Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Everything old will eventually turn hip again. That’s what Square-Enix must have thought when going over Eidos’ IP portfolio. After the mediocre second installment, Deus Ex seemed dead in the water, but now, eight years later, we can rejoice as number three has arrived. Or would it have been better just to leave it in peace?
In times where it seems like every good singleplayer title gets a quickly mashed together multiplayer mode (hello Dead Space 2!), it’s refreshing to see Eidos had the balls to release a singleplayer-only game and spend all their time on the campaign.
And that bears its fruits. The solid story starts in Detroit, 2027. As security advisor Adam Jensen you have to defend your employer, Sarif Industries, against an attack of heavily armed mercenaries. Things turn badly when Jensen takes a few bullets and is left for dead. Six months later he’s back amongst the living, though, but with a catch: to save his life, Sarif’s doctors have had to improve him outside his will with mechanical implants, so-called augments, the predecessors of the nano-upgrades from the original game.
This marks the start of Jensen’s personal quest for the villains. The plot is pushed forward by strong voicing and a good script filled with great plot twists. Although this is a prequel to Deus Ex, there are only a few links to the original. Fans of the first hour may feel left out a bit, but the advantage of this approach is of course that you don’t need any knowledge of the first game to enjoy Human Revolution.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution has four gameplay pillars: combat, stealth, hacking and social. Of those four, social is clearly the least fleshed out. You can have LA Noire-like conversations with important characters at times -to convince them to do something for you- but this isn’t really world shocking. Sometimes a mission becomes markably easier after a “won” conversation, but the game is set up so well that you can complete any mission in multiple ways.
Each playing style gets rewarded with experience points. Find a secret passage behind a couple of boxes, you get XP. Prefer to go Rambo with an assault rifle. Still get XP. No matter how you play, it always is worthwhile to completely check out the surroundings. You’ll always find a hidden passage you probably missed in your first passing-through.
Between the different missions you can freely discover the futuristic, Blade Runner-like world. The game is filled with secret places and extensive sidequests that can keep you busy for quite some time. At the start you’ll be wandering around in Detroit; later on you head off to Shanghai. Both cities have their own unique feel, in Detroit you find a lot of low-income housing and desolate neighborhoods, while Shanghai is like one big shopping mall.
Eidos also succeeds in subtly incorporating social and ethical question marks. Next to the division between rich and poor there’s also a big rift in the population regarding their stance on augments. Some are positive towards them due to the limitless possibilities, while others find it a disgrace to everything that makes us human. However, there are also countless shades of grey: think of individuals who don’t like implants, but have them put in, just to keep their job as otherwise they would have lost it to other augmented, and therefore more productive, workers.
Talking about those augmentations, there’s over twenty of them, with some even having multiple upgrades. They range from simple things like additional jump power or longer sprint capability, over additional batteries or stealth hacking to exotic stuff like x-ray vision (that lets you look through walls) and a launch system that fires off mini-rockets in a 360° radius.
One is more useful than the other, but they can all prove useful. Next to the augments you also get an arsenal of “conventional” weapons like guns, attack rifles, sniper rifles and rocket launchers. All weapons can also be improved; there are damage upgrades, larger clips, silencers, laser aims and electronic guidance systems.
The toy overload does have its disadvantages. Your inventory is way too small, even after augmentation. There are too few shops in the cities where you can pawn your unnecessary collectibles and during your main missions you often find yourself having to make difficult decisions on what to take along and what not. Will you take that newly found rocket launcher, even if that means leaving your shotgun and machine pistol? The fact that you can’t return to mission areas only makes it worse.
It even leads to the perverse thought that you sometimes drop useful weapons deliberately in your hotel room (on the floor, there’s no storage box) because otherwise you won’t have enough space to pick up new stuff during your mission. The limited inventory therefore greatly decreases your options and in a game like this, we doubt that’s the intended idea. A storage system a la Dead Space, where you can change weapons at every terminal, would have solved a lot of problems.
And now that we’re talking drawbacks: the AI is very basic. Soldiers follow their pre-programmed routes and will come after you without thinking, once they’ve discovered your presence. Taking cover or waiting for backup doesn’t list in their vocabulary. On top of that, they clearly have issues with opening doors, for god’s sake.
If you choose a gunfight, the game will play like any other decent cover shooter, but often takedowns are more efficient. By sneaking up to an enemy, you can knock him down or stake him on your extendable knives with only a push of a button. The choice is yours. However, these options sadly disappear during boss fights. These can only be won with brute force. Too few points invested in your combat augments? Then you’re out of luck. Again a questionable design choice of Eidos.
As you can see in the screenshots, Deus Ex: Human Revolution has a remarkable art design. The world is dominated by golds, blacks and whites, which leads to a unique and very classy atmosphere. Technically, the game drops the pall, though. The models aren’t really cutting-edge and we’ve seen better animations elsewhere as well. The framerate definitely doesn’t always reach the 30FPS you need for smooth gameplay, and there’s also the occasional annoying clipping error.
Worst, however, are the incredibly long loading times. Half a minute and longer waiting for each level change or death is not something we should accept in this day and age. The PS3 port loads a bit faster, but also looks less sophisticated than the X360 version. Those who have a solid PC will get the smoothest and coolest version of the game, as usual. If you want, you can check a comparison here.
Hooray for doing things differently! In Deus Ex: Human Evolution, Eidos and Square Enix deliver an FPS/RPG hybrid where freedom of choice prevails and thinking out of the box is rewarded. The totally different ways of playing (combat, stealth, hacking) are also a good reason to replay the game later on. This third Deus Ex is a great game, despite its technical flaws.