Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review

Posted on October 8, 2011 by

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I don’t need to tell you about Deus Ex. I don’t need to tell you about how when it came along, it changed the face of video gaming. I don’t need to tell you that it’s up there as one of the single most genre defining first person shooters ever, standing shoulder to shoulder with giants like Half Life and System Shock. Deus Ex was the antitheses of the modern, brainless call of duty style shooter, and it still is today.

With the release of DE:HR, Square Enix have shown us that in a market over-populated with the same two games (Call of Duty and Gears of War), there is room for a thinking man’s game. And Human Revolution is absolutely that.

In the year 2027, the new(ish) science of Human Augmentation is causing a stir. Augmentation means things like super advanced robotic prosthesis and cybernetic implants, but it also means evolution. Augs are humanity’s way of taking control of millenia of slow, steady natural evolution and saying ‘that’s great, we’ll take it from here’, and then saying ‘right, how do get people to punch through walls and have x-ray vision?’, and then they do it. Because why not?

This is what’s causing the stir. While the game rarely bandies about terms like ‘messing with nature’ or ‘playing god’, the themes are very evident. Anti-Augmentation groups and lobbies are present and vocal, there are protests and people who want it banned, others who want it regulated, and those who simply fear what becoming more than human (which can also equal less than human) will do to issues of morality. You find yourself thinking, ‘gee, with my fancy robotic arms, I could smash through this wall, break the neck of the guy on the other side, stab his friends over by the sofa with my retractable arm blades, turn invisible with my cloaking device so that when his friends burst into the room I can use the typhoon explosive systems implanted in me to wipe them out without anybody ever seeing me’. And yes, you can do all these things.

But on the other hand, what you can also do is sneak past almost every single hostile in the game (except the bosses, which i’ll come to in a minute) without ever having to even use your taser if you play with patience and planning. I for example, on my first attempt, played the game like a journalist (albeit a very morally ambiguous one). Slipping in quietly, only packing a non-lethal weapon for emergencies, and hacking every terminal and pc, reading every newspaper, ebook and email and doing my best to investigate stuff rather than go around killing people or raising suspicion. Getting augmentations that allow me to read people, or turn invisible and sneak around, or hack computers more easily, and found the game had a lot to offer me beneath the surface of shooting guys and using flashy arm blades.

The game has a deep backstory and world, with the ebooks and emails I mentioned building up a huge amount of the culture of 2027 and Augmentations. While not quite the level of Oblivion, which had hundreds of entire books crammed into it, they really help create the feeling of immersion and reality that a game like this needs in order to hook you. I know paper books exist, but I seriously doubt that in 16 years almost everyone on the planet wont have a Kindle lying about.

The gameplay itself is a mixed bag. Everything about it is smooth and refined except for the combat. The cover mechanic works nicely- in fact, better than in many other games, and the weapons all feel natural satisfying, but ye gods is getting into a firefight annoying. Most of the time, these can be avoided, but not all. Unlike the original Deus Ex, you have no way of avoiding bosses or defeating them without guns. After a little while, the game throws you up against Barrett, a man with a gun arm who is so blatantly a reference to Final Fantasy 7 that it’s almost criminal in its plagiarism. You have to face the guy head on in a locked room. Yes,there’s cover, but you can’t use it- he destroys it with his gun and hurls grenades around like candy. It’s a shocking break from gameplay if you’ve been stealthing it so far and hacking PCs to get everything done. The other bosses are all the same. At least with the general mooks, everyone falls to a single shot to the head from any weapon (if you’re going lethal, a silenced 10mm pistol with a laser sight will make the game laughably easy), although it is often quite easy to miss as guards heads bob up and down as if they were pigeons.

Hacking, as i’ve experienced it on a console, is easy enough and works well, though without the proper upgrades, even a level 2 hack can became infuriatingly difficult. I was somewhat irritated that you got the exact same minigame regardless of where you are, and indeed by the fact that every computer in the world seems to run on the same crappy OS.

While many of the augs themselves are cool, most of them serve little to no purpose- one lets you mark guards and track them even when you can’t see them, which would be awesome, if they didn’t all follow set patterns. This is the thing- the guards are stupid. I mean, seriously dumb. The enemy AI in Metal Gear Solid 3 was better than this. If you shoot a guy, and they find him, yes, they will raise the alarm. They’ll wander around the 10 square feet around the body, and then declare everything to be fine after a minute.

The characters are pretty 1-dimensional, and are defined by their one personality trait. Sarif is a cold-hearted business man. Tong is a tricky mobster. Zhao is a lying female. Zeke hates augments. Pritchard is a dick. They have no depth beyond these qualities, and ironically, it often leaves you feeling like you’re talking to robots.

Overall, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a great game that will keep you thoroughly entertained for between 20 and 40 hours. It has a lot to offer in terms of replay value, but is marred by poor combat and some bad design choices (like outsourcing boss battles to some other company, or only allowing you to recharge one battery core). It’s definitely worth playing, and if you can get it on the PC, you can even get rid of that bloody gold filter on everything.

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Posted in: Games, Review