August 24th, 2011
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the long-awaited and much anticipated prequel to the fantastic Deus Ex, which was released over a decade ago. Adam Jensen's (the protagonist of the game) ex-girlfriend (and co-worker) and her team are suddenly murdered in a brutal attack by mercenaries right as they're on the verge of a major scientific breakthrough. What happens next is Jensen, with the aid of his employer David Sarif (Boss of Sarif Ind., Jensen's place of work and the leader in high quality augmentations), try to uncover what happened and who's behind it all. This is one rabbit hole that you may not want to get to the bottom of, and may not be able to come back from if you do. With the original being highly regarded as one of the best video games created and a whole new company and studio working on this prequel, does Deus Ex: Human Revolution stand a chance at being a solid addition to the Deus Ex franchise?
From the first second you start Deus Ex: HR, you will be able to feel how solid the game is. You primarily play Deus Ex in first-person, though whenever you snap to cover (a simple pull of LT at any time will snap you to any cover you happen to be near) you will enter third-person perspective. But to call it an FPS would be wrong; this is more an FPS/RPG hybrid and, thankfully, not in the jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none way that so many games end up being - Deus Ex manages to perfectly implement both aspects of the respective genres to give a seamless, in-depth experience unlike something virtually no other game has accomplished.
While we're vaguely on the subject of the cover system, it's worth mentioning that it is implemented fantastically in to the game. Jensen will snap to the correct cover you want him to virtually every single time. Anyone who has played a game with a cover system this generation will know how rare it is to get a game where the system just works. Deus Ex is definitely one of them.
Choice. From that one word, entire genres in the gaming industry have changed. By this point, we've all played a game that would apparently let us 'play the way you want', yet somehow always manage to conveniently force us to follow it's pre-defined style of gameplay. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but when you come to Deus Ex and choice really does mean something – in fact, it means everything; the entire franchise is built around literally playing however you choose – it is a big shock. Say you need to infiltrate an enemy compound for a side mission you picked up, to bust a drug lord. Will you shoot every man, woman and child that stands in your way? How about run up the adjacent apartment building, jump from the fire-escape on to the roof of the building you're trying to get in to and then start killing from the inside out? How about turning invisible, walking straight through the front door, walking up to the drug lord and executing him with a single silenced pistol round to the head? All of these options are open to you, and many, many more. You could even go so far as to get in to that building, face off against the drug lord and instead accept his offer and start working for him. And just because you choose to play any area in one style of play, nothing is to stop you from tackling the next in a whole different way. That is the incredible level of choice Eidos Montreal have managed to accomplish.
Hacking is an important part of Deus Ex if you choose to not play the game as much of an FPS. Thankfully, the hacking mini-game (which consists of capturing nodes whilst hoping to avoid the system's built in security function) is brilliant fun on it's own. Different keypads that you can hack have different ratings, from 1 to 5, and the higher the rating, the harder it is to gain access. This means you will have more nodes to capture and therefore it'll be more likely the system will catch you before you get chance to finish the hack. There are four whole augment trees available to you to aid in your hacking escapades, from ones that will reduce the chance of detection to ones that will detail what each node contains (some nodes can contain credits (the in game currency), XP or even special software to give you aid against the system). These pieces of special software, a stop virus and a nuke virus, work in different ways: As you can probably deduce from their names, the stop virus will freeze the system's security for a short period of time, giving you more chance to try and hack through the nodes before getting caught. The nuke virus will instantly capture a node without any chance of detection, which can certainly be helpful if you're running out of time.
To try and list all the augments that are available to you would take up almost a whole page to itself. Needless to say, you will have everything ranging from complete invisibility to arm stabilisers that give you zero weapon recoil, to dermal skin so you take far redueced damage. There really is a different choice for every style of gameplay. Toward the end of the game, if you have chosen to play all the side quests and complete all secondary objectives, you will most likely have around 75% of the augments which will mean you'll have access to virtually everything that most suits your style of play. Augments are unlocked/upgraded using Praxis kits, which can be gained in one of three ways: you can find them in the environment, though they are extremely rare, you can buy them at any LIMB clinic (a medical clinic set up for anyone with augmentations) or you can gain one each time you gain a certain amount of XP. This really allows you to evolve Jensen at your own pace, and, in keeping with the real meaningfulness of choice, how you use these Praxis kits is entirely your choice.
You will find as you move around the various offices and buildings, there are computers to access and eBooks to read, all of which give you extra information on the background and setting of the game. If you are looking to get as much depth out of Deus Ex as possible, which, lets face it, you should be, then these are something really worth looking in to. Everything from office pranks conducted by email to finding out things about main characters' backgrounds can all come out from searching through these things, so they are definitely worth it and not just some meaningless distraction.
The amount of weapons in the game are on the high end of what to expect from an FPS, ranging from the simple 10mm pistol to the futuristic P.E.P.S. weapon and a laser rifle. But not being content with having a wide array of weapons to choose from, there are also upgrade kits which can be bought from dealers and found in the environment. The upgrades available in Deus Ex range from a statistical boost to a weapon's damage output to a physical silencer or laser sight being added to the weapon. All weapons in the game feel perfectly weighted and have a real kick to them, which makes having them and using them a real joy. And to see the brilliance of the fold-away stun gun each time you equip it is something that never gets old.
One last thing that is worth mentioning are the boss fights. These really are old school style bosses of impressive difficulty even on the medium setting, but they are so much fun to fight against. The feeling you get when you finally beat one of these guys – of which there is four in the game – is sheer victory over a strong and smart opponent. While this is the one aspect of the game where Deus Ex does remove your choice, you won't be disappointed in it at all; they serve to create some really fantastic moments that you'll remember for a long time after finishing the game.
The graphics in Deus Ex: HR are the best that is possible on this generation of consoles; forget Crysis 2, this is where you can really see an optimised game running expertly on a console. The interiors of buildings all feel brilliantly realised and actually have that feeling that they were used for a purpose, such as offices etc., rather than just being a created area for Jensen to get through as quickly as possible. Out in the cities, of which you'll really explore Detroit and Hengsha, the graphics show a whole new level of detail. Walking down the streets of these bleak near-future cities is really something to behold. Again, they feel like real, living places which invites such immersion in to the game world; they're truly amazing. Something that really adds to this feeling of immersion is the fact that there is no load points anywhere in the city unless you entire a main building or change district, which gives you plenty of areas to explore free of distraction or interruption.
The character models are all solidly built and look completely in fitting with the rest of the game world. From a random civilian in the street to the news presenter of Picus (the international news agency), everyone has their own unique look that only helps to enhance the look and feel of the game. Enemies all look great, too, whether it be mercenary soldiers or Belltower police, they all look solid and complete without ever coming close to being generic.
The soundtrack in Deus Ex: HR is one of the best soundtracks to any video game that has been released. It's something you can, and will, listen to over and over without getting sick of it. It perfectly fits the feel and atmosphere of the game no matter what it is you happen to be doing. Weapons sound very natural and strong, but never over-powered. The same goes for the VA of virtually every character in the game; they are all strong and confident performances that give credence to these characters' existence in the world. This is a very minor thing, but the only exception to this is Adam Jensen himself. While the VA for him remains consistent throughout and does an excellent job, the level of gravel in his voice is bordering on funny. Imagine Christian Bale's Batman with a sore throat and you won't be far off. It never gets grating, which is a huge plus, it just sometimes sounds a bit ridiculous. But even then, the voice fits perfectly with the things that are going on around you so it never becomes anything more than an incredibly minor issue.
The enemies in Deus Ex: HR are all very smart. They will always seek cover, use grenades and high ground against you and work together to pin you down. While they may not be the fastest to react on lower difficulty settings, putting the game on to hard will add an extra layer of realism to their behaviour. The weaker grunt-like soldiers will all resort to popping out of cover to try and take a shot at you, while the heavies know their strength and will walk straight at you blasting away with their heavy rifles. And don't make the mistake of thinking you're the only half-man half-machine walking around, plenty of soldiers have augments and are just waiting for a chance to use them, such as turning invisible and sneaking straight behind you to flank you. The bosses are all intelligent and will utilise their attack patterns to best damage you, so you really need to be on your best when you face off against them.
The achievement list for Deus Ex is a great, varied list that rewards all types of play. There are story related ones, ones for finishing the entire game without setting off a single alarm and for not killing a single enemy and more. They even included ones that reward those players who would choose to betray the good of the people in favour of personal gain, which is always a nice touch. Two notable achievements are both ones which can be unlocked early on. One of them, 'Old School Gamer', rewards you for finding all the interactive objects in the opening room of the game. It's a nice throwout to the hardcore who love to search everywhere to find things. The other is a random one, titled 'Balls', which is awarded for bothering to take some time out of trying to find the truth in this global conspiracy to enjoy some basketball on the streets of Detroit. A lot of the secret achievements are for doing various points in the game in numerous ways, so the list really rewards people for doing multiple playthroughs (or just making strategically placed save points, but where would the fun in that be?)
What Eidos Montreal have managed to do is blend the brilliance and interactivity of the environment you get with PC gaming with all the best aspects of console gaming, creating a fantastic hybrid that manages to be better than something either platform is capable of alone. While it may not be a revolution in gaming (though some may argue it is in it's optimising of stealth mechanics and freedom of choice), it manages to be the very pinnacle of what gaming right now is capable of. Deus Ex: Human Revolution truly is one of the all time greats when it comes to gaming, and is certainly not one to miss under any circumstances.
Final Score: 10/10