Developer: Eidos Studios – Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: First-Person RPG
Console: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Hours Played: 20
Progress: Completed game and all side quests
The holiday parade of high profile video game titles starts this year with Deus Ex: Human Revolution by the talented people at Eidos – Montreal. This famed, futuristic role playing franchise sprang into being over 10 years ago on PCs and has become one of the most innovative RPGs in recent memory with a first-person perspective, futuristic setting and abundant freedom of choice. Now on “next-gen” consoles, is the latest iteration of the Deus Ex franchise worth your attention? Read on to find out…
Human Revolution is set before the two previous Deus Ex games in the year 2027. Dominated by massive bio-engineering firms, the planet has entered a new age of innovation centered around the ascension of cybernetic implants. Morality and cultural standards stand to be turned upside down as popular opinion is divided between those who embrace the use of cybernetic enhancements as a logical step in human evolution and those who consider them unsafe affronts to humanity and the ultimate display of mankind’s arrogance.
In this highly tense landscape, the player takes control of Adam Jensen, ex-cop and now Chief of Security at Detroit-based bio-engineering firm, Sarif Industries. A vicious attack on the company with a shrouded purpose leaves Jensen on death’s doorstep. Company founder and Jensen’s employer, David Sarif, lends his company’s extensive expertise in the field of cybernetic augmentations to save Jensen and the result is one highly altered Security Chief. Laden with the latest cybernetic enhancements, Jensen embarks on a mission to track down the attackers and discover the motive behind their actions.
The main story arc provides some tense moments and the occasional twist, but it is not what electrifies the game’s writing. It is the ever-pervasive theme of our humanity and whether utilizing augmentations is morally acceptable or the very end of our humanity that really gives life to the narrative. This fascinating moral question that is more relevant than one may think. As one of the e-books that are scattered throughout the game exposes, this is an issue that is not all that far from becoming a reality. It references one of the first uses of cybernetic enhancements in the shape of artificial eyes that are able to interface with the brain. This technology currently exists, courtesy of the company “Second Sight” and heralds the potential for many cybernetic prostheses in the future.
The writers took great care in enveloping the entire game world in this new cultural revolution in many different ways that range from civilian NPCs debating about augmentation on random street corners to full-out riots by opponents of augmentations that turn an entire city upside down. This grounds the futuristic setting of the game in reality by focusing on the day-to-day way of life of the people that populate this world. The dialog is good and when it becomes thought-provoking it is truly great. There are some dips in this quality, notably in the lackluster, multiple endings that are available upon completion of the game. Deus Ex may have a few too many high-security facilities to sneak through, however the overall story in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is something all gamers are bound to enjoy.
Deus Ex‘s visuals play just as big a part in telling the game’s narrative as the story does. The first time you leave your office at Sarif Industries and venture into the streets of a futuristic Detroit, you will be amazed at the gritty detail of this city. The developers utilized a graphics filter that drapes the game’s environments in a musky cloud of exhaust fumes and diluted light, giving a lived-in and realistic feel to the urban surroundings. The scope and detail of cities like Detroit and Hengsha, Shanghai is impressive, I got lost for hours in Hengsha before I finally started to get familiar with the cities different districts. Everything begs for exploration, from the sewers and back alleys to the rooftops, there is so much to see and it is all crafted with amazing care. The game has a futuristic look that always seems plausible and never over the top or outrageously exotic, it is somewhat reminiscent of art design in the movie Blade Runner.
As alluded to above, the implementation of ambient filters in this game is second to none, steam wafts from ventilation pipes that coil along the walls of Detroit’s alleys while flies hungrily buzz over garbage bags in the crowded streets of Hengsha. More impressive still is the lighting, the first time Jensen entered his apartment I was amazed by the lights that streamed in through the blinds in front of the living room window and how it affected the way shadows were cast as your main character walks through the room.
While the overall graphics look slick and very realistic, the character animation is probably what detracts most from the visual experience. In-game characters move and animate in such an archaic and stiff manner that I could have sworn they were pulled right out of an N64 game. Luckily that is only gripe I have with the game’s visuals, as the environments never fail to amaze and pull the gamer in.
The in-game proceedings are accompanied by background music that is equal parts spy thriller and electronica. Unlike most titles the music is ever present and does not just chime in during scripted events. Very appropriate to the mood the music constantly immerses and ramps up as the action gets more intense. The sound effects aren’t very punchy but then again we would not expect that from a title that is focused more on stealth than it is on action. Voice acting is solid however main character Adam Jensen’s voice is so raspy it often borders on silly.
First-person shooter fans should feel right at home with Deus Ex‘ controls. The right trigger is fire, pressing the right thumb stick allows zoom, left thumb stick is crouching, the “B” button enables melee attacks while the right bumper is for grenades and the left bumper for sprinting. Although the inclusion of guns and first-person perspective may indicate otherwise, Deus Ex is not a FPS game, yet its controls feel natural and familiar. The only real issues with the controls are that jumping is a bit unresponsive, which can make precision jumps troublesome. Secondly, the left trigger button makes Jensen latch on to cover, which works fine, however keeping the “A” button pressed simple to round a corner is cumbersome, while using the right thumb stick to adjust the camera while in cover often causes your character to pop out from cover and reveal his location…annoying but not game crippling.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a role playing game with a 1st-person perspective. It may have guns, quite a few of them actually, but skills and augmentations allow the player to take down opponents, or circumvent them altogether, with a lot more than mere firearms. The game’s version of the skill tree is the augmentation menu. By collecting “praxis points”, which are awarded upon leveling up or scavenging the game’s environments, new augmentations can be unlocked and upgraded. By providing a large variety of upgrades, the developers have allowed the gamer to decide what type of protagonist they want to build. One can choose a version of Adam Jensen who excels in fire fights by upgrading armor and reducing weapon recoil, whereas another person may prefer an Adam Jensen who can avoid detection by cloaking and not producing any noise while moving. You could even craft a hero who silences the opposition by hacking locked doors and security measures and using them against their owners.
The real joy is in how Eidos – Montreal has crafted the game world so that it accommodates any type of playing style, providing an environment that begs for experimentation. While a lazy developer may just provide two options to any given scenario, shoot your way through, or sneak around avoiding confrontation, Deus Ex: Human Revolution ups the ante considerably. Sure, it allows you to use the game’s futuristic weapons to stack the body count and sure it allows the player to sneak around in the shadows, however most objectives can be tackled in so many different ways. Need access to an exclusive night club? Yes you can shoot the bouncer, rush in and take on the club’s entire security detail, however you can also explore the back alley and gain access by climbing into an air duct. However you could also enter the sewers and enter the establishment through a maintenance door, or perhaps you prefer the areal approach by climbing on top of the roof of a nearby building, gaining access through the skylight. Further still, you could hack a security panel, unlock the doors and disable the security cameras, sneaking in unnoticed. The freedom to choose from so many options and not arbitrarily get punished by doing something the developer did not intend, is great and puts Deus Ex: Human Revolution well ahead of the pack. An exception to this, of which a lot has already been written elsewhere, are the boss fights. Obviously confrontational, these boss encounters force the player to rely on guns where in the rest of the game they would have been able to choose alternate ways of proceeding. Although I understand where these criticisms come from, I did not mind the boss fights, sometimes in life there is only one way to proceed and in Deus Ex when encountering a boss, it is by shooting the stuffing out of them.
The game’s consistency is quite impressive too, sure guards in any given building will be on high alert when an alarm is triggered, however when I went on a killing spree in the local police station, police forces outside of the building came after me too. The reason this impressed me is that upon leaving the police station a loading screen appears. The police station, as far as the game’s programming is concerned, is a separate environment from the open streets of Detroit. Yet the police forces on the street knew, just as you would expect them to in real life after a mysterious stranger brandishing smoking fire arms leaves the front doors of a police station, that I was up to no good and needed to be stopped. Yet when I reloaded my last quick save file and instead chose to exit the police station through a ventilation shaft in the back of the building, I was fine and did not draw any suspicion upon entering the streets, brilliant!
Although this freedom of choice seems like the perfect game play design, it must be said that the game favors- and encourages stealth gameplay over everything else. Complete a mission by going unnoticed and collect bonus experience, sneak through hidden ventilation shafts and get bonus experience, break into an office to hack a security panel and get bonus experience. Even the level design often forces you to take the “sneaky” route. Sure I can run up to those two thugs standing in the alley and shoot them, but there’s the crawl space that goes past the platform they are standing by, right in front of me… It reminded me a bit of playing Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots on the PS3. It has lot of guns, which you can use till your heart’s content, however the real satisfaction comes from completing a mission without having triggered even a single alarm or caught the attention of a guard. Deus Ex remains solid throughout, and keeps building on its amazing gameplay, the only hitch in the ride right is at the very end where the game’s play style is suddenly put upside down and you’d think you entered a different genre altogether.
Not only are the environments big in Deus Ex, the overall game is massive. The main story takes the player to many different locations, all with a variety of different paths and areas to explore, but the side quests are just as beefy and comprehensive as those found in the main story. Completing everything in the game can easily take 20 hours and considering the myriad of different available play styles, there is a lot of incentive to replay the game. As a matter of fact, if you wish to collect all the game’s achievements, you will have to. Some of these achievements/trophies are incredibly challenging, so gamer point hoarders, take note!
Deus Ex: Human Revolution was more than worth the wait and kicks off the triple-A line up of holiday titles with a bang. Not only is it original and looks great, the freedom of choice in the gameplay is intoxicating. RPG fans will go crazy over the futuristic setting, skills customization and myriad of exploration options, do not let this one pass you by!
+ Premise of the morality behind cybernetic implants is utterly engrossing
+ Brilliant dialog everywhere, you literally just have to walk down the street to hear it
– Ending sequence(s) is a bit of a letdown
+ The futuristic environments look great and are highly detailed
+ Textures and especially the lighting effects are gorgeous
+ Soundtrack fits the setting of the game very well
– Jensen’s voice is so raspy, it’s silly
+ Intuitive FPS controls
– Jumping and navigating cover is cumbersome
+ Freedom of choice is intoxicating and so well implemented
– The game seems to favor stealth gameplay a tad too obviously at times
– The gameplay in the final act feels out of place
+ Lengthy game that can easily take 20 hours to complete