Review – Deus Ex: Human Revolution (360)
He wears his sunglasses at night.
Released in 2000, Deus Ex changed the face of first-person shooters with it’s mix of stealthy action, player progression, character customization, and freedom of choice. It gained a rabid following that holds the game in reverence even eleven years after its initial release.
The sequel, Invisible War, never saw the same success. In fact, many fans of the original absolutely abhorred the game that they felt had completely lost touch with everything that made the original so great. While the game wasn’t a complete failure, it was certainly seen by most as a step — or giant leap — in the wrong direction.
So when Eidos announced that they would be bringing the series into the modern age, they knew it was a risky proposition. Copy the original formula too closely, and it would be nearly impossible to live up to the game’s reputation. Change too much, and they’d end up with another Invisible War. Finding a middle ground wouldn’t be easy, but the idea of a new Deus Ex was as tantalizing as it was scary.
I’ll admit that I was worried that the game would lean too heavily on the original formula, and that this may result in dated mechanics and concepts. While those fears were somewhat realized, the game still managed to to be something amazing. It’s Deus Ex, it’s beautiful, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
Human Revolution follows Adam Jensen’s quest to learn the truth behind a mysterious and brutal attack on Sarif Industries that left many dead. Battered and broken, Adam only survives thanks to a multitude of robotic augmentations that have left him as much machine as man.
“I didn’t chose this.”
Set amidst a backdrop of political and social turmoil stemming from the ethical ramifications of human augmentation, you attempt to unravel the truth behind the attack on Sarif. As you investigate the incident, you’ll quickly find yourself working your way deeper and deeper into a global, multifaceted conspiracy. The more you learn, the more you feel is just beyond the shadows. It’s very DeusExy.
Deu’sExy Pronunciation: Day’oo sex’ee (adj)- Sexy in a way that only Deus Ex can achieve. More about character, swagger, and style than it is about a sexual attraction to the game itself . . . Usually.
Each “mission” can be approached a number of ways. As you gain access to further augmentations, you may dump all your points into extra armor, expanded inventory, and enhanced aim in order to take on hoards of armed enemies head-on. Or you can go with the stealthy approach as you hack, sneak, and incapacitate your way to the end goal. I went somewhere in between, a mostly silent infiltrator who didn’t hesitate to use his deadly silenced pistol (or not-so-silenced frag grenade, if things got too dicey.)
While the freedom to chose your own path was refreshing, it also highlighted a few of the game’s flaws. The enemy AI doesn’t seem much improved from the first game. Considering that the first game is over a decade old, that’s not good. If you draw a guard’s attention to something, they’ll walk over to investigate. Depending on the threat, a group may even advance in a flank-and-cover manner which is pretty cool (and intimidating!) to watch.
If you can manage to escape even a few feet away, they’ll soon forget you were ever there. While that might be fine when investigating a noise, it was a little comical to watch them quickly ignore the fact that their buddy was just shot in the face and left dead on the floor. “Looks like he got away,” is an actual line you’ll hear them say quite often. Enemies can’t enter air vents or climb past obstacles, so it wasn’t often difficult to retreat to a safe spot and wait for the heat to die down.
I couldn’t help but get the feeling that the AI was easier than it could have been simply because the developer had to allow for such a wide range of approaches from the player. In fairness, I did not play the game on the hardest setting, so I did have some room to up the challenge.
My bigger complaint is that there are really no consequences to your actions. Kill innocent or relatively-innocent people, and you never hear anything about it. I even killed a few of the more important people in the story — here’s a pro-tip for jerks: don’t antagonize the half-man-half-robot with the gun. You’d think that someone would say something about it, but none of it ever had any lasting ramifications in the game.
The developers had stated that it is not possible to kill a character that will prevent you from completing the story. This is true, but only because characters that are still necessary to the progression will be bullet proof until they are no longer necessary. More often, you simply cannot draw your weapon in situations that put you face to face with these characters.
I don’t want to be too critical of this design decision, but it’s worth pointing out that the developer’s statement should be taken as a player restriction rather than an indication of a fluid, dynamic mission system.
The game’s pacing was also a mixed bag thanks to the experience-shattering boss encounters. For me, it’s not so much that you are forced to kill these people even if you’ve spent the rest of your time painstakingly avoiding violence. It is possible to defeat them with non-lethal means even if they end up dieing afterwards anyway. That’s adequate enough for me to stay in character.
My biggest complaint is that the encounters are oddly spaced, with a lot of game in between the first few encounters and then a handful of bosses jammed in near the end of the game.
If the boss fights blended better with the feel and mechanics of the rest of the game, this wouldn’t be an issue. Instead, you may spend hours sneaking, infiltrating, and killing enemies with a few bullets or a stealthy arm-blade take down only to come across an uber-powerful boss that can absorb every bullet in your inventory while obliterating you with a single well-thrown grenade. The fights just don’t fit with the game. Without exception, I absolutely hated fighting these encounters.
One of the game’s first missions culminates in an encounter with a hostage-taking gang leader. The scene will play out differently depending on your dialog choices. You may be forced into a gunfight, but you may not have to fight him at all. This scene embodied the Deus Ex spirit. It certainly would have been more appropriate for the boss fights to have a similar system.
Even if viewed through permanently imbedded sunglasses, the game looks gorgeous. While you’ll quickly note the predominately gold pallet, the game avoids being completely washed out by a single color. Bright neon signs and colorful splashes still make use a full range of color. This really helps to bring to life the dark, gritty, futuristic world of the future.
The game is no slouch in the sound department either. Like a warm and cozy glove for your earholes, the music fits the game perfectly. The soundtrack really does add to the excitement or tension you experience as you progress through the game.
The voice acting was on the up-side of good, though just short of being great. I really didn’t care for Pritchard’s voice, and David Sarif’s voice was cheesier than a fat kid’s nachos. Hell, it was even cheesier than that poorly constructed simile.
Some have criticized Adam’s vocalization as being flat and emotionless. Personally, I found it to be very fitting. For me, Adam came across as someone who is jaded and really doesn’t care about anything except finding the truth so that he can exact his personal brand of justice. It’s easy for these “loner bad-ass” types to come across as forced or overacted, but I never felt that was the case here.
In the end, I can’t say that Dues Ex: Human Revolution is the greatest game I’ve ever played. It’s not even the best game I’ve played in the last year. I can say that it is very engaging, very polished, and — most importantly — fun. There’s plenty of room for the series to grow, but Human Revolution shows that the game is one that really did need to be brought back. For anyone who likes a story-based single player experience, I’d highly recommend playing through the game at least once.
Score: 8 of 10 – A strong title that wasn’t as revolutionary as it could have been.
Posted in by Steve R Gibson on September 14, 2011