Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review

by Stefano Terry

Genre: FPS/Action/RPG

Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC

Developer: Eidos Montreal/Nixxes Software

Price: $29.99

I remember the first time I played Deus Ex back in 2000 on my best friend’s PC. At the time, the graphics were amazing, and the combination of first person shooter and RPG was addicting, and pretty new to me. The futuristic, cyberpunk setting and complex, conspiracy laden story had me hooked from beginning to multiple endings.

I passed up on the sequel: Deus Ex: Invisible War, mostly because I heard it just wasn’t that good, and failed to live up to the expectations set by the groundbreaking original.

When I heard that a new Deus Ex was releasing, 8 years after the sequel, and a whopping 11 years after the original, I was skeptical. When I heard that it was a prequel, set before the events of the first game, I was downright convinced that Deus Ex: Human Revolution, would be nothing more than a mediocre cash in on a series that could have been so much more. I was so, so wrong.

Deus Ex takes place in the year 2027, 25 years before the events of the first game. The world is in a state of transition, as some impressive new technology has altered the lives of human beings everywhere. Human cybernetic enhancement is a groundbreaking new technology, and numerous biotechnological corporations have sprung up to capitalize on this latest advancement in human evolution.

Of course, not everyone is sold on the virtues of cybernetic augmentation, and various multinationals have split from the government, and have begun to execute their own agendas in this brave new world.

Players control Adam Jensen, a former police officer and current head of security at the Detroit based biotech firm, Sarif Industries. Without giving too much away, Adam finds himself victim to a horrible act of terrorism at Sarif. His girlfriend, Dr. Megan Reed, and four other scientists are kidnapped in the same attack, and Adam is unwillingly subjected to extreme augmentation to save his life.

After recovering from the incident, Jensen returns to Sarif and attempts to pick up the pieces, as well as track down those responsible for the attack on Sarif. Since this is Deus Ex, his journey naturally leads him through all sorts of dark conspiracies and corporate espionage. Part of the fun of the game play is uncovering all of this and getting to the truth.

Gameplay is a mix of first person shooting, stealth, and role playing. While exploring the hub worlds of Detroit and Shanghai, players will come across NPCs (non-player characters), that will give Jensen side missions to complete while following the main storyline quests. The game itself is pretty linear, but the ability to roam around the environments as you see fit does give it that open feel. It’s not Skyrim, but it’s also much more polished and tightly designed.

While being augmented has seemingly put Adam on the “pro-augmentation” side of the debate, players have more control over how the story progresses, and ultimately ends through a few key actions/choices that they encounter in the story. Naturally, I won’t spoil what they are. While, for the most part, Adam is not a huge fan of the augments forced upon him, they certainly come in handy. Over the course of the game, players will be awarded experience points for completing tasks. This xp will unlock Praxis points, which is used to purchase upgrades for Adam’s augments. For example, there is an augment that lets Adam fall from any height without causing physical damage to him, and another that lets him spot enemies through walls. Praxis kits can also be found tucked away throughout the environments, which encourages exploration.

Speaking of exploration, one of the things that I really enjoyed about Human Revolution is how you are rewarded not just in items and xp for exploration, but by discovering alternate routes/paths in the world that ultimately offers a lot of choice in how you tackle your objectives. It is possible to go through the entire game without triggering a single enemy alarm, or killing a single enemy (boss characters not included).

Ah, boss battles. Deus Ex, fortunately, has only a few boss battles scattered throughout it’s lengthy campaign. Unfortunately, most of those boss battles are exercises in tedium and frustration, and are my only real gripe with the game. An example of a particularly frustrating battle had me battling an enemy in an environment that would sporadically electrify the floor. If you are not equipped with the augment that negates electric damage, this battle is harder than it needs to be, not to mention that the boss is immune to melee attacks. This sort of design is counter-productive to the “open” nature of the rest of the game. You are free to upgrade Jensen’s skills as you see fit, so running into a scenario where victory hinges on you having a particular skill is annoying.

Thankfully, that is truly my only real issue with the game, and I enjoyed exploring the world, finding and reading the numerous books, emails, and pocket pdas scattered about, and earning experience points by finding hidden paths and secrets.

Visually, the game is sharp and crisp, with wonderfully detailed environments, and a very clean look. If the screens here remind you of Metal Gear Solid, that was intentional, as the developers have cited the Kojima Productions series as one of many inspirations for the look of Human Revolution. Even so, the game has a unique look all it’s own. I found it very atmospheric, and my only regret is that I wish the city hubs were a little bit bigger. Detroit and Shanghai were visually compelling, and I wanted to explore more of it, instead of the teases of a larger area.

VERDICT: BUY – Deus Ex: Human Revolution surprised me with it’s fun story, enjoyable and clever game design, and atmospheric world. Fans of games like Metal Gear Solid, Mass Effect, and Fallout may find a lot to enjoy here, despite the frustration of the boss battles, and the tighter scope of the level design. It is a worthy sequel to the stellar original title, and hopefully sets the stage for more tales in this intriguing world. It’s my pick for sleeper hit of 2011.

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