Sometimes, when you have to wait so long for a follow up to a great game, it’s always in danger of being destroyed by intense hype and anticipation. No more so than in the Deus Ex series, which has managed to keep some people’s interest in its original title Deus Ex (2000) for 11 years (and counting) due to excellent implementation of choices and it’s open world feel. So while hardcore fans of the original game wrap up their 20th playthrough, we take a look to see if the latest instalment in the series can appease those fans and maybe accumulate some new ones along the way.
Game: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the long awaited third title in the series, building on the action role-playing elements of its predecessors Deus Ex and the slightly less critically acclaimed Deus Ex: Invisible War (2003). Human Revolution is set 25 years before the first game and throws the player into the Bladerunner-esqe cyberpunk future of 2027 where you take the role of Adam Jensen, security chief to one of the game world’s most powerful corporations – Sarif Industries.
Fans of the older titles will enjoy seeing how the origins of the story unfolded while newer fans, although some references may be lost on them , will enjoy a well crafted and generally well paced plot which evolves around a technology called human augmentation. Sarif Industries are among the several corporations to deal in human augmentation, which allows people to increase their human ability with a whole manner of technological enhancements.
The story kicks starts when on the verge of a major breakthrough, Sarif’s headquarters are attacked by soldiers who proceed to steal information, kill anyone in their way and leave our protagonist Adam Jenson beaten to near death. With the help of Sarif Industries and their technology, Adam is brought back from the brink becoming part human/part machine and it’s not long before you’re back at work and on the hunt to uncover who attacked Sarif Industries and what they were looking for.
The graphics may seem a little underwhelming at times to the particularly critical eye, but for what it lacks in graphical polish it makes up for in an immersing and believable vision of the future. Its visual design and production is excellent. The game world for the most part is a dark experience outside of the corporate headquarters and other buildings. However, the world is lit well and has a visually pleasing gold colour scheme that seems to run throughout the game, not just with lighting but also the user interface. You’ll also be transported to a few different locations which all offer a slightly different experience visually, whilst keeping the look and feel of the game consistent right until the end.
An eerie, slow, pulsing background score helps set the scene and goes a long way to creating that futuristic atmosphere the visuals spend the whole game aiming for. In fact, the entire score is excellent throughout, from moments of suspense in the gameplay to the wonderfully crafted cutscenes. It’s all very well implemented and never feels out of context with what’s happening on screen.
The dialogue seems to have it’s awkward and unnatural moments, but the voice acting in general is not that detracting from the overall experience. You’ll find that some of Jensen’s tone reeks of Neo from ‘The Matrix’ so if that didn’t grind on you, you’ll have no problems with this. Outside of the main characters the compact poverty stricken streets are littered with AI characters and gangs, most of which have little to say, but it’s close to the same standard of the main dialogue and relevant to current events and plot when they do decide to speak.
If you’ve played or are familiar with stealth based shooters then this won’t offer too many surprises for you. At its core, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an action role-playing game. When completing certain tasks you’ll be given XP which go towards ‘Praxis points’, which in turn allow you to upgrade your augmentations and give Adam new abilities that enhances different areas of his body. What you decide to upgrade will greatly increase your options when attempting to perform a certain task or complete a mission. You’ll often find yourself wishing you had upgraded a particular ability as you ponder the best route to completing an objective.
Your main ports of call will be in a few (not overly large) free roaming areas where each one has a set of side quests to keep you busy in between your main objectives that progress the story. The side quests are detailed and varied enough to make you want to complete them and offer a nice distraction. You’ll also find the odd shop to buy new weapons/upgrades and other items, as well as sell any you’ve picked up along the way and no longer need.
The shooting mechanics revolve around taking out enemies from cover, and generally it’s all in a typical first person view but when taking cover you’ll be removed from the perspective into third person until you decide to peak out or take aim. The stealth offers a little more variety in its approach giving you options to perform ‘take-downs’ where you can either knock the enemy unconscious or simply kill them. You’ll get different XP bonuses depending on what you decide to do, even if you choose to avoid enemies completely and manage to pass the entire area unnoticed.
Unfortunately AI is typically unchallenging, following specific routes and giving up on you quite forgivingly once spotted. If you’re not in cover when you’re spotted, don’t expect to live too long as their aim is far greater than their willingness to hunt you down. Once in cover though, you’ll simply be picking them off as they peek out of their own in a predictable manner.
Whilst completing objectives you’ll find plenty of loot lying around and computers/security systems to hack. These usually take the forms of computer terminals and code input wall units which open locked doors or disable laser sensors. Hacking is made somewhat overly complicated in the tutorial, but when you get to grips with it, it’s by far one of the most rewarding and challenging hacking mini-games of recent titles, especially when you get to the highest security difficulty which is set out between 1 and 5. Sometimes your body looting and locker rummaging will reward you with codes which leave you not having to hack at all. However, they’re not always conveniently placed, so any espionage won’t be negated by codes placed next to system you’re about to hack.
Story progression leads to a more linear area where you’ll eventually face a boss. These bosses can be challenging depending on what augmentations you’ve chosen, but you’ll never find one unbeatable because you didn’t upgrade the right ability. The bosses become a slightly odd concept in a game that’s so determined to give you choices, because although there are still variable ways to kill a boss, you’re pigeon holed into a particular area and it severely hampers the way you approach them. For example, many of the bosses make stealth become an after thought and if you’ve only been levelling those abilities you may find it tough going. So from a game that rewards you regardless of how you approach a scenario, you suddenly have to play a very particular way to progress.
One of the game’s major draw points is its choice. Where as some games will give you a choice for the sake of having one with little effect on how the game plays out, Deus Ex: Human Revolution makes a massive effort to let your choices have a real effect on the world around you. Although you may end up at the same places eventually, there can be a lot of variety from one playthrough to the next, depending how you choose to play the game at root level. For example, something as trivial as entering a building can have many possible solutions, from hacking the security panel on the back door, finding an air vent, smooth talking the guard or flicking on your invisibility and moseying on in.
Although the hardest way to approach the game seems to be pure stealth, there doesn’t appear to be any greater reward for doing it one way over another, which truly leaves it up to the player whether they fancy a sneak or good ol’ fashion shoot out. The only deviation from this seems to be the bosses, where choices become very limited. Despite that, this means Deus Ex: Human Revolution offers very good replay value, not only if you’re trying to find anything you’ve missed the first time round, but to play the game in an entirely new way with somewhat different consequences.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution does what a lot of games try to achieve, but very few succeed at – giving the players the tools to play the game how he or she chooses. It does have its imperfections, but the marriage of FPS and role-playing is an idea that will appeal to many, on top of the 15 to 20 hours of gameplay and excellent replay value.
You’ll find it hard not to get lost in the well crafted world full of corporate conspiracy and social upheaval whilst you drool at the dark, film noir influenced atmosphere, which lends itself to great science fiction of the past. It may not hit the dizzying heights of the original Deus Ex, but nevertheless, it’s an experience that has so much to offer, even after your third playthrough.