Game Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC)
What the hell is wrong with Adam Jensens chin? Either it’s some kind of augmentation that he uses to pierce the film cover on microwave meals or he is actually the Robot Devil from Futurama.
Aside from the addition of finely honed mandibles how does Deus Ex: Human Revolution fair? It certainly needs to have broad shoulders, the original Deus Ex was and is a great game, even if the graphics do compare to an early beta of Minecraft, and it still holds its own 11 years later. Deus Ex has a large community of rabid fans and before Human Revolution was released they were poised, ready to tear out the hearts of anyone who may attempt to sully the legacy a second time. Personally I enjoyed Invisible War but there was no doubt it was dumbed down and could never compare to its predecessor so, like many others, I was very much looking forward Human Revolution and lived in hope that I would soon be presented with a game that milked the juices of modern gaming machines while recapturing the feeling of depth and choice that the original Deus Ex had.
When I loaded it up for the first time I experienced genuine excitement as the title screen appeared, I’m fairly sure there was some kind of psychological trigger incorporated into the music that gave me chills and made me think “Yes, this is going to be FUCKING AMAZING”. As I delved into the game I was pleasantly satisfied with the overall style, it just felt right and also it didn’t look anywhere near as black and gold as the trailers would have you believe. The graphics are indeed excellent and you get a real sense of the size of the cities and buildings, the pinnacle being the Tai Yong medical facility with its impressive view over Hengsha and beautiful ethereal music which perfectly compliments the scene, upon arrival I had one of those joyous game moments where I kept needing to stop and look out across the landscape, just to take it all in.
Once you get over how pretty it looks you get to the actual game-play and start finding new and interesting ways to incapacitate or eliminate people. The weapons are nice and beefy as well as enjoyable to use and fighting is suitably tense, specifically because it wont take many shots before you drop like a sack of cats. If need be you can use a Takedown, the new addition to the Deus Ex world, which looks suitably brutal and makes you feel more than a bit hardcore. Within all this you have the main quest with the inevitable twists and turns, side quests dotted around to distract yourself with as well as a fuck-ton of computers, e-books and datapads to read which will give you benefits such as XP as well as expanding on the over background of the world. There is also a plentiful supply of easter eggs to find, which include some quite obscure and unexpected references.
Sounds perfect yes? Human Revolution has done it, it has finally given us a worthy sequel to the original.
Well no, not quite.
Before long you will notice signs that Human Revolution may have bitten off more than it can chew. First of all is the use of stealth in the game, an essential part of Deus Ex and therefore it needs to be well implemented. Using stealth is enjoyable but at the same time it doesn’t ever feel quite right, for one there are quite obvious stealth ‘routes’ through an area, at times there may just as well be a sign saying ‘stealth path’. Having a couple of different routes, one designed for stealth and the other geared towards combat rather than allowing the player to choose where to go and how to approach it seems to belittle the players ability to think and decide for themself. Another related issue is the cover mechanic, if you just duck behind a wall you are much more likely to be seen than if you use the cover button which doesn’t really make sense unless you have an augmentation that reduces you to 2 dimensions so you just look like an interesting piece of wall-art.
This brings me on to one of my major gripes about the game; It is clearly designed to favour a stealth playthrough. Not only is direct combat hard, especially at first, but you will get considerably more XP for stealth related actions. This doesn’t sit right with me when the game is supposedly about freedom of choice. It should be a different experience depending on how you play, but you shouldn’t be penalised. It dramatically changes the difficulty too, the game is quite easy if you play how the developers obviously want you to but somewhat more difficult if you want to break out the big guns. Your takedowns also cause a lot of unbalance as they are essentially guaranteed instant kill moves and, thanks to your recharging energy cells, can be used infinitely if you have the patience to run off, hide and wait for it to recharge before using it again. Conversely there are some mandatory boss fights which can be quite jarring as these are full on close quarter fire fights and, depending on how you have distributed your augmentations, can be quite hard work, unsurprisingly your takedowns are useless here.
Inevitably this game will be compared to the original, and that’s when some other problems emerge. For one there just doesn’t seem to be the same amount of choice, and when you do choose the consequences are limited. An example is a mission where I had to rescue some hostages. I duly did so by disarming the bomb in the room where they were trapped, then systematically executed each one of them. There was no response from them at all, no running off in blind fear, they happily sat there awaiting their fate and after I completed the mission no-one had any words to say to me about it, or the numerous Police I had murdered on my way out. Okay I could have lied and said they were all killed by the terrorists but surely there would have been an investigation? Did they not check the bullets that were lodged in all these bodies? Apparently not. Getting away with this kind of behaviour without any fallout seems somewhat absurd for an RPG, particularly in this age of gaming.
All in all it just seems a little lacking in some areas, there are less side quests, the play areas are less open and there are less things you can interact with, you can’t even directly hack security cameras to disable them. The story itself also reeks of familiarity, it’s almost as if they thought “This is Deus Ex, it HAS to be a conspiracy” Why does it? The story and world that has been created with the augmentations and politics are interesting enough, it doesn’t need this predictable slant.
Before I reveal the biggest disappointment for me be aware that this is a potential spoiler…
…I am not going to reveal anything significant regarding plot details but none the less you may want to ignore the following and skip to the final paragraph.
I remember when the reviews for Mass Effect 2 came out, I posted a short blog regarding the fact that people seemed to be reviewing the game well before they could have even scratched the surface of it. I wasn’t implying that a game had to be completed to the fullest possible extent before an opinion could be given, but some games really need to at least be seen through to the end before it can be reviewed. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is one of those games.
It is probably common knowledge that there are 4 different endings to Human Revolution, a reasonable person would assume that you achieve these endings depending on decisions you make during the game. Not in the case of Human Revolution, your final, ultimate ending, the climax to your long struggle, is purely based on a choice of which out of 4 buttons to push. That’s right it is as simple as being asked “Which ending sequence would you like?”. I actually think this is appalling and is the main reason the game loses some credit for me, granted the voice over for each ending will be slightly different depending on if you killed no-one, killed some or were a homicidal arse, but this is a minute aspect, the actual climax of the story is purely based on whatever you want the climax to be. To top it off, all you need to do is save just before this and reload to see each ending (subsequently gaining the achievement for doing so). Granted the previous two games were similar in that they left your final choice until the end of the game but it wasn’t just about being presented with a row of buttons and chosing one. There is actually no reason for you to try playing through in a different manner to see how things pan out as it will make very little difference.
This is what grated on me more than anything. While playing the game through on the first occasion, I was actually looking forward to tackling it in a different way, now I just can’t be bothered, I started but what’s the point really?
None the less the issues with the bosses, the vague illusion of choice and consequence and the lack of balance does not stop this being a great game and certainly better than most. It is fun to play and has some good characters (Adam and Francis’ relationship is particularly entertaining). Just on its own merit Human Revolution is a cut above the rest and in fact it’s still a worthy successor to the original due to the finely realised world and ongoing ethical struggle between augmentation and humanity. Just don’t expect it to be as deep or as advanced as it should be.