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August 22, 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review

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Its been a long time coming for Deus Ex fans.  The cyber punk shooter has been on hiatus for quite some time, and has been long overdue for a remake.  Tasked with the challenge of living up to what many hold as one of the best games in history, Square Enix definitely had its work cut out for them.  The original Deus Ex games painted a picture of a distant future, with a bleak outlook in a world ripe with conspiracy.  While Human Revolution takes place prior to the events of the original game, it does take on its predecessors characteristics offering gamers an immense amount of choice, in this genre blending science fiction shooter.

In Deus Ex: Human Revolution you’ll play as Adam Jensen. Jensen is an Ex-Swat member, who turns corporate security agent for a company on the forefront of human augmentation. Jensen’s top priority is to maintain security for Sariff Industries, with one scientist on staff being Jensen’s estranged girlfriend. On the eve of a major breakthrough for the company, Jensen is called to investigate a disturbance within the company laboratories, There, Jensen finds an augmented Black Ops team with a mission unknown.  Overpowered, Jensen watches as his girlfriend is killed while then taken to the brink of death himself.  Brought back to life by the very same augmentations and scientists that he is paid to protect, Jensen is re-made, fitted with augmentations that enhance his combat prowess.  Six months later your journey into the world of conspiracy in Deus Ex: Human Revolution begins.

The world you reside in is a wicked one.  It’s 2027 and mankind has adopted technology that augments and enhances their natural abilities.  The only problem is, the body rejects these enhancements and people that have them require a steady stream of drugs to stave off their bodies resistance to them.  As it unfolds, Deus Ex will have you gallivanting across the globe, doing your job as a security contractor for Sariff Industries, as well as filling in the blanks by performing side missions for friends,acquaintances, and other NPC’s throughout the game. The story is wild ride into this fictional future scenario that weaves a tangle web of conspiracy as you go.

Player choices follow suit with original games – Deus Ex once again comes back to a tried and true school of game design in giving players choices.  How you play Deus Ex is entirely up to you but at its core it’s a first person shooter.  Though you’ll find many things within Deus Ex that constantly try to prove that this isn’t your ordinary run of the mill point and shoot affair.  There is a third person cover system, melee takedown attacks, and a load of tools at your disposal in the form of unlockable augmentations that give you a number of ways to approach any given objective.  You’ll usually be sent on a mission that is fairly straight forward, with scenarios playing out in any number of ways.  The end result is a game that feels consistently fresh even if playing the same situation over and over.

Deviates from the new normal – Its been awhile since we’ve seen a first person shooter that wasn’t afraid to step from out of the shadows that the popular military shooters of today’s gaming landscape cast.  For the most part, Deus Ex’s gameplay mechanics are nothing new on their own. Peice by piece, if you’ve been gaming long enough you’ve likely played games that offer similar playstyles.  Though its the way that these things are strung together into a cohesive gameplay experience that make Deus Ex stand on its own.

Paints a grim picture – 2027 is a grim time indeed and the developers for Deus Ex paint a very bleak picture.  While technology has risen to levels never before seen, the society is on the verge of collapse.  Deus Ex touches on many things that the average person can possibly fictionalize.  There’s the aspect of corporate espionage and global conspiracy that hook you from the beginning in Deus Ex.  And once the hook is set, the writers for the game seem to let you wiggle on the line for a while before yanking, pulling, and ultimately reeling you in.

Interesting combat mechanics – Deus Ex gives you plenty of choice as I mentioned above, but there is an inherent level of stealth and precaution that must be maintained at all times.  Aside from just making your life easier by going unnoticed, when the proverbial shit hits the fan, enemies do feel overpowered if you try to take them head on.  I found that your best bet is take out who you can, when you can, by hand, while leaving the rest only to be dealt with if spotted by the enemies or a nearby security camera.  Adding to the difficulty, Jensen is constantly on the scrounge for ammunition. Between the weapons that enemies drop and strategically placed items lying around the game world you’ll certainly have options.

Even without ammo however you’ll still have the option to perform lethal and non-lethal takedowns.  These are governed by a power meter so you can only perform them when you have the required battery power in your augmentations.  It’s a constant balancing act in the combat of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and one that is fantastic if just for the sheer wealth of possibility that it holds.

Presentation – Set in 2027 the future isn’t very bright for the our world in the eyes of Deus Ex developers.  Human Augmentations are commonplace among our species and as the story goes, humans bodies reject modifications after some time.  These life bettering alterations require drugs that stop the bodies rejection of these augmentations, and these are dark times indeed.  These dark times are represented well in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. A world awash with color, Deus Ex is not.  Its brooding cityscapes are dark and mysterious and beg to be explored when not moving from mission to mission. Objectives and items of interest are highlighted in yellow and set against a dark back drop they give the game a nice aesthetic look. Coupled with an entrancing soundtrack and decent voiceover work, the game does well to pull you into its world.

Conversation tree has no impact or relationship building – When you aren’t on main quests given by the boss of Sarif Industries, you’ll have some freedom to explore the world of Deus Ex.  You’ll meet with NPCs that will ask for your assistance, with quests that reward you with a deeper and more meaningful story in the end, but they aren’t entirely mandatory.  Interaction with NPCs that will engage you lead to converstation trees that offer multiple ways to respond, but the game offers little reason to travel down multiple paths.  Being either confrontational or passive doesn’t seem to net you much, as the game doesn’t do a very good job of punishing or rewarding you for anything you say or do.  Its a world of little consequence where Deus Ex fails to succeed at offering players levity in their decision making.  Think Mass Effect minus the Paragon system.

Cover system is hit and miss – The cover system of Deus Ex is a surprising addition to the first person mechanics, but it can feel a bit disjointed at times.  Between blind firing and the ability to hop from cover to cover it’s easy to get stuck and dropped easily by the relentlessly difficult marksmanship of the enemies.  Blind firing doesn’t really have the effect that you would like, and I rarely if ever successfully downed an enemy when using the technique.  Keeping covered is essential to staying alive in Deus Ex, and some unintentional actions will certainly rear their heads at multiple times in the game, at least they did so for me.

Hacking system misses slightly for lack of depth – The hacking system is a strange one.  It’s one that at first glance feels too complex, but after a few rounds and a handful of augmentations later, it offers little challenge.  Its hard to exactly pinpoint where the hacking took a turn for the worse, but it probably lies in its lack of challenge. The hacking mini-game is one that you’ll be playing quite often.  You’ll be tasked with securing nodes in a race against the computer security to reach a directory of access. As the computer systems in Deus Ex become more complex, you’ll need to use worms, shields, and other methods to slow down the computer security to avoid being detected and shut out from the system.  Instead of an activity that feels like a unique puzzle to complete, they end up just feeling like a time barrier to a door.  There is some challenge that comes from enemies in the area while attempting to hack and since game time doesn’t stop for you while hacking, you can be spotted mid hack and enemy AI will confront you accordingly.

Enemy AI at times can be a bit dumb – The stealth and sneaky tactics of Adam Jensen can feel like a chess game at times.  Unfortunately there are times when you feel like you are playing with a two year old.  The enemies are beefed up and considerably more powerful than you, but they’ll happilly stand in a single file line waiting for you to mow them down one by one eventhough the clearly watched you duck into a air vent.  They’ll stand around saying “I know you’re in there”, yet do nothing as you manipulate the environment to take them out one by one.  Its this type of AI glitch that breaks some the immersion of the game and take what could be a situation that feels hectic to one that is just too easy.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution shoots par for the course with this generation’s offering. A gaming landscape that has changed greatly since the franchise was last seen, many gamers have a much higher bar for the level of visuals in a game than they had a decade ago. While the game has made huge leaps from its predecessors ,  it certainly doesn’t raise the bar in terms of graphical fidelity. Though it doesn’t have to, to make it special.  The original certainly didn’t and it has been maintained by many gamers to be one of the most impressive games in history.

What Human Revolution does offer, is gameplay in spades.  Pushed on by a concept that is ambitious in this day and age of cookie cutter first person shooters, Deus Ex manages to shine because of its differences rather than its simliarities.  In what is best explained as a modern day throwback, when making similar comebacks, many games fail to capitalize on what exactly made them popular in the first place.  Thankfully this was not the case with Deus Ex: Human Revolution and hopefully the franchise doesn’t go into hibernation for another ten years, as its one of the few franchises with the story and developmental vision that is worthy of working out the kinks in pursuit of a perfect game.

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  • Aaron

    Does anyone recommend buying this?

    • Aiden

      if you enjoy Mass Effect style choose your own adventure story without a karma meter.It has solid shooting mechanics,the customization is immence and rewarding,and it lets you choose your own path to a mission.Wanna go in through the roof?You probably can,or use an air vent to flank an enemy.I give it an 8.5/10

  • Mike

    Is this a bad English translation of a foreign review? Having proper grammar, to include punctutualization and spell checking, will give your review far more legitimecy. As will details-everything I read here I have seen in previews.

    • LOL

      What’s a punctutualization?

    • HAHA

      haha punctutualization, it’s punctualization… Plus, punctuation sounds more grammatically correct.

  • Grecs

    I remember playing one of these games on ps2 I thought it was pretty good.I think I’m picking this up

  • tommy

    Sounds like yet another promising game ruined by sheer stupidity. They’re trying to tell a story 10-20 times longer than a movie, without much shooting action because nudge you towards a tactical, slower approach, and they want to tell us this 20-40-however many hours long story with a boring protagonist, and no interesting characters? Yeah, that sounds like fun. That sounds like if you took one of the greatest books ever written, let’s say Lord of the Rings, and you replaced all the good characters with characters from the Hannah Montana show, and then you made each book 10 times longer. Does that sound any good?

    You CANNOT have a good story without an interesting protagonist. You CANNOT have an interesting story with boring characters. Why am I going to want to go plodding through a slow story in a tactical way, making all these choices, if I dont even care about the characters Im making the choices for? To make any story/choice/character driven game effective, you need to love the people you are trying to save and protect with your actions and decisions, and you need to hate the people you are trying to kill. Boss fights with bosses who aren’t even characters? Why would I be emotionally invested in fighting someone I dont know anything about? These guys need to be well written, and well developed, as evil characters. That way when I fight them, I care about the outcome. Im not just shooting down anonymous aliens by clicking on them over and over again. I am taking down an evil character that wants to destroy me and hurt the ones I care about. If I dont manage to beat him, maybe my girlfriend will die, and I love my in-game girlfriend just as much as I hate the evil boss because my girlfriend was likewise well-written and well-developed as a wonderful, emotionally affecting character.

    That’s how you make a good story, or a good story RPG. Sounds like once again the developers here completely missed the boat on the most important aspects of making a game like this. Putting choices in a game are meaningless and boring if you aren’t emotionally invested in the outcome. From your review it sounds like we won’t care about how the choices affect the protagonist, because he’s boring and we don’t care about him, OR how they affect everyone else, because they’re boring and poorly developed too.

    Sounds like a failure. And no relationship building? Would any of us want to go through our real lives without any interesting friends or people in our lives, any relationships we care about? Then why would we want to go through a long video game encountering nothing but boring NPCs with no depth? They need to simulate people we care about with their characters. Mass Effect took baby steps in that direction, but it still suffered from way too much exposition in its conversation system. There was way too much, “Tell me where to find this mission. Tell me what tactical information I should know about the planet. Tell me about this person I’m trying to find,” and then you would get unnecessary long and boring answers. That’s not good dialogue. There was way too much of that, and not enough “How are you? Let’s get to know each other.” Not enough characters you could converse with and develop relationships with throughout the game that played into the story.

    In real life, if I’m a space commander, maybe on some mission to some unknown planet, after I finish, I can decide to hang around there for a few days. Maybe then I meet a girl there, talk a lot, get to know each other. In the game, you can’t do this. It’s so limiting. And the way you do this in the game, you have a simulated character there, or a couple you can pick from to get to know. You don’t just have three questions and done, you have a lot more initial dialogue, and then more for each time you visit the character again later in the game, with context to what’s happening in the story. So an example of this is, I meet some local girl on some foreign planet, and we get to know each other and form an emotional bond. You as the player grow to care about her through the well-written conversations and dialogue. But, locals are not supposed to mix with outsiders in this society, and the penalty for it is severe. When the locals find out you and the girl have something going, they trick you into going off into the desert outside their town, saying there have been attacks. Meanwhile, while they’re taking you, that’s when they go in and kidnap your girl, planning to take her to be executed for breaking the society’s rules. Now you have choices and consequences you care about, a character you care about in peril. First once you realize they’ve actually taken you off to your execution, you have to kill them and escape before they kill you. Then you have to hurry back to the town, figure out where they took the girl either through your charm or intimidate skills. Or, if no one will tell you, and you have to start killing people for someone tell you, now that’s more drama, more action, more heavy decisions. Once you find out where they took your girl to be executed, you have to go there and try to stop it. You get there, and they are about to kill here. You have to stop the execution, and you only get one chance to do it. No game over if she dies. If you’re a stealth character, you can try to sneak in and rescue here. If you’re not, you go in guns blazing, or using some combination of the two. But either way you only have one chance to stop the execution. If you don’t, then the character you just got to know well in the game, and care about because of good writing, dies. Now you are being emotionally affected by the game, like in any good story. You are saddened. You’re not just playing some dull shooter where you click on anonymous enemies over and over again to kill them. You actually got to caring about one of these characters, and they died because you couldn’t save her. That’s emotionally affecting. Now if she dies because these people killed her, and you cared about her, that means you’re also going to have an emotional reaction to the people that killed her. If they just killed some random anonymous character you did not care about, you feel as much towards them. But because they killed someone you cared about, you feel strong hate towards them. So now you want to take revenge. But how far do you go? You can try to just kill the people that killed her, or if you’re playing an evil character, you can go back and kill the entire town. That’s how you create decisions in games that carry weight, that you care about.

    Now, if you managed to save the girl in time, you can get away with her, or keep trying to kill everyone that tried to kill her (but if you do that, you risk she will still die while hiding while you’re trying to kill everyone. Or you can take her back to her ship to keep her safe, and come back and try to kill them all, except if you do that, in the time it took you to go make her safe at your ship, they will have brought in tons of reinforcements. Another intriguing decision. But whenever you do decide to save her, once you do it successfully, now she can be part of your crew, or just living on the ship with you but not going on missions. Another decision. Then Miranda or Ashley, already on your ship, are wondering why you’ve brought this girl back, and are potentially jealous, and there’s complications there within your crew, and drama, and it makes for a more interesting story as it develops throughout the game. More decisions, and not just meaningless ones that have no effect on the game or, more importantly, you, but decisions that carry emotional weight, that you care about.

    Here is another example, using Fallout 3 now instead. In Megaton, right at the start of the game, you meet a girl who is living with a foster dad who supposedly rescued her after her parents were killed by bandits. But it’s very clear that he killed her parents, and then took her in to be his sex slave. The game gives you this information, and gets you a little emotionally involved, like you want to help the girl. But then there’s nothing you can do! There’s no quest to actually take care of this, or make any decisions. There’s no follow through. You can shoot the stepdad but it’s like nothing ever happens. The girl doesn’t even say thank you for shooting him, or I hate you, or pretend like anything is happening at all. The game gets you interested, and then it leaves you hanging completely.

    Here’s an idea for how it should have gone. You suspect the “stepdad” killed her parents and is sexually abusing her, but you want proof. Now you have to find out. You can sneak into his house looking clues, you can wait until he thinks he’s alone with the girl in the middle of the night, and climb up to the window to look through it and see if he’s raping her, you can barge in during the act to confront him, all heavy, exciting, dangerous, emotionally affecting choices. Or, you can try to find out from the girl, without making the “stepdad” suspect you at all. Of course she’s been told not to tell anyone or her “stepdad” will leave her out in the wasteland alone to die, or something like that, so it’s hard to get it out of her. But there’s lots of well-written dialogue where you befriend her, gain her trust, until in an emotionally affecting scene, this sweet little girl who you’ve grown fond of finally admits to you that her “stepdad” is in fact raping her. Now you’re even more angry and disgusted about it since you’ve gotten to the know the girl and found out just how great a kid she is, so now you want to save her anymore. So the game lets you do that. You have the option to save her. You can either kill her “stepdad,” and then leave Megaton with the girl, or you can just sneak out with her so the dad doesn’t know any better. Except if he catches you sneaking out, he will shoot at you, maybe even at the girl, and you have to kill him before he kills you or the girl. But just like real life, if you mess up, if you get caught sneaking out and he kills the girl, there’s no going back. Your actions, not just in the conversation wheel, but you’re actual actions in the game, your shooting ability, your choice of when and how to sneak out, all have tangible consequences.

    So say you do manage to get her out of Megaton without her getting killed, you still have a big quest you have to fulfill. If you take the girl with you on these dangerous quests, she will get killed quickly. You run into a lone man in the wasteland who tells you there is an orphanage two miles south, where he left his own little boy, and that it’s a great orphanage. So you take the the girl there. You dont want to leave her there, but what choice do you? It’s the best option. It seems legitimate, there are men and women working there, some nice women who welcome you when you get there and assume you your daughter will be well taken care of, so you leave her there. End quest, for now.

    Then you go on playing the game more, doing story quests. A few hours later, another side quest, seemingly unrelated, takes you back that direction. You stumble upon the orphanage, only to find it’s abandoned. You soon find out, it wasn’t really an orphanage, they were slavers pretending to be an orphanage to get children left with them so they could sell them in the sex trade. The women at the orphanage who welcomed you were slaves who were told they would be tortured and killed if they didn’t pretend to be an orphanage. The lone man you met was a scout for the slavers looking to send people from Megaton to the slavers. Imagine how you feel now, this little girl you’re fond out, you thought you’d saved her from sexual abuse, only to leave her with even worse sexual abusers. Now your top mission is to find these sons of bitches, save the girl, and kill them. You find them, but they’ve already sold your girl. If you can successfully save the other slaves they’re still holding, then one of them will be able to tell you where the girl was sold. If you aren’t able to save them, if they killed while you and the slavers are shooting at each other, now you’ve reached a dead end. Maybe the quest continues and there’s another way to find the girl, or maybe there’s no way to find the girl right now. Maybe a clue will show up later, but you’ve lost your best chance at finding her right now, condemning her to more sexual abuse and suffering, all because you failed. That’s emotional impact.

    Depending on how you want to design the game, maybe there’s no way to find the girl in a quest except by accident, by exploring every town until you find her, and that’s when the quest starts up. Or maybe there is a more choreographed way to find her still. So then when you do find her, you meet the man who bought her, who is a real character, well-written. Not amiable like the girl of course, he’s evil and twisted, but he’s a character. Maybe the town he lives in, there are dynamics at work there that intersect with your mission. Your number one priority is still always to save the girl, and you do, but there’s more happening as well, more choices. Maybe the man has the girl hidden away, and he says, I will let you have your girl back, if you find me another, even younger. Now what do you do? More BIG EXCITING DANGEROUS TWISTED FASCINATING choices. Do you have to kidnap someone’s little girl, take her to the man as bait, and then try to escape with both the girls unharmed, and return the one you kidnapped to her parents? What if she gets shot while you attempt this? Do you care so much about the first girl, you don’t want to risk getting her hurt, so you do what the man says, you just give him the replacement girls he wants, and leave her with him? Do you find a better solution that doesn’t involve kidnapping anyone’s girl at all?

    Now THAT’s choice, and emotional consequence. That’s a quest that evolves throughout hours of the story, with a little girl character you care about, who matters to you, who you want to save, and the stakes could not be higher. It involves emotional attachment, slavery, abuse, revenge, all these elements. If you mess up, you have to live with her death on your hands. But if you play it smart, and shoot with precision, you will feel all the more amazing and all the more a badass that you saved her.

    That’s freedom. That’s what these games like Fallout and Mass Effect are supposed to be about, but they’re actually so incredibly limiting. It sounds like Deus Ex is exactly the same.

  • Xbox PSN

    Damn. Tommy’s comment is longer than the article.

  • Mind Virus

    I cant wait to play this game!

  • Stevie

    I’m currently playing this game and i’m loving every second of it.

  • wolf4real

    long comments why ?

  • Ex Box

    @Mike. Your parents raised you to be obsessive compulsive? Come on man, cut the guy some slack. If you don’t like how he writes, make your own review. Jeez.
    @Tommy. Your argument is invalid. I have a rocket launcher.

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