Ask people to imagine what the future will be like and every single person would give you a different answer. The one thing that we can pretty much guarantee is the fact that technology will always continue to evolve and outdate its previous successes. Whether these advances are for the better or, if they make things worse instead, is up to the individual person and his or her belief system.
It’s a question that humanity is facing at this current point in time and it’s surely going to become an even bigger debate as years go by. Expressing this debate in fictional space is Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a rare game that manages to capture morality and all of its associated queries in an engaging interactive format.
Taking place in the year 2027 (a full twenty-five years before the events in the original Deus Ex – touted as being the best PC game of all-time), Human Revolution weaves a tale full of political intrigue, moral debates, personal identification and deception. Scientists are hard at work on the next form of biomechanical augmentations, which have become a popular way of bettering one’s self by bolstering their abilities.
However, their introduction has also done a lot for the medical community, allowing those who are injured to be ‘healed’ using limb augmentations and other similar technological improvements. A very good showpiece for this technology and its life-saving abilities is our hero, Adam Jensen, who could have died on the operating table if it wasn’t for the mechanical aids.
Jensen is a well-liked man with a lot of responsibility. A former police officer and SWAT team member, he’s been hand-picked to run the security department at Detroit’s largest biomechanical research firm, Sarif Industries. Though, it must be said that his girlfriend (Dr. Megan Reed – the firm’s most prominent and successful scientist) had a bit to do with him sealing the deal to become owner David Sarif’s right-hand man. It’s an interesting position which melds the tasks of interior and exterior security monitoring with some bodyguard and behind closed door mission briefing elements.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution starts off with a bang. A quiet day on the job quickly becomes a nightmare as an unknown sect of grunts infiltrates Sarif Industries. They quickly ravage the building, destroying some proud scientific developments, shooting innocent employees as they go. The player jumps into Adam’s non-augmented shoes in an attempt to not only save the company that employs him, but all of those who work for it as well, including his romantic interest.
Unfortunately, the situation reaches its nightmarish point quickly, as Megan and her team are kidnapped and presumed murdered. In a valiant attempt to save her, our hero is injured to the point where his organic body will not be able to survive. That is when the quick decision is made to fuse him with biomechanical augmentations to not only save his life, but to also turn him into a bit of a super soldier.
After the surgical procedure, Deus Ex: Human Evolution skips forward a while to bring us Adam Jensen’s early return from recovery. He’s still stricken with grief after losing his love, but his abilities are needed to help find the cause of a mysterious computer systems infiltration. It seems like an outside group of hackers have found some sort of hole in Sarif Industries’ firewall, allowing them possible access into some top secret files. Some of that information could be of a great help to the firm’s competitors, who have been jawing at the bit to find out about Dr. Megan Reed’s groundbreaking research study. It’s expected that this research was the reason she was kidnapped, just hours before a presentation was supposed to be made to her superiors in Washington.
Jumping into the role of an augmented super soldier, players are tasked with picking up the pieces and unraveling the intricately spun web that makes up Deus Ex: Human Revolution‘s storyline. This is done through the game’s four main pillars: combat, stealth, hacking and exploration, though social ventures also play a big part.
At its core, the game is a role-playing experience, mixed with first-person shooter combat elements and some third-person shooter cover mechanics that resemble what is found in developer Eidos Montreal‘s previous efforts (the Rainbow Six: Vegas series). This isn’t your traditional first-person shooter with twitch action and a shooting gallery of enemies to pump lead into, however. The role-playing game staples take the forefront here, providing a slower-paced experience which allows gamers to have a choice in how they approach each individual situation.
The greatest thing about the Deus Ex series is the exploration and individuality it allows. Instead of having to take one set path from point A to point B, players can mix things up by using rooftop access, ventilation shafts and sewers to sneak in without being noticed. However, those who wish to play the game as a first-person shooter can also do just that, by using a decent amount of lethal and non-lethal ammunition-based weaponry. The play styles can be mixed up throughout the campaign as the player likes. I personally enjoyed sneaking through every air vent I could find in an attempt to get through each area without being spotted.
Throughout its lengthy single player-only campaign, the game tasks its recruits with quite a few story-based missions; a lot of which feature infiltration as their main task. Different actions receive their own reactions, so players get the chance to leave their mark on the world in the way that they play using the aforementioned pillars and options.
Side missions are also available, though there aren’t as many as you’d find in a traditional RPG. The difference here is that most of them take a bit longer than side quests found in other similar games, making up for the fact that there are only several of them. Finding all of these secondary objectives takes some time, as players must scour the futuristic open world hubs of Detroit and China. In an obvious homage to the city where the game was made, the development team also created a trip to a virtual representation of Canada’s most prominent Francophone city.
Experience points are awarded based on progression, exploration and in-game actions. These points don’t end up altering a levelling system – instead, they accumulate into Picus points, which can be used to upgrade Adam Jensen’s augmentations. It’s explained that, since his injuries were so severe, all of the implanted augmentations could not be turned on at once.
This gives players a reason as to why they must selectively choose the individual augmentations and upgrades that they turn on, adding a nice explanation for why they can’t be all-powerful from the first moment. It’s a system that works very well, allowing for choice based on abilities that aid the combat heavy players as well as those which help the stealthy ghosts. Some examples include the ability to punch through unstable walls to find secrets, a move that allows you to take out two guys at once with lethal or non-lethal takedowns and the option to drop from any height without dying.
With Deus Ex: Human Revolution, gamers are receiving an intricate game with a very interesting and complex storyline. Your actions reflect the outcome with several available endings and many different branching paths that the game can take. A lot of this is tied into its very well-crafted social dialogue tree, which allows players to try to intimidate, reason with or side with non-playable characters they come across. Do you take the long way or try to talk someone into letting you pass? This is a great aspect of the game and it ties in well with the new social boss fights, which allow players to try to talk major characters into doing things they normally didn’t set out to do (ie. releasing a hostage).
Although the conversation system and social boss fights are exceptional, I was quite disappointed with the forced boss fights. Their focus on traditional first-person shooter boss mechanics didn’t fit in with the rest of the game and felt very out of place.
The main problem with these sections is that they’re very basic and uninspired. There isn’t a lot of emphasis on creativity within, forcing players to pretty much just blast away at the oncoming evildoers. Sure, there are a couple of extra mechanics added in, but nothing we haven’t seen before in previous games. These battles were my least favourite aspect of the game and, luckily, they don’t occur very often. Most of the time you meet a major character, the dialogue tree comes into use.
A minigame of sorts can be found in the game’s hacking feature. Stealthy sleuths break into offices, computers and encoded doors using what is essentially a node-capturing game. Strategy comes into play as some nodes take longer to capture than others and represent a greater chance of being noticed by the program itself.
If you’re noticed and the timer runs out, it could mean the sound of an alarm or taking the chance of being locked out of the system after a few unsuccessful tries. Some worms and nuke bomb special moves come into play, becoming quite helpful later on in the game. Though it’s important to control how many you have at one time because it’s easy to fill up the grid-based inventory system that Adam Jensen carries around. If you think of Resident Evil and its inventory system, then you’ll know what it’s like.
During my playthrough, I found that hacking was very helpful in allowing me to open locked doorways, shut off cameras and find out more about the game world itself via unlocked e-mail accounts. Sometimes you’ll find a personal e-mail device with a passcode on it for an encoded doorway and, at other times, they’ll be found in e-mails. Taking the time to look at every computer’s offerings can certainly aid your quest, though it is a bit of a slower process adding time to the overall adventure. There’s a lot to learn and some helpful tidbits to be found, making it well-worth doing. Certain discovered e-books also give players further insight into the futuristic world, with twenty-nine of them giving out experience points.
Until Deus Ex: Human Revolution came along, I had not played a game from the series since the original augmented my PlayStation 2 years ago. This iteration felt quite similar and admittedly a bit safe when compared to its beloved predecessor. Despite the enhancements and improved power of today’s consoles, I felt a bit of deja-vu with this outing. The core gameplay experience is quite sound, but does not push the envelope or completely revolutionize what its great predecessor did a decade ago. Some parts of the game tend to feel a bit dated, including Jensen’s movement mechanics and some of the first-person shooting aspects. Unfortunately, there isn’t a huge leap forward here, though there is a quality and polished experience.
While it’s certainly nice to be able to play the game any which way one chooses, I found that the stealth mechanics were a bit more polished than the first-person shooter elements. Sure, it’s a competent experience for those who like to blow away artificially intelligent guards. However, it seemed like there were areas where the gunplay could have been improved with the use of a good quick swap mechanic and minor aiming improvements. A lot of the time, I relied upon the handy tranquilizer rifle, which did wonders in helping Adam become a ghost of a man. Most of the time, shots would register in a short amount of time after hitting as the medication would get into a guard’s bloodstream. Though, there were a few times where perfectly-placed shots seemed to somehow miss completely, never registering.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution didn’t completely blow me away as I was hoping it would. Though, that’s not to say that it isn’t a very competent and quality experience. The storyline itself is a star, with its amazing amount of moral conflict sewed inside. Watching the game’s world slip away into chaos due to conflict between pro-humanists and those who believe augmentation is the future, was not only interesting, but also very provocative and impressive. It’s an impressive role-playing title with a lot to offer. Gamers who expect a good challenge and love to think their way through games need apply.
The world of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is very large, quite complex and happens to feature many hidden paths and secrets. There’s a lot to explore in the two main hub cities, which feel slightly different from each other, though neither one plays in a drastically different way. All of the game’s environments are quite detailed, though there’s a bit much repetition found at times, in their overall look and styling. Visually, the world and its inhabitants are quite nice looking, though some animations can be quite stiff and the lip-syncing is occasionally off during cutscenes. It’s predominantly a nice looking game, with a lot of that as a result of a unique gold and black art style that resembles nothing else on the market.
With such an emphasis on social interaction and one of the better-written video game scripts in recent memory, a great voice cast was required. Thankfully, that is what we get here. Most of the voice acting is pretty impressive – even when it comes to the few lines that some supporting characters have during quests. Most of the roles feature a nice amount of emotion and some hints at where players should move the conversation for maximum effect. Elias Toufexis does a pretty good job of portraying a gruff but conflicted character in Adam Jensen, though his raspy tones occasionally needed a bit of a change in emotion.
To summarize my thoughts, I find it easy to recommend Deus Ex: Human Revolution. While it’s not a home run that revolutionizes the series and its well-known staples, Eidos Montreal have created a quality title with hours of interesting content. The game’s morally involved storyline will both intrigue and interest you with its complexity and adult themes. In my opinion, the complexity of its premise and the amazing social interaction system, happened to be the two standouts in this experience. One that will grip you and keep you interested throughout, though it starts off a bit slow. For its sixty dollar admittance fee, this is a game that most gamers will get a lot out of in terms of quality and content.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution was released on August 23, 2011. This review is based on a copy of the game that we received for review purposes.