Do we as human beings have the right to play God, to physically alter ourselves with the goal of overcoming the limitations of our bodies and breaking the boundaries of human potential? In today’s day and age, there are people who can walk thanks to prosthetic legs, but what if we could make artificial limbs significantly stronger than that of their organic counterparts? What if these innovations were taken to the next level, to the point where athletes could run faster, surgeons could be more precise, and soldiers could wield built-in weapons? Just how far is too far?
In the stylish dystopian future depicted in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it is these questions that give rise to some of society’s most prominent geopolitical issues, where worldwide conspiracies, newfound prejudices and terrorism have reached a fever pitch and players are thrown right into the thick of it. Does Human Revolution, in title and theme, live up to the high standard set by the original Deus Ex? Read on to find out.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a visionary title developed by Eidos Montreal and is the prequel to the incredibly well-received Deus Ex from 2000. Like the original and its sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War, Human Revolution is a shooter-RPG hybrid. It’s a first-person shooter at heart like its predecessors, but Human Revolution includes moments when using cover and performing close-combat takedowns where the view pulls out into a third-person perspective, offering a more cinematic experience to the melee combat and a user-friendly perspective for the cover system. All of these moments, as well as the game’s cutscenes, are all rendered with the in-game engine and look wonderful.
Where the original Deus Ex took place in the year 2052 with Invisible War, Deus Ex: Human Revolution instead brings players closer to present, as a prequel set in 2027, and its underlying themes therefore play much closer to home.
Players take on the role of ex-cop Adam Jensen, now the head of security for Sarif Industries, a leading innovator in human augmentations and a corporation working on several controversial government military contracts for weapon-based augmentation. Where nanotechnology provided the means for superhuman abilities in the original Deus Ex, that tech is only in its earliest stages at Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s point in the timeline, so the augmentations people undergo in this world are instead mechanical in nature – through physical implants and prosthesis. Only the wealthy can pay for the enhancements and the necessary medication, laying another divide between the haves and have-nots, the augments and the humans.
It is through these mechanical augmentations that Eidos decided to explain gameplay elements players are accustomed to from first person shooters. Rechargeable health and a HUD that displays a mini-map as well as ammunition counts, etc., are explained in game through the Jensen’s augmentations – in this case, the nifty shades we see him wear. In contrast to the clean HUD players start the game with (when human), the explanation of the video game side of the experience through the story works to keep players immersed in the role.
In-game objects of note, whether they be accessible doors and vents, readable ebooks or obtainable items, are highlighted in-game with a slight glow, a gameplay feature some fans of the original were weary of being another example of an established franchise getting “dumbed down” but they can rest assured that it is very helpful, even needed at times. With the game’s aesthetic focusing on a rather specific color palette, smaller, important items such as pocket secretaries would otherwise be missed – hidden on a bookshelf or in a pile of garbage.
However, before protagonist Adam Jensen undergoes his transformation into the cybernetic warrior we know him to be from the trailers, Deus Ex: Human Revolution pulls players through an intriguing and intense introduction that familiarizes them with the current state of the world and the key characters of the game, including his love interest Megan Reed, the lead scientist at Sarif. Players will find themselves captivated from the get-go, reading every ebook they find and every email in the inboxes of computers they hack to learn more. From a gameplay perspective, the introduction also offers a series of brief, yet handy tutorial videos that pop up and give the player a chance to watch for the appropriate situation they encounter, using in-game footage of the exact situation they are in.
From then on, it’s time to travel the world and explore the five different “hubs” the game offers (Including Detroit, Hengsha and Montreal) as Jensen sets out on his way to unravel the mystery of the attack that killed Dr. Reed and required him to receive augmentations. Each event, revelation and plot twist increases the scope of the title and its storyline exponentially and players will never lose that feeling of discovery and intrigue as they progress through the game’s main story.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is about player choice on several different levels, showcased by its RPG elements in side-quests, social interaction as well as the upgrading of weapons and augmentations. Players are offered a large variety of skills and abilities to add and each serve a specific function, and often provide the only safe solution in tricky in-game situations. It really comes down to the more subtle choices on the fly that define the game experience and make it rewarding, balancing a combination of force, stealth and hacking, each awarding differing amounts of experience points (XP).
Traversing the game’s locales is done only on foot and it can be very tedious at times going back and forth between areas or locating a weapons dealer since the in-game maps do not show everything, so be vigilant in searching for shortcuts. XP bonuses are handed out for finding secret passages to avoid and bypass tough situations as well as taking out enemies using up close and personal, context-sensitive melee attacks that award additional XP versus simply gunning down opponents. Headshots do offer a little XP bonus as well, but players will earn more XP for silent non-lethal, melee takedowns and taking advantage of non-obvious paths.
It needs to be emphasized that Deus Ex: Human Revolution is not an arcade shooter and there are no melee weapons to wield. Headshots kill those who are not wearing protection and bullets from all weapon types deliver a high amount of damage compared to most shooters. The same must be said about how the player receives damage – it’s hard to succeed by simply running and gunning, let alone standing out in the open. The game encourages stealth and precision, through tactical planning and avoidance when necessary – and players are rewarded for playing this way.
There are of course a variety of weapons for any play style, but it can be a challenge to find a way to use them all. There are tranquilizer rifles and stun guns for the non-lethal players, and your standard FPS arsenal of pistols and shotguns to sniper rifles and rocket launchers for those seeking to help Jensen deliver destruction in a more assertive fashion. Most weapons can succeed in delivering quick kills if used correctly, but collecting multiple weapons and/or acquiring upgrades and other items can be a hassle with the game’s inventory system, which presents players with a limited number of slots – with each item taking up a different amount. Players will be forced to pick their weapon(s) of choice early in the game and this discourages use of some of the heavier and more advanced weapons that can be found later.
In addition to firearms, there are four grenade types available (EMPs, Gas, Concussion, Frag) which can all be combined with mine templates to create proximity mines for any situation. Grenades and mines, like ammunition at times, are few and far between but they’re extremely effective. Find them and save them for the bosses and robots – the only enemies that will pose an issue for some gamers, as they aren’t puzzles like many other RPGs. Instead, you must think quick on your feet and use specialty items to slow down bosses, then hammer them with your highest-damage weapon. Grenade spamming unfortunately seemed to be the only efficient method of conquering these encounters and if you’re not quick enough, you’ll die over and over again.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution thankfully uses an autosave system that kicks in for most key moments, but manually saving can be a life-saver, especially before attempting to sneak past enemies, engaging in battle or attempting a hack. There’s a good chance players will die a lot, so saving often is highly recommended.
The game’s story, fit for a film adaptation, is its key selling feature and even though the Deus Ex: Human Revolution is hyped for being about choice, the little decisions throughout the game don’t play into the overall story and many other decisions are out of the player’s hands. Whether the player is lethal or not, for instance, doesn’t affect the end-game content where it comes down to the player’s choice in how the story is resolved. There’s no clear cut right or wrong for Adam Jensen, especially after everything the player learns throughout the game, and that makes the final decision the toughest, and most interesting, choice of all.
Despite a few inconsistencies with inventory and a few inconclusive plot points, Deus Ex: Human Revolution delivers a Triple-A experience worthy of the Deus Ex name. If you were bummed about Mass Effect 3 being delayed to next year, you don’t need it. Play Deus Ex: Human Revolution – it’s a bad-ass simulator of the future that’ll make you forget about other games for awhile, and you can get anywhere from 25-40 hours from it on your first play-through.
As an aside, for loyal fans of the series, there are countless seeds planted throughout the game that foreshadow key events, organizations and conspiracies that factor into the story, setting and technology of the original Deus Ex.
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