Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Deus Ex: Human Revolution isn't your average FPS/3rd-person RPG stealth game; it’s carefully designed with a focus on the word ‘choice’. Most definitely it is a fully fleshed-out game and I’m happy to say it took up most of my free time last week. Once you find yourself thoroughly investigating every e-mail, drawer, computer, loot, secret pathways, you’ll know the game has got you. The future never looked or played this good.
The world of conspiracies…
It’s the year 2027, and you play as Adam Jensen, a security specialist for Sarif Industries tasked with protecting a group of the company’s scientists who are in the process of revealing their groundbreaking research. But not all goes as planned during the reveal. A group of trained mercenaries infiltrate the building, taking out the scientists and leaving your character close to death. In order for Adam to survive, he undergoes heavy augmentation surgery, to the point where about half his body is made of metal. Six months later, Adam returns to work for Sarif Industries, determined to find out who was behind the attack. Gotta love a good mystery…
The story’s deep enough to keep you curious and motivated. However, I found myself sidetracked. When I first experienced the freedom of leaving the Sarif Industries complex and saw that there were a few side quests waiting for me outside, I felt like a kid let loose at a theme park. It reminded me of that moment in Fallout 3 when you see the wasteland for the first time, and your eyes start to adjust to the sunlight. I didn’t pay much attention to the main quest. I wanted to explore.
After running around, hacking computers and going through vents looking for those secret stashes, I came to see that the world wasn't as big as I’d hoped. Looking at the map of Detroit, I was shocked by how small it was, and the game’s other locations are about the same size.
Of course, Deus Ex isn't really designed for free-roaming. It evokes that feeling at times but it flows more like you’re going from stage to stage, a structure that works very well for this hybrid game. Based on the first few hours, I was expecting a short game, but I was gladly proven wrong when I realized that I hit 30+ hours. It might take less for some, since I personally enjoy doing all the side quests and exploring.
The story builds up really well and actually gets pretty good towards the end. Throughout most of the game, everything is a complete mystery that gets deeper and deeper with no real answer to what’s going on. The hype builds and builds – I expected quite a lot from the ending, a conclusion that would give me goose bumps with its revelations, and I can safely say that the buildup was worth it. Even when all the cards were finally laid on the table, more questions about the story began popping up in my head, something you can’t say about the story in most games. While the truth was satisfying, the last part of the game felt lacking. I guess I wanted to see more of an epic conclusion.
Frontal assault or stealth? You choose.
Square Enix and Eidos Montreal have been stressing that you can play this game any way you want, and thankfully they weren’t exaggerating. Just like the past Deus Ex games, there’s always an alternate way to reach your goal. They give you enough tools and augmentations if you choose to charge in guns blazing, similar to the lobby shootout in The Matrix where Neo and Trinity go nuts and kick some ass (yes, I just threw in a Matrix reference – be happy it wasn’t from one of the sequels). Or, if you prefer, you can simply save your items and slip past your enemies unnoticed. Knock someone out or kill them, and you might find the passcode to go directly through the door to your objective. You could find that hidden vent covered by a box that leads into the room. If you’re skilled enough at hacking, you can just hack away. The choice is literally yours.
But even with all these options for tackling your objectives, Deus Ex seems to play most naturally as a stealth game. Sure, you can just kill everything like any other FPS, but the level designs feel more suited for stealth play. It’s not a big deal for me; I enjoy the game more when I’m sneaking around hacking stuff. The freedom of choosing how you want to play feels great since you can change the pace of the gameplay anytime you want. During my playthrough, I made the choice early on to progress mostly through stealth, but one day I decided to screw it all and enjoyed a good old firefight in the office floors.
The AI can be an issue. Sometimes opponents can be tough and outflank you, but at other times you can lure them in a doorway and just stun them one by one. It can be hilariously easy or frustrating at the same time, so there’s some inconsistencies. I still don’t understand, for example, how the indoor enemy AI don’t respond to firefights happening outside once the alarm is triggered.
Deus Ex also has the feature now common in most western RPGs when it comes to the NPC interactions, or the so-called social aspect of the game. In some critical conversations, if you can win the discussion and convince the NPC to either give you what you need or let them understand the error of their ways, you might be treated to an easier way in, or more information about the story. It’s easy enough to convince characters to cough up information, or make them realize that what Adam is saying is true. It gets even easier if you acquire the augmentation that assists you during conversations.
On the topic of conversations, voice acting in the game is top-notch, with the only problem being that you might encounter the same voice actor for different NPCs; it can be pretty hilarious talking to one guy and then discovering another one sounding exactly the same at the other end of the city.
Deus Ex is such a great experience, but unfortunately they had to include some absolutely terrible boss battles that don’t add much to the game – in fact they detract from it. The bosses have a few tricks to them but there’s only one way to take them down. You kill them. In a game surrounded by choices, the boss fights don’t offer much variety. Especially if you suit up your character for stealth, the whole endeavor just becomes frustrating. If there were different ways of damaging the bosses or alternate ways to deal with them, then maybe the fights would be engaging. But as it stands, the bosses were a waste; they take the game from instant fun to pure irritation and ended up being more of an obstacle I was forced to power through to enjoy the rest of the game.
Customize your very own Jensen
You earn a point to use in the augmentation tree every 5,000 XP, and almost everything you do earns you XP. Go through a vent, you’ll earn ‘traveler’, rewarding you 100 XP. Hack a door or computer and you’ll get XP. Find a new path, more XP. Of course, killing or knocking someone out earns you XP, but you earn more if you do it in a non-lethal way. This supports my theory that the game is more tuned for stealth. What would you choose: killing someone with a sniper rifle and getting 20 XP? Or knocking them out for 50 XP? Well, I’d take the shot myself, but you get my point.
The augmentations (character perks) seem at first to have limited options, but as you progress you’ll see that you’re led to either be more prepared for gunfights or sneaking around. I thought I would be able to end up somewhere in-between, but there isn’t an option to be the all-around kind of guy. Regardless of what augmentations you pick, it doesn’t hinder the choices you have to achieve your goal. In fact, they give you more options. Even if you don’t have the perks like cloaking or the skill to see through walls, stealth can still be an option if you’re tired of dying in gunfights. It just takes a bit more effort.
As for the weapons, Deus Ex’s arsenal is quite limited. Don’t get me wrong, there are enough weapons to choose from, but there is only one type of combat rifle or one type of sniper rifle. The only variation you’ll get is from upgrading them with your weapon mods. Sadly, guns you loot or pick up will always be plain old vanilla versions, so if you spend a couple of weapon damage upgrades on a pistol and decide to toss it, you won’t find another beefed-up weapon like that in the game. Weapon mods and upgrades felt rare, so you need to choose wisely. With no storage in sight, and a neat but limited inventory space (think Diablo-style inventory), I had to carefully decide which guns I wanted to bring around.
Overall….wait, this is a prequel?
Deus Ex is simply an amazing game. So many different elements were worked into the gameplay, making it whatever you need it to be. With such a great buildup, I was scared that the story might fall headfirst off the deep end and not live up to the hype, but I was deeply satisfied when the credits started rolling. The conspiracies and mysteries in the story are worth experiencing. Gameplay is flat-out fun (even though I was just hacking and sneaking around most of the time) and with the different ways of tackling certain objectives, replay value is quite high. The world feels alive and looks glorious. This is an RPG any gamer can enjoy. It’s so good that I’m looking for a copy of the first Deus Ex.
Anybody out there want to share their copy?
Played on: Playstation 3
- Great story
- The freedom to experiment and explore
- Game performs surprisingly well, thanks to your having different viewpoints
- Gameplay is satisfying no matter how you play it
- Bosses don’t fit well in Deus Ex
- AI inconsistencies