belltower ocean facility that the ship is due to dock with.
No mean feat when you’re shirtless, have no weapons, your augmentations have been reset, and there are several trained guards outside the brig ready to ventilate you the instant they spot you. If stealth was your favourite part of Deus Ex you’ll definitely enjoy the first few sections, and without any augmentations whatsoever you’ve got a challenge on your hands from the get-go. It definitely makes you feel vulnerable, painfully so, although it doesn’t take too long to find your equipment and a bunch of Praxis kits to reactivate your nifty transhuman abilities. The Missing Link keeps you weak just long enough to make you miss your cool toys, and look forward to getting some of them back, without dragging it out to a point where you get bored or frustrated. Ultimately it ends up being nowhere near as big a deal as Eidos Montreal made it out to be and you’ll soon forget your cybernetic neutering ever happened.
From here onwards it’s the same Deus Ex you know and love. Eidos Montreal have learned some lessons since Human Revolution’s release and it shows in the more refined level design and how different play styles are better catered-for, but The Missing Link was never going to mix things up or revolutionise the core mechanics and nobody should have expected it to. Despite Belltower’s facility being a hostile sort of place where everyone is under orders to gun you down on sight there are a few NPCs you can interact with on friendly terms, so it’s not all shooting dudes in the face or snapping their necks every 10 seconds. In my playthrough I took the stealth approach with a spot of hacking but the runny-shooty approach also works, except perhaps during your initial escape from the brig. It’s still perfectly do-able in theory but I lost the patience to try after I got gunned down for the fifteenth time. There are also no dialogue battles and few, if any, opportunities to accomplish anything with mere words, so unfortunately you cannot talk your way right through to end. To be fair you couldn’t exactly do that in Human Revolution either.
What people were really expecting from this DLC is more of Adam Jensen’s story and The Missing Link is superb in that regard, rife with intrigue, double-dealing, conspiracy and moral choices. Towards the end I was forced to make a difficult decision that I honestly had to think long and hard about, weighing up the consequences in my head. The decisions you make don’t have a huge impact on the wider world but they’re no less important or resonant for that. It’s the difference between dropping a rock into the ocean and dropping that same rock into a small pond. A decision almost inconsequential on the global scale becomes quite a big deal on a personal one. Sadly while the story is well integrated with the main game the actual DLC isn’t. It’s self-contained in more ways than one, chiefly that it’s utterly divorced from the main game in that you can’t carry over your saves between the two. This separation almost reduces the story to a mere vignette – a day in the life of Adam Jensen, international cyborg – diluting its potency a touch.
Speaking of the story there are some pretty interesting indicators as to possible future DLC in The Missing Link, including a bold pronouncement at the end of the credits to “stick around” for more. One of them is a reference to a piece of content cut from the original 2001 Deus Ex that super hardcore fans of the series from the beginning will get a big kick out of. Whether this will translate to actual DLC or is just a knowing wink is impossible to say for certain. Another nod to Human Revolution’s roots is the appearance of a character familiar to old school Deus Ex fans that elicited a little squeal of fanboyish delight from yours truly. I won’t tell you exactly who he is since that would be rather savage of me, although you don’t interact with him directly anyway. If you’ve played the first game to completion you’ll know him when you see him.
Without wanting to spoil too much more, I feel it’s only fair to tell you The Missing Link does have a boss fight. Wait, come back! They got it right this time! A common complaint with the main game is how the boss fights break the flow of shooty-stealthy-hacky Deus Ex goodness with bog-standard run-gun-cover affairs, so I’m happy to report The Missing Link’s boss fight is almost exactly the kind players expected from the vanilla game. The final showdown has multiple avenues of approach accommodating most specs and playstyles, and if you want to be a posthuman Robo-Gandhi you can finish the fight without shedding any blood at all. The whole fight, and yes that includes the boss too.
Good luck sticking to your pacifist principles when you finally reach the scumbag. Another thing The Missing Link fixes about bosses is it lets you know precisely who your antagonist is and gives you ample motivation to take them down. Whereas most of the bosses in Deus Ex: Human Revolution were glorified roadblocks with cybernetics and guns, your primary antagonist in The Missing Link is an actual character, like Anna Navarre and Gunther Hermann in Deus Ex 1. A character you’ll have every reason to want to repeatedly stab to death with Adam Jensen’s arm-swords when you finally confront them. In a particularly heinous case of pot informing kettle of his ethnicity my nemesis actually called my ethics into question at one point, the sheer bloody audacity of which made me want to shiv the swine right there and then. They say some of the best villains are those who believe their cause is just, and this adage is well-demonstrated in The Missing Link.
Eidos Montreal’s estimate for The Missing Link being 5 hours long was somewhat optimistic. It took me a solid 2 hours or so to see the story through to the end and that included a decent amount of exploration and sneaking about. It’s still pretty lengthy though and definitely felt longer than that, in a good way. Mileage varies of course and you could probably stretch it out further if you paced yourself and obsessively explored every single nook and cranny. I know I definitely missed a few things and a couple of the achievements might take you more than one playthrough to acquire. For a reasonable £8.99 for the PC version on Steam (same price on PSN, 1200 MS points) I definitely felt like I’d got my money’s worth by the end. The story is an immersive and engaging affair, with a small yet well-developed cast of memorable characters, that answers a fair number of questions while also raising several more. That it’s not fully integrated into the main game as well as being playable separately is something of a shame, since it would be fantastic to play through as part of a complete Deus Ex experience.
The Missing Link is a top quality addition to a superb game, well worth the purchase if you enjoyed Human Revolution and are hungry for more. The much-touted vulnerability from being without augmentations doesn’t last long enough to be any issue however, and gameplay-wise it’s simply a refinement of what we’ve already played through. Both relatively minor nitpicks for a great piece of content that is a fine example of what DLC should be. It doesn’t quite reach the ridiculous lofty heights achieved by Mass Effect 2?s Lair of the Shadow Broker or Red Dead Redemption’s Undead Nightmare, but it can definitely see them from here and that’s more than most DLC can claim. If Eidos Montreal can improve on this great opening for future DLC then Deus Ex fans are in for a real treat.