Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Deus Ex Human Revolution (PC)
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the third instalment in the Deus Ex series and was developed by Eidos Montreal. Set in a seedy, cynical 2027 and therefore a prequel to the original game this cyber punk style dystopia is on the brink of a new era, an era of self controlled evolution. Cybernetic implants that blend man and machine have allowed "augmented" humans to run faster, think quicker and be more than they could have been without them.
The snag to augmentation, and a key plot point, is that they cost a lot of money and require the user (wearer?) undergo a lifetime of anti-rejection drugs. Augmentations are widely accepted in this near future, helping to create a society where biotech corporations have extended their influence past the reach of governments. However not everyone is so accepting of augmentations, some consider them with contempt and fear. In this world of unchecked corporate power, rife political corruption, a society polarised by those seeking self improvement through augmentation and those striving to hold on to their humanity we play as Adam Jensen.
Jensen is head of security for one of the game’s most powerful corporations, the leading American augmentation company, Sarif Industries. After a devastating attack on Sarif’s HQ, Jensen is seriously wounded and to save his life he must become the beneficiary and victim of Sarif Industries’ latest advancements in human augmentation. Thus the scene is set for a revenge fuelled game that travels around the globe, weaving social commentary and philosophy on the nature of humanity throughout a tale that touches on corporate espionage, global conspiracy, and well-intentioned extremism.
In short, Human Revolution could be one of the most intriguingly written, thematically ambitious games we have ever played.
Above all things this game is about freedom of choice, both narratively and tactically with four distinct and different ways to play. These are: "Combat", "Stealth", "Hacking", and "Social" and we can switch between these gameplay types whenever necessary.
Combat is an interesting blend of first-person and third-person gameplay, where forward planning is rewarded with success or at least survival. While the run-and-gun option is possible in the first-person perspective, such activity is generally suicide, even when fully "auged". Jensen is far from immortal and will drop in seconds when exposed to sustained gunfire so we must consider the cover ability (which allows us to regenerate health, as do various in game items). With a right-click Jensen will stick to a wall and the camera will shift to a third-person perspective. This is not only crucial for the stealth gameplay type; it also gives a great vantage point in what can become a very intense cover-based shooter. Success in combat isn’t just determined by picking a bit of cover and opening fire though as the enemy A.I. is aggressive and adaptive. It uses flanking manoeuvres to initiate pincer attackers and NPC’s even retreat to their own cover when needed.
Therefore success in combat is determined by careful planning, securing an exit should things go wrong, choosing (and changing) advantageous positions and identifying which target to fire upon first, as well as which weapons to use. This is not a game that just lets us open fire and trust in our reflexes it is a game in which strategy is just as important as skill.
In terms of weapons, almost every item feels satisfying to use – particularly the spectacular knockback of the nonlethal PEPS gun – and there’s a lot to choose from to suit any playing style whether it be close or distance fire, a choice which is offered to us even in the first real mission.
The stealth system is extremely good and we found it easy and intuitive to use. Any players who wish to remain subtle will find that the game is perfectly tailored to their secret-agent fantasies. This is mainly down to the third-person viewpoint in cover which gives players an excellent view of the surrounding area and allows them to memorize enemy movement patterns without becoming exposed. That said, even with this benefit, stealth is not an easy option. Enemies don’t just march along patrol routes, oblivious to their surroundings. They love to intermittently walk backwards, or stop at crossroads in corridors to check all available directions. Sometimes we only get a brief window of opportunity in which to act, and failure can mean a swift death unless there’s a good place to hide.
Whether players choose to be stealthy or violent, they will find that the "Takedown" ability is a lifesaver. When we get close to an enemy, we can instantly neutralize him with a single keystroke. The camera will switch to third-person and Jensen will take down an opponent with a beautiful, empowering combat animation. Simply pressing the "Q" key will see Adam knock an enemy unconscious, whereas keeping it held will cause him to extend some vicious blades from his cyber arms and put the poor victim away permanently. We can only perform takedowns if our character has at least one full energy bar, and only the first bar ever recharges automatically (others need to be refilled by consumable items). Furthermore, takedowns always make noise (with lethal ones being louder) and will alert nearby enemies. Unless we can drag the body to a hiding place and make a daring escape through a clichéd man-sized air vent, alarm bells will ring.
Augmentations make both combat and stealth more interesting. And cleverly, most of the stealth augs do it with pure information. With the right upgrades, you can see the fields of vision of everyone nearby on the mini-map, the radius of every suspicious sound made, and the positions of all nearby enemies, bots and security cameras.
The Hacking gameplay type is by far one of the most essential elements of the game and it’s highly recommended that hack augmentations are equipped early. Not only does hacking net significant amounts of XP (used to obtain "Praxis" kits, which buy new augmentations) and cash, it also unlocks doors to vital equipment and plot-sensitive areas. These reward players with heaps of cool information and Easter eggs and eliminate various security measures such as lasers, alarms, cameras and turrets.
The hacking system is a surprisingly enjoyable mini-game in which we capture various nodes on a map with the goal being to reach a green sphere that cracks the network. Along the way, there are special nodes that bestow extra benefits such as XP and cash bonuses, or make the network easier to complete. However, each node captured has a chance to alert the network, which will begin a countdown that ends with us getting booted. We can also fortify nodes to slow down network traces, and use collectible software to bolster our efforts – notably the "Stop" worm that temporarily halts network tracing and the "Nuke" virus that instantly captures a node without the threat of detection. Despite the initial sense of intimidation that the hacking system can radiate, it’s a deceptively simple game that rewards forward thinking, careful planning, and useful augmentations.
The other mini-game is conversational combat where we choose between three possible responses at every stage. Depending on which response we think will be most persuasive to the NPC we make our choices and pay careful attention to exactly what has been said. It’s absolutely possible to lose an argument through not conversing well and this forces us to find a different route to the objective, permanently depriving us of useful information.
Looking specifically at the Augmentations they cater to each of the four gameplay types and allow us to improve skills in favour of our preferred playing style. The decisions about which aug to pick are agonising. Each one of the 60 plus options seems like it would solve any number of potential obstacles in the quest for revenge and explanation.
As well as this varied gameplay style, from action to stealth to multiple choice and hacking we also have a world that reacts to us. Key characters can’t be killed but more often than not major NPCs can be gunned down and the seemingly inevitable death of one major character can be averted by our efforts. More importantly, the outcome of our action can significantly change how we are forced to approach an area and some decisions made in the middle of the game don’t play out until the end.
In addition to this the engaging narrative feels all the more significant and personal by fact that the player’s own detective work, searching through emails and rifling through desk drawers for clues crammed into every corner of the Human Revolution world has an impact on the game. The plot is far more complicated than it initially appears to be, hints are scattered throughout email inboxes and "pocket secretary" devices throughout the game and reveal a little more about the conspiracy we find ourselves swept up in. Everything from interactive newspapers, hacked emails and conversations between non-player characters creates a compelling ambiance. Side missions flesh out the details and atmosphere of the locations and provide insight into the tormented nature of Jensen and this past as a Detroit city SWAT leader.
There’s no question about Human Revolution’s sheer volume of content. There is a lot to see, even more to do and multiple ways of enjoying both.
But wait, there’s more…
Speaking of which, Deus Ex: Human Revolution DLC is scheduled for October. The content, called The Missing Link, explores what happened to Adam during the time period where he disappears for three days in the campaign and will force players to adapt to an all new situation, where Adam has had his augmentations disabled. This new story chapter will allow players to rebuild Adam’s abilities from scratch, and challenge them to use his most "basic capabilities" to survive and escape.
Graphics and Audio
Voice acting is good quality once we adjust to the Batman esq style of the main character, although it is a bit ropy in some of the minor characters with many of these sticking to bland stereotypes. Explosions and weapon effects feel heavy and the musical score brings an extra depth to the game world.
That said there is still room for improvement. Comparing it to the recently previewed, soon to be released and equally cyber punky in style "Hard Reset" this is not quite as good. The graphics aren’t as detailed and sound effects are not as rich, we would also like to have seen some extra thought put into the HUD which is far too spaced out in Eyefinity mode. Additionally the background conversations and news broadcasts started to get on our nerves because of sheer repetition.
It is however far from perfect. Shortcomings such as ammo quantities, long loading times, AI glitches and the inclusion of boss fights all detract from what is otherwise an enjoyable experience. It also has to be said that the PC control method of right click to cover, middle button to zoom will take some time to adapt to for many players… something which is resolved by using a Xbox 360 controller which feels much more intuitive.
Taking a boss fight as another example this particular choice of style jars with the rest of the game where we could sneak, hack or chat our way around the situation. Boss fights are no option, fight to the death experiences.
So, Deus Ex: Human Revolution falls just short of perfection but it is, nevertheless, an amazing game and the criticisms are minor and when compared to the whole experience they do not stop us from enjoying the game.
With its flowing, open approach to mission structure, thoroughly engrossing story and gorgeous visuals, this is the kind of game that all others should strive to be. What truly impresses isn’t so much the scale of the game but its staggering consistency of quality. Every quest is a compelling story; every level is beautifully, ingeniously designed and not once does the game ever become dull or lose its pacing.