The first Deus Ex is often regarded as one of the best PC games of all time, and even one of the greatest games ever. With the huge legacy that Deus Ex and the slightly less good Invisible War built up, is there any way that ten years later Human Revolution could live up to that? Indeed, the amount of hype that Human Revolution managed to build up was absolutely ridiculous. This was due in part to a few utterly awesome cinematic trailers. But how often does any game live up to the hype around it, much less an addition to a series that has sat still for years. So how did Human Revolution live up to the hype? In almost every way possible. It manages to give you that same Deus Ex feeling while being one of the most immersive and rewarding games of this generation.
In a year that’s been chock full of masterpieces of gaming, Deus Ex manages to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of them. It turns out to be a deep and rewarding action-rpg experience that gives the player a sense of freedom that not many other games can do. Deus Ex has its own share of drawbacks though, that shouldn’t go without mention.
The year is 2027 and the world now sees a period of great innovation, but also a period of chaos and strife. The invention of augmentation takes center stage here. Humans can augment themselves to increase their abilities, and everything from strength to intelligence and eyesight can be augmented. From this technology rises a great ethics debate, on whether augmentation should be done or not. Some feel augmentation is morally wrong and all you’re doing is throwing away what god gave to you. This debate consumes the world and you can see its effect everywhere.
In Human Revolution you assume the role of Adam Jensen, an ex SWAT officer now in the employ of Sarif Industries, one of the top developers of human augmentation. Scientists at Sarif, primarily Megan Reed have made a discovery that will supposedly change the whole course of human evolution forever, and at the start a conference in Washington is scheduled to happen on the next day. But a surprise attack on Sarif by a shadowy group takes everyone by surprise.
Overwhelmed by the attack, Sarif’s security forces just aren’t enough and the project along with all of the scientists is obliterated. Adam, while trying to find out what’s happening, is left on the brink of death by the mercenary group. This is when David Sarif decides to rebuild Adam with the best augmentations out there. And so Adam is given a new heavily augmented life that he never asked for. From here, Adam returns back to work to deal with a hostage situation, and eventually winds up on a quest to find the attackers, but a conspiracy bigger than he could ever imagine is in play.
As you can tell, story is one of the main focuses of Human Revolution, and it turns out to be incredibly engaging. The story turns out to be in true Deus Ex form with overarching themes of philosophy and ethics combining with huge world encompassing conspiracies. The story develops at a moderate pace and ends with a pretty satisfying conclusion, with more than one unexpected twist along the way. It should be said that while it is not essential to have played the other Deus Ex games to play Human Revolution, the game won’t mean nearly as much to you. Human Revolution does a fantastic job of providing an entry point for newcomers to the series, while at the same time linking it to the original for the fans. In fact, it’s full of content and story development that will put fans on nostalgia mode. There is also a ton of messages, books, and newspapers to read that really help in fleshing out the game world and characters.
A central part of the story is of course the characters, most of which turn out to be interesting characters. Adam especially goes through good character growth and turns out to be deeper than you think, even if you are making many of the choices on what he does.
Human Revolution‘s game play follows exactly like a Deus Ex game should. It’s a slightly linear open world action-rpg, if that makes sense. It is open in the fact that each hub city you go to is fully explorable and has a plethora of side quests that you can undertake. Where Deus Ex shines brightest is in its gameplay and world.
It’s not often that you find a game world that feels truly alive but Deus Ex achieves it better than most games can hope to. You can wander where you want and everyone in the world has something to say to you. Side quests turn out to feel very much like they did in The Witcher 2, in the regard that they all feel connected to the main story somehow.
Gameplay takes the form of a first person shooter/ action-rpg. You wield various guns and equipment through the game that you use to get the job done. But here’s the real beauty of Deus Ex, you choose how you want to get the task done. Let’s use an example, like getting access into the morgue of the police station. You could go in through the front door and try to talk your way in peacefully, or you could go in guns blazing and force your way into the morgue. Then again, you could investigate outside and find a hole in the gate to the side of the building that leads to the alley next to the station allowing you to climb up the fire escape, or you could even find an entrance to the sewer and navigate your way to an exit that will take you right behind the station.
This is what Deus Ex does best, it gives the player complete freedom on how they want to approach each situation. You want to go in guns drawn and ready? Good. You want to silently knock out each enemy? Great. You want to sneak past everyone without ever alerting them to your presence? Even better. It’s a feeling that not many games have ever given. Between the amount of freedom and how well the world is built, Human Revolution manages to be one of the most immersive games I have ever played.
To continue on gameplay, augmentations are obviously your main focus. They take the form of your upgrade system. You have various augmentations for each part of your body that each have different effects. One allows you to punch through walls, while another upgrades your hacking skill, and another might allow you to fall from any height and stun enemies. You can upgrade your augmentations through things called praxis points. There are three ways to acquire praxis; through experience that you gain through quests and exploration, buying them from a LIMB clinic, or finding praxis kits in the game world. With the upgrade system you can tailor the game to your play style, whether that’s combat or stealth or a little of both. Guns have limited ammo in the world, although it seemed to be enough for whatever you needed, and you also have a battery gauge for performing special functions like instant take downs or invisibility. Only one of these batteries recharges and the others have to be restored by eating special bars packed with carbohydrates, yep that’s actually what you do. This can lead to cheating the system a bit by eating bar upon bar and performing one stealth takedown after another. Luckily, you can’t do this indefinitely unless you wait for a battery to recharge.
The other main feature of gameplay is hacking. Hacking turns out to be essential to getting through the game, and it opens doors, computers, safes and many other things. Each time you hack something a small mini game appears where you have to find your way to the core at the end. You have a chance of being detected on each node, and if you are detected it will start a countdown that when finished will lock you out of the system and alert nearby enemies. So you need to be quick and efficient with your hacking.
Unfortunately, this is one area that the game falls a bit short. You can easily fully upgrade your hacking early on and have no trouble hacking anything in the game really. This does severely detract from the fun and challenge of the game, and it’s really best to wait until you see a hack of level three, four, or five until you upgrade to that level.
Another problem some might find with the game is the overall dumb AI. It can be pretty stupid at moments, like when they lose track of you because you hide behind a box. But for the most part the enemy AI does a decent job, and it’s balanced out by Jensen’s inability to take a lot of hits. On the medium difficulty, the game turns out to be a decent challenge most of the way through, discounting the hacking exploit.
Before moving on, I do need to talk about the biggest drawback of the game. The boss fights. There are only a handful of them scattered throughout, but the few they have turn out to be puzzling. First of all, they just aren’t designed very well and turn out to be more frustrating than anything, but they also remove the player’s choice. You can get through the entire game without killing a soul, except for the boss battles. It just seems really odd to put these battles in where you have to kill your enemy when the game is so focused on the players choosing how they want to play. They do fit into the story though, and while annoying, aren’t enough to drag the game down.
Now for graphics, apparently the future is a place that’s going to be really yellow. All jokes aside though, Human Revolution is a great looking game. The cities are incredibly detailed and varied, and the whole world has a very unique cyberpunk kind of look to it. It’s a look that really works for the game and just ups the immersion even more. Effects and everything else look great too, if there’s any downside to the graphics it would be that the characters’ facial animations can look a bit stiff and wooden at times. One other thing that deserves mention is the load times. They can be exceedingly long at times, even nearly a minute at points. So if you have the room I would highly recommend installing the game on your hard drive, especially on the Xbox 360.
One especially nice touch is that all of the cut scenes in the game are pre-rendered. And in usual Square Enix fashion, they all look absolutely fantastic.
I may go a bit overboard on this section, but the sound is utterly amazing in Human Revolution. To start with sound effects all have a good feel to them. Voice acting is great across the board, and the main characters all have a fantastic job done by their voice actors. Adam, Sarif, and Pritchard especially do a phenomenal job.
Now to the part that really won me over, the soundtrack. The soundtrack is done by Michael McCann best known for his work on some of the Splinter Cell games. In a year that includes great music from Bastion, Portal 2, The Witcher 2, and many others Deus Ex manages to easily surpass all of them. In a style that’s somewhat reminiscent of Mass Effect, Human Revolution manages to have one of my absolute favorite soundtracks of all time. The music can be dark and moody or fast and intense, but it always sets the stage for the game perfectly and ups the immersion to insane levels. You can be sure it’s one soundtrack I will be purchasing the second it becomes available.
Deus Ex is a rare gem in this modern generation. It’s a game that achieves levels of immersion and player freedom that very few games do. It more than lives up to the legacy the first Deus Ex set, and fans of the series shouldn’t be disappointed by the effort that Eidos put into it. Human Revolution is one of the games we’ll look to at the end of the year when the awards start coming. And it’s even one game that I might call a masterpiece.