August 22, 2011
Playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution, we can't help but wonder what augmentations we'd like to have if they were on offer. Adam Jensen's retractable arm blades would be high on the list (handy for chopping onions), along with his ballistic Typhoon ability (good for erm, mowing the lawn?) and then we have to stop to consider for a moment, the ethics of such a thing. A prequel to the first Deus Ex, Human Revolution takes place in 2027, a year not that far removed from where we are now and thus it's not a huge leap of imagination to consider what life might be like in sixteen years time as far as technology is concerned. It could be that something like human augmentation may one day be something that will spark moral debate the likes of which causes riots to flare, just like in the game itself. Yep, Human Revolution gets you thinking alright.
Immediately, this blend of chin-stroking narrative, FPS action and moral decision-making takes us right back to the very first time we played the original Deus Ex, which within the first few hours of gameplay gives us a warm and secure feeling that Eidos Montreal has most definitely done its job with the third game in the series. But lest we forget, the first Deus Ex came out eleven years ago and things have changed quite a bit since then. Happily, Human Revolution feels simultaneously familiar yet fresh, with a breathtaking art style that's entirely its own thing, its lustrous gold and pitch-black 'cyber-renaissance' lending the game a distinctive look unlike anything you'll have seen before.
Skies are stained a sulphurous yellow, black acrid smog lingering in the air while the streets, rooftops and interiors are cluttered with all manner of everyday flotsam and jetsam. Human Revolution's world is utterly convincing, feeling tangible, believably real and lived-in, despite many of the game's assets being used repeatedly. Given the size of the game however, some repetition in the scenery is completely acceptable and actually gives the world a cohesive feel as you come to recognise similar items scattered throughout the world (a comment on consumerism, mass production and mass marketing, if you like), which in turn amps up the level of immersion. It did for us anyway, and from the very moment we walked the corridors and office spaces of Jensen's employers Sarif Industries during the game's opening, we were inexorably absorbed into its intricate universe.
At the game's centre is a conspiracy for the gruff-voiced protagonist Adam Jensen to unravel, involving your boss David Sarif, anti-augmentation campaigner Bill Taggart and trailblazer of aug technology, Hugh Darrow whose work you'll find scattered around to read in XP boosting ebooks. This means trotting back and forth between the home of Sharif Industries, Detroit and its rival Tai Yong Medical in Hengsha, Shanghai, completing missions that will take you into the various alleyways, nooks, crannies and seamy underground environments unearthing clues, hacking computers and infiltrating secure facilities with either brute force, stealth or a combination of both. Ultimately, the augmentations you choose for Jensen will dictate the way you play Deus Ex: Human Revolution, so you'll have to choose wisely.
Unlocking augmentations uses Praxis points, which can be purchased from the Limb Clinic at 5000 credits a pop, earned by building up XP or can be very rarely found lying around. Augmentations include cloaking systems for the stealthy approach, the ability to see threats through walls, an Icarus landing system to avoid falling damage and the awesome Typhoon that has Jensen firing bullets in an explosive radius, killing anything caught in the blast. There's other augmentations that steady aim, boost Jensen's jump height, enable you to breathe toxic gas and walk through electricity, which can also prove integral to progress (in a Metroid-like fashion) although you'll find that there's almost always an alternative route, even if it isn't immediately obvious at first. You can't max out your augmentations either, so choosing them carefully is integral.
The same is true of your approach to objectives, as there's multiple routes you can take with a variety of outcomes as the payoff. And therein lies the beauty of Deus Ex: Human Revolution: player choice. Sure, there are some superficial story decisions to be made that have an impact on the outcome of the mission, and these can mostly be found in the many side-quests you'll find dotted around the streets of Detroit and Hengsha, which prove to be some of the most involving narrative aspects to be found in the game. For instance, you might run into an old colleague who requires your help in building a case against a local scumbag and extortionist, and within the space of a single side-quest, you'll encounter a whole bunch of choices that'll stretch your moral fibre to its limits. You can screw your friend over and take a hefty bribe from a shady character, lie and tell them that the trail is cold, or see the mission through to its natural conclusion.
At its core, Human Revolution's main storyline will take you at least 20-25 hours to complete, but to simply follow the core narrative would be to deny yourself some of the most intriguing compartmentalised yarns you'll come across in a game of this ilk. It really is worth sniffing around every area to uncover every little detail you can find. Of course, you'll always come back to the main story once you've soaked up the side-missions, and seeing everything the game has to offer will have you playing for a solid 30-35 hours. And being a Deus Ex game, there's multiple endings to discover at the end and a variety of pivotal dialogue-based negotiations with key characters to be played out, as well as boss battles with a band of villainous augs who are every bit Jensen's equal. Beating them will require careful management of Jensen's augmentations and his weaponry.
Like Jensen's augmentations, weapons can also be upgraded using a variety of add-ons that increase damage, rate of fire and reload times, but there's a limited number of parts to be found, meaning you'll likely want to find your favourite weapon and pour all of your resources into making it the most badass it can possibly be. You're also limited for space in your inventory, so choosing which weapons to carry is important. Do you keep hold of that space-consuming rocket launcher or keep the small and efficiently pistol? Do you dump your Tranquiliser Rifle to make space for a Laser Cannon or Plasma Launcher, or do you keep your stealthier weapons to hand? Again, it's entirely up to you.
In terms of achievements, Deus Ex: Human Revolution has a list that seems to have been designed with replay value in mind. It's fortunate then that the prospect of a second or third playthrough is actually rather welcome, although you might want to run through the first time without looking at the list. Reserve that for your next playthrough, and you'll probably get more out of the game. Sadly, there's no option for a 'new game +', which would have been awesome, but with the permutations to be found in various missions and the secret achievements that you'll get from your various decisions, you'll want to return for seconds, thirds and maybe more to get the full 1000. And yes, the 100G achievements for playing the finishing the game using pure stealth from start to finish and without killing a single person are tough, but hugely satisfying to pursue.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is one of those games that pulls you right in while you're playing it and when you're not, you're thinking about playing it. Its mix of politics, corporate intrigue and conspiracy is genuinely interesting, and the fantastic visuals and unique art design are the delicious icing on a truly delectable cake. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is not only a dream to play, but the startling thing about it is that it measures up to the lofty standards set by the original Deus Ex, which as fans of that game will attest, is definitely no mean feat.
Michael McCann's soundtrack is fantastic, and for the most part the voice work is excellent. The only aspect that lets the side down is that the voices retain the echoes of the sound stage they were recorded on, which can be an immersion breaker at times.
Given the scale and ambition of Deus Ex: Human Revolution's world, the visuals are very impressive. The art style is truly remarkable too, with the game coining 'cyber-renaissance', Eidos Montreal has hit upon something genuinely unique.
Human Revolution is a joy to play from start to finish, and despite a story that's a little patchy in places, the characters, side-quests and the narrative in general will pull you right in. The game's stealth, combat, hacking and social aspects all marry to create something that you'll want to see through in extended play sessions.
Human Revolution's single-player is more than ample, and there's no need whatsoever for multiplayer, as there's plenty of scope to return to the main campaign and experiment with different approaches and outcomes.
A solid list of achievements that is both challenging and gratifying, it's worth picking at Deus Ex like a scab to see what secrets you can unearth. There are some nice surprises to be found, and if you really want to make things difficult, then there's 300 Gamerscore in it if you can get through the whole game without being spotted or killing anyone and finishing the game on hard difficulty.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution has happily been worth the wait and is a game that can hold its head up high next to the first game. Jensen isn't the most charismatic character, and the story is a tad patchy in places, but the game's world and its characters more than make up for it. Deus Ex: Human Revolution heralds the arrival of the cyber-renaissance, and it's pure gold.