I don’t usually buy DLC (that’s downloadable content, for those unaware). A lot of it strikes me as silly, like new character skins or some in-game items available for a few dollars. Not things I’m interested in. Then there’s DLC that adds quests or new areas into an existing game, which seems destined to be awkward — an obviously tacked-on affair that doesn’t gel well with the main game. More reasonable are the DLC offerings that are essentially the expansion packs of old: new levels, or separate game areas designed to be tackled after the main game is over. Still, I would need to really like a game to go for one of these, given how many other games I have to play.
At first, it seemed that The Missing Link would be that awkward type of DLC that tries to graft itself into the existing game, given that the events take place during a certain gap in the plot of the main game. In truth, however, the DLC is better viewed as a stand-alone expansion pack. It’s launched as a separate program from the main game, and a convenient plot device sees our protagonist, Adam Jensen, getting his augmentations re-set, so the player can start upgrading them again from scratch and choosing an ideal build.
In many ways, The Missing Link feels like a much smaller, self-contained version of the main game. The player will want to have finished the main game in order to understand everything that’s going on, so it’s certainly no substitute. But in terms of design, The Missing Link features the same open-ended gameplay that rewards both stealthy or gung-ho playstyles, and lets the player upgrade Adam’s cybernetic augmentations to match their preferred approach. There are always various ways to tackle each objective, and in a great improvement over the main game, this also applies to the final boss encounter. I’m fairly certain that it’s possible to complete The Missing Link without killing anyone (barring a certain debatable technicality), although I did not choose to do so. I began with non-lethal tactics but eventually decided that my enemies deserved some harsher justice; you, of course, are free to take any approach you choose.
The Missing Link takes place entirely within enemy territory, so there is nothing similar to the city hubs featured in the main game. There are still a few friendly faces, however, and even the odd sidequest to complete. The attention to detail in the interior design is still top-notch (something I don’t think I emphasized enough in my writings on the main game), and it’s clear that the designers kept a high standard of quality when putting the DLC together. The Missing Link does differentiate itself from the main game by losing the characteristic gold tint in favor of a more greyish cast, which is appropriate to the setting. It really does look great, and there’s no sense that this was rushed for release or otherwise suffered due to being an “add-on” rather than a full game.
Plot-wise, things are okay — taken as a stand-alone plot it works well, and events tie into the plot of the main game, but I didn’t consider it to be fully “canon”. The Missing Link wasn’t quite believable as something that had actually happened to Adam Jensen at that point in the story. But it was enjoyable as a sort of “what if” scenario and I had no problems suspending disbelief for the duration. The main game holds up fine if one assumes that The Missing Link never happened, and I think that’s the way it should be; as DLC The Missing Link is an extra bit of game that I can enjoy, but it’s not essential playing by any means. But those looking for some more Human Revolution to play will probably be pleased with it, and it fits into the story to boot.
I therefore find myself agreeing with most reviews I saw when debating my own purchase. The Missing Link is by no means essential, and I will not advocate buying it with anything near the same fervor that I advocate buying the base game (which, if you hadn’t noticed, I consider to be a must play). But I enjoyed taking Adam Jensen for a final spin before clearing him off my hard drive to make room for Skyrim, and I imagine that many players might feel the same. It’s more Human Revolution, after all. But it is also optional Human Revolution. If you want some more, go for it. If not, no problem.
That’s how DLC should be.