I'm not sure if Deus Ex: Human Revolution's first add-on, "The Missing Link", could have stumbled into view more clumsily than it did. A sort of alternate reality game revealed its existence, but clever players figured out more than Square-Enix and Eidos Montreal bargained for, leaking the premise and "The Missing Link's" primary gameplay conceit without any sort of context. It really hurt the general excitement levels for one of the most well-received games of the year.
I'm here to give you that context. And I might just be here to give you back some of that general excitement too. First, disclosure: all the rumors about The Missing Link DLC are true, more or less. The Missing Link is set during a fuzzy moment within Deus Ex: Human Revolution's narrative: when protagonist Adam Jensen stows away on a cargo ship on the docks of Hengsha on his way to a secret facility. The Missing Link sees Adam start the proceedings from zero, so to speak, with all his augmentations "reset to factory defaults," to quote one of the DLC's new antagonists.
The initial buzz amongst fans was ... not positive. By now, DLC that takes place during a game smacks of cut content, and as someone who reviewed Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I thought I was fairly married to my augmentations.
However, after spending a couple of hours with "The Missing Link", I was reminded that Deus Ex: Human Revolution played well and had some great level design before I was the man of a thousand augments. And while you do start from zero, you don't stay that way. The DLC starts with an interrogation of sorts, and the answers you give determine the equipment you conveniently recover early on. Express bloodlust and you'll get guns, show a desire to preserve life you'll be granted a stun gun, etc. But you'll also be given just enough Praxis kits to make the DLC an exercise in tough decisions.
And that lends to a different feel to things. There are other subtle differences in "The Missing Link" as well; the lighting has been improved from a technical standpoint, and it's used to show off an entirely new setting. Belltower's ship has its own unique aesthetic, retaining the requisite crawlspaces and side passages of the main game but adding new, more exposed kinds of shortcuts and stealth-routes.
"The Missing Link" also features enemies that are more aware -- you won't be able to skip from one area to the next into a security force oblivious to your murder sprees, and the scrounging nature of what I've played so far indicates that you'll want to be careful with where you spend what precious ammo you do find. After all, with an open plan that doesn't guard against weapon noise, that un-silenced shotgun might not be such a great idea.
And, of course, there's the conspiracy. There's more going on in "The Missing Link" than what's immediately apparent, and after just a couple of hours I was invested in delving into the identity of Adam's mysterious hacker benefactors. I'll be able to do it soon; "The Missing Link" is expected to launch in early October.