There’s another Deus Ex game on the market. I’ll say it again: there’s another Deus Ex game on the market. And before you get your pitchforks, I have another bomb to drop on you guys: this one doesn’t suck! This time it’s a prequel, focusing on an all new cast of characters in an incredibly well realized world with the fantastic amount of choice that Deus Ex players love. In fact, the different ways to play the game are just as diverse as the first one, making for an experience that you really shouldn’t miss, regardless of if you’ve played the original or not! -
As a prequel to the original classic, Human Revolution really feels like a different experience to what we usually get in these modern times. It’s story is heavily rooted in conspiracy theories and the development of it’s interesting world, thanks to the introduction of a science that allows you to mechanically augment your body. While in the original, these mechanical augmentations have been around for so long, they’re becoming obsolete, Human Revolution’s story really shines when it tackles the issues of being mechanically augmented versus “staying pure” as it were.
You play this game as Adam Jensen, an ex-SWAT officer who is now the security chief for Sarif Industries, one of the leading companies behind the controversial mechanical augments. After an attack on the facility leaves you in a critical condition, Adam is forced into being almost completely mechanically augmented, with barely an area on his body that doesn’t have some sort of robotic part. Adam comes back on a quest to uncover the truth behind the attack and you’ll travel around the world as you search for answers.
To say the story is one of Deus Ex’s strong points is very true but it isn’t for your standard reasons. The individual characters themselves are a really interesting bunch that follow a few archetypes from the original but Eidos Montreal put some spins on many of their characters to really make them into something unique and interesting. Let’s take Frank Pritchard, Human Revolution’s sidekick equivalent to Alex Jacobson from the original. While I definitely remember Jacobson for his smart and helpful characteristics, Pritchard is just a complete asshole to Jensen. For the majority of the game they grudgingly work together for the common interests of Sarif Industries but that doesn’t stop their hatred for one another and it can cause some interesting problems to arise as the story progresses.
Where Human Revolution really shines however, is in the world that the developers have created. Your adventure takes you around the globe from Detroit and China to Singapore and Montreal, with each locale feeling really alive with a large number of pedestrians, police and stores in every area. These hub areas are also massive, providing you with plenty of time to just take in the atmosphere of the whole thing, with people going about their daily lives and shadowy deals taking place in dark city alleys. This is absolutely one of those games where you’ll want to read all the ebooks, emails and pocket secretaries your find so that you can really enrich yourself on this extremely well thought out fiction. Heck, there are even characters you’ll never meet in the game itself but you’ll grow attached to through emotional emails between two recipients. I almost felt bad for reading their personal emails, stealing all their stuff and leaving them with probably minimal funding in their bank accounts. Almost.
Finally, I also wanted to mention the way the game handles your choices throughout the story. During the first few hours, I thought there was one point in particular that made me feel like this game was showing us how to outgrow an old gaming principle. I’ll dance around the particulars, but it’s an event that never really happens again in the game and that’s a little bit disapointing. Some of the smaller things you do however are ocasionally pointed out as well. In a silent nod to the first game, if you go into the women’s washrooms before the opening mission, you’ll be berated by your superiors. It was cool that they acknowledged this small event in the first game and it’s still cool in these modern times.
Human Revolution plays exactly like what you would expect a Deus Ex game to play like, with a few ideas that add for a more modernized experience. You’ll still have a variety of weapons for both lethal and non-lethal attacks as well as tons of options in each situation. Do you want to go in guns blazing or sneak past the entire squad of guards undetected? Should I walk through the front door of a fortified police area and convince them to let me in using my skills in speech or hack my way in through the back door. Don’t get me wrong here, Human Revolution is, just like the original, a linear game. You’ll always get from Point A to Point B eventually, it’s just the number of options you can use to get there is staggering. This can lead to multiple different playthroughs where you challenge yourself to never kill a single person (well that’s not entirely true - more on that later) or find completely new routes and characters, adding a nice layer of fun if you decide to revist the title another time.
As you would expect, Augmentations play a huge role in Human Revolution’s gameplay as well. You’ve got things here that can eliminate fall damage, turn you invisble, improve your hacking or give you the ability to unleash pheremones on others, aiding you in persuasion challenges. To activate these augs, you’ll need to spend praxis points, which you earn after every 5000 exp, findng them in the world or buying them at clinics. While there is a large number of these points, there very spread out over the course of this long game, making you really think about which upgrade is the most useful in the situation you’re in right at that moment.
Combat is another mix that Human Revolution gets right, with a nice variety of weapons and tools at your disposal to get the job done. Your given weapons that can be used in lethal or non-lethal ways as you sneak or shoot your way through each level. The game also adds a cover system to the series for the first time and it’s used fairly tastefully here. While it can feel clunky at times, thanks to some imprecise controls, your never really forced to use it and when you do, it’s usually for shorter bursts, just to get information about your surrondings or to take cover from enemy fire. The larger problem comes with some debatable enemy AI that lack some basic functions that really take the fun out of the experience: they can’t seem to shoot into vents or climb ladders. While these can seem like two small faults, you can essentially exploit many encounters in your favour by drawing a guard to one of the many vents or ladders in the game and just sitting there taking them out one by one.
Finally, let’s talk about the worst aspect of Human Revolution: the boss battles. The game doesn’t ever really prepare you for the cheap, horrible abominations these are to your experience. The majority of each of them can kill you in very little hits, give little to no indication of damage being done to them and if your playing a character that’s doing as little combat as possible, your almost certainly going to be banging your head against your monitor in frustration as the light weaponry you have is effectively rendered useless against enemies that almost require heavy weaponry to take down. I’ll happily admit to looking up guides for many of them and even exploiting some of their mechanics because of their unbelieveably stupid abilites and apparently botomless gun clips. In the original, you could just run right past them and out of the room! Why couldn’t that have happened in Human Revolution?
Undoubtedly, the other fantastic aspect is it’s visual design and how it really compliments the story in terms of it’s sense of scale and artistic vision. I already mentioned that the hub areas like Detroit and China feel enourmous and this is amplified by the fact that the locales in this game all feel really different. From slums to office buildings, there’s just a lot of variety, even though the colour palette is similar for the majority of the game. The augmented humans also look really nice and the whole game really does give that “future renaisance” asthestic the developers were going for.
Audio is one really big mixed bag. The voice acting on the main characters are fairly serviceable but man, some of the throw away characters on the streets or the generic guard put in some mediocre performances at best. The combat noises are a bit better, with the use of punches and the kickbacks of the guns all feeling appropriately metallic and machine like. It’s something that could have been handled a little bit better in what can be a very dialogue heavy game though but it isn’t usually all that taxing of a problem.
There’s a lot of incredible things about Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Just the fact that I’m saying those words feels like a huge relief because so much could have gone wrong, especially after Invisible War left a sour taste in fans mouths. But Eidos Montreal really took a good hard look at the original, determined what made it great and put it’s own spin on the universe with a surprisingly interesting prequel story as well as some of the most fun in a stealth game I’ve had in years.Thankfully, it also reminds us what PC games were like in older times, giving us the great port to PC that a Deus Ex game deserves. It’s easily one of the games of this year and is on the level of polish and execution you would have expected Looking Glass or Ion Storm (when they were a good company anyway…) to produce. Definitely pick this one up!
- Interesting Story on the ethics behind augmentation
- Satisfying combat that rewards different play styles
- Fantastic World Design on the game’s large number of locales
- The boss battles are frustrating beyond belief
- The enemy AI can be a little brain dead at times
- Some debatable audio with the more throwaway characters
I still can’t get over the fact that I reviewed another Deus Ex game. It’s success really show you where gaming has gone in the past couple years. The world, characters and gameplay are all extremely impressive with the stealth being some of the most satisfying stuff I’ve ever done… well, ever! It’s a little dissapointing then, that the boss battles can really bring the game down. If you played a Jensen that is barely equiped to do frontal assaults against the enemy, you’ll see just how badly designed these encounters are. Otherwise, I couldn’t tear myself away from this game!