Deus Ex: Human Revolution review
- Eidos Montreal
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution
- Deus Ex
Formats: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Format reviewed: Xbox 360
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Made2Game Deus Ex: Human Revolution review score: 9/10
The return of the fabled Sci Fi RPG to consoles is nothing short of a triumph. You've really got no choice but to play it. Or have you? Better late than never, here's our Deus Ex: Human Revolution review.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is set in Detroit in the year 2027, in a world where advances in technology have allowed humanity to take charge of its own evolution through the use of augmentations, these being bionic appendages and implants that are used to improve human abilities either for medical or recreational purposes. The problem with these enhancements is that the human body rejects them. The solution to making the augmentations stick lies in a drug called Neuropozyne; an anti-coagulant that enables prolonged use of augmentations via regular doses. The high price of this drug has enlarged the gap between the rich and poor classes, as well as causing a simmering political war between those who are for augmentations, and those oppose them for ethical reasons.
As Adam Jensen, Security Officer for Sarif Industries, a leading developer and manufacturer of augmentation technology, the player is forced into the middle of the conflict. At the start of the game, Sarif Industries is broken into and torn apart by terrorists, leaving Jensen close to death. In a Robocop-style turn of events, he is given a number of augmentation implants to keep him alive. What follows is a story full of corporate espionage, ethical debate and, crucially, decision making...
One of the staple tricks in a magician’s act is the one where a member of the audience selects a card from a deck while the magician looks away, yet somehow he somehow still manages to guess the card that was picked. You must have seen it, or one of its myriad variations. In most cases you could say that the illusion isn't actually the act of the magician guessing the selected card, rather that it’s making the audience member think that they had a choice in what card they selected in the first place.
The above analogy may seem out of place when talking about Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but is an incredibly apt one for a variety of modern video games. In many cases, game developers give us the illusion of thinking we have a choice with the decisions we make in the games we play. With Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Eidos Montreal have given us a game both thematically and mechanically based around the illusion of choice, and the occasional lack thereof.
Choice is a much-vaunted aspect to the game's mission based structure. As Adam wrestles with the augmentations he didn't choose to have, the player must decide how his newly installed upgrades dictate the method of fulfilling every objective. In each hub city, there are a series of missions and single instance areas, all of which can be nailed by various methods.
For example, an early mission involves infiltrating the Detroit Police HQ to obtain a particular item. A player could go the ‘Terminator route’ and rush in guns blazing. Alternatively, there are multiple routes that do not necessarily involve bloodshed. There is a sewer system running underneath the building which you could traverse to enter the building unseen, or you could try to butter up/bribe the guy on reception (who just happens to be a former colleague of Adam from his SWAT days...).
It's the search for these choices that makes Deus Ex: Human Revolution so enjoyable. The ability to to play the game the way you want to is a great one. But much like the card-wielding illusionist I mentioned earlier, this game appears to be pushing the player down a specific route. Those expecting to be able to play this like a shooter will no doubt be disappointed. While there are a variety of armed (and unarmed) methods of dispatching enemies, lethal combat is a difficult option to take. Until they are upgraded with silencers, guns make so much noise that in most cases alarms are raised and guards come after you in numbers. The other problem is that ammo is in too limited supply and to effectively employ lethal tactics a player has to be incredibly careful not to waste any bullets. Headshots are essential, and firefights are often no more then an exercise in hiding behind cover and waiting for an opportunity to attempt the perfect take-down shot.
It is clear that the developers intend the player to go down the stealthy route, and this is definitely Human Revolution's bread and butter. There is something lacking from the gunplay that stops it becoming a preferred method of playing the game. Like a first person Metal Gear Solid, being stealthy makes the game a much more engaging experience; nothing beats the powerful badassery of hiding behind cover, knocking out guards with a blow to the head, shooting their colleagues with a stun-gun and hiding all the prone bodies in a nearby empty room.
It feels like if you aren't playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution with an emphasis on stealth, you aren't playing the game properly. The game seems to recognise this, offering more of an XP bonus for performing missions without alerting enemies or setting off alarms. For those who really want the full experience, set Deus Ex: Human Revolution to the hardest difficulty level (Give Me Deus Ex) then play through the game without setting off an alarm and without killing any enemies (apart from the bosses, more on them in a moment). Playing the game this way feels right.
The most mind-boggling thing about Deus Ex: Human Revolution is that there are mandatory boss fights. If you aren't prepared for these battles then you are pretty much screwed. The use of boss fights in a game such as this completely betrays the game's intention of providing choice to the player. They're just not fun at all, lacking in imagination and are probably the least memorable moments in the game. (A pro tip to those wishing to skip through the majority of these boss battles: the Typhoon augment with a stockpile of ammo and battery power is your friend.)
While the boss battles lack any sort of tense atmosphere, the other elements of the game more than make up for it. A big part of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is hacking, and the simple mini-game that is called up when a computer or door needs to be hacked can occasionally be an intense experience while you avoid being detected by the network security system (or indeed hoping a guard doesn't stumble upon you while you’re at a control panel). What with spending so much time in security-heavy areas that you’re not meant to be in, you’ll be doing a lot of hacking throughout Human Revolution but these ‘mini-games’ are short and they provide a welcome diversion from the standard on-foot gameplay. Taking the time to hack into computers and other devices can be rewarding in itself, offering small snippets of backstory or slices of XP, and optional hackery can occasionally make your life a whole lot easier too, as you disable security cameras, turrets and mechs.
In addition to the hacking, there are also instances where you will need to converse with NPCs and reach a particular outcome using dialogue options. These are not always static options that always guarantee a set conversation with a set outcome, with exchanges feeling far more organic than other games with dialogue options (such as L.A. Noire). These conversations can change on the fly, requiring your constant attention so that your answers match your information needs accordingly (there's also an augmentation that can help achieve a desired outcome by analysing an NPCs personality, with an added ability to influence the conversation using pheromones. However this particular ability doesn't necessarily fool everyone). Unfortunately these conversations are few and far between, which is a real shame as these parts of the game were genuinely interesting and enjoyable.
Augmentations are certainly the star of the show. These perks come under various skill trees, activated using Praxis Points (Praxis Points are gained by finding them, buying them or by gaining 5000 XP). These skills can define the paths you take during the game. Even the most seemingly useless skill has its purpose at points throughout the game - you might think that being able to lift heavy objects might not be as preferable as a cloaking device, but being able to lift a vending machine could open up an a shortcut, allowing you to bypass entire guard-infested areas. With the right augmentations, you really can effortlessly dash through some of the missions without anyone knowing you were there.
Although the voice acting is far from sensational (Adam Jensen sounds like an apathetic Christian Bale-era Batman), it’s on a par with similar high-budget, high-profile game and the strength of the writing throughout, be it in the spoken script or in the glut of newspaper articles, emails, memos and personal diaries, has to be applauded. There’s so much incidental information to be stumbled upon in the form of written words and non-vital converstions with NPCs (or indeed conversations that you can eavesdrop on) that there’s a real depth to the world you inhabit, making it feel wholly believable.
Graphically the environments are superbly detailed and elegantly lit, but suffer from a ‘gritty, future-Earth sci-fi’ palette of greys and browns and all shades inbetween, albeit with a golden sheen to them. Mind you, no one was expecting Deus Ex: Human Revolution to take place in a world festooned with the colours you’d find in Super Mario Galaxy, were they? You could argue that it lacks the same degree of presentational polish that other AAA games enjoy, but then this world is huge and the adventure no six-hour single-player stroll that almost feels like an afterthought to the multiplayer component, unlike some other games we could mention.
Every character model that shows their face appears to be different (uniformed guards tend to wear helmets so who knows what they look like under there – wireframe skulls, probably!), even the NPCs hanging around in the background or on street corners. Again this serves to draw you into the world of Human Revolution and allows you to invest heavily into its fiction.
While the series itself has many fans awaiting to see if this long awaited entry matches up to the original, I have had no previous experience with either of the previous two releases. Playing through this game (which is supposed to lead directly to the beginning of the first Deus Ex) has made me want to revisit the earlier titles.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a great game in its own right. It rewards the player with an intriguing story that raises valid points about the dangers when relying on technology, and a highly intense stealth experience. Those who are looking for an action-packed shooter may find the game wanting, but for those who prefer to sneak around in the shadows and make their own path, this is the game you are looking for. Despite its faults, be under no illusion that this is one of the gaming highlights of the year.
Words: Lee Garbutt (Twitter: @WhiteSpyderZero)
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